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More than 30 years after his death, Virgil Fox’s legacy still looms large in sections of the American organ community. The extent to which that most flamboyant of personalities continues to be revered is reflected by this recording, a live performance by Peter Conte, recorded in 2012 on the Wanamaker organ over which he has presided since 1989 and with which Fox was also associated via performances and recordings. The concert marked the 100th anniversary of Fox’s birth, the programme including many works with which he was associated. As usual with Raven, the organ is excellently captured, the listener having a real sense of being towered over rather than dangling from the ceiling. Once again, the brilliant Conte demonstrates his unmatched mastery of the enormous and complex resources of this great ‘one-off’. Everything is translated aptly into the organ’s vernacular, from Bach’s Toccata in F to Reubke’s Sonata (with the final fugue really hair-raising in a Stokowskian kind of way). The 117-rank string division relishes Fauré, Elmore and Hebble while Fox’s signature Bach transcription Komm, süsser Tod, conceived in detail for the Wanamaker instrument, provides the fitting conclusion. A must for Fox fans? Perhaps; but while Conte absorbs some of Fox’s stylistic idiosyncrasies (for the occasion?), the histrionics are kept at bay, even if the tempi sometimes prompt the fur to fly. A heretical thought perhaps for Fox’s admirers, but Conte is surely a greater artist.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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