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Among the group of organs that headed from Zaandam to the USA as the influence of the many Fulbright scholars who had encountered the work of D.A. Flentrop became evident, was the 1965 instrument for Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, one of six Flentrops in town! A small three-manual instrument housed in a single case, the organ, like several of its contemporaries, has in recent times been revisited by Flentrop’s successors, who have carried out significant revoicing. Such ‘improvements’, often including the ‘calming’ of the Principal choruses and the lengthening of reed resonators, have sharply divided opinion. One camp, championed by the Dutch organologist Bart van Buitenen and embodied by Gerben Mourik’s Audite Nova recordings, considers the approach to be sacrilege, effectively erasing a crucial era of that august firm’s history. Flentrop themselves are more pragmatic, stating that such projects have often saved the organs in question from replacement and quoting Dirk Flentrop, who apparently commented later in life that ‘that was what we intended, but we just couldn’t do it at the time.’ Certainly the organ here sounds atypical for a Flentrop of 1965: more elegant, a step removed from the heat of the questing spirit which lay behind its creation, perhaps. That elegance is matched by Timothy Olsen’s fine, musical playing of a repertoire which sagely juxtaposes Germanic baroque standards by Bach (Trio Sonata no.3), Buxtehude (BUXWV 155) and Böhm with 20th-century offerings from the pens of Distler, Hindemith (Sonata no.2) and Walcha. Raven’s usual attention to detail, both in recording and presentation, ensures this is a typically engrossing release.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica


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