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This is a fine opportunity to hear a first-rate recital on a well preserved 1950 Walter Holtkamp organ. Holtkamp offered an alternative to the G. Donald Harrison ‘American Classic’ narrative and Syracuse is a model example: wind-chests proudly on display, upperwork to the fore. Given the difficulties this solution to the question of polyphonic clarity must have posed, Holtkamp’s skill as a voicer is telling here. The acoustics are dry, and yet the organ comes over as extremely well balanced. And if that lack of acoustics renders Messiaen’s L’Ascension a little atmosphere-less, Kola Owolabi’s choice of repertoire is otherwise highly apt. Eben’s Four Biblical Dances are played with muscle and drive and extraordinary attention to the composer’s detailed and often frequently changing tempo marks. Calvin Hampton’s Variations on the Old Hundredth are a tour de force of visceral dexterity – indeed, the theme is almost a side-show. Owolabi’s technique is more than a match for the challenge.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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