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British-born Andrew Canning is the virtuosic assistant organist at Uppsala Cathedral. In 2009 the Cathedral inaugurated a transept organ to complement the venerable Åckerman and Lund instrument on the west gallery. Built by the Ruffatti factory in Padova, this second organ is a large four-manual electric-action instrument with three enclosed divisions – not what you’d expect, mind, when viewing its retro-1950s-style tone-cabinet case, which is all Danish design movement Werkprinzip, Rückpositive and all. There is a curious disconnect too between the recording, pleasantly spacious in the resonant room, and Canning’s playing, which is full of momentum and objectivity. The result, although technically impressive, fails to find the evocative strength of atmospheric contrast which typifies the best Messiaen recordings (Dame Gillian Weir, Hans-Ola Ericsson and others). Partly, this is the result of the organ’s unmemorable neutrality (néo-classique, to the extent of three rather narrow/Germanic sounding cornets, but certainly not French) despite the nice Anglo-American strings and some luscious flutes. However, it is also partly due to Canning’s literal approach, the thorny impasse of Messiaen’s reportedly highly precise teaching and his much freer recording of the work notwithstanding. In a crowded marketplace, this La Nativité du Seigneur falls just short.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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