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I’m going to put my neck on the line by saying straight up that the Alsatian-American René Louis Becker’s music doesn’t stand up to the aura created for it by Damin Spritzer’s notes. Interestingly, Becker was an organ pupil in Strasbourg of Adolphe Gessner, the foe of Emile Rupp; Gessner’s new Weigle organ in the city fired up Rupp to publish long-running protests in the Zeitschriftfür Instrumentenbau, marking a starting point in the Alsatian organ reform. Becker’s music on this disc consists largely of pretty, slightly sentimental ‘tea-shop’ pieces: lots of repetition and precious little development. But Damin Spritzer embraces the style fully, demonstrating a highly sophisticated knack for rubato, phrasing (making full use of the many enclosures), and a vast range of legatos and über-legatos. The magnificent 1938 Kimball in Denver has been entirely preserved and recently scrupulously restored under the watchful eye of Jonathan Ambrosino. Unusually for Raven, the captured sound is congested, so it’s difficult to get any sense of how it sounds in the room. That said, there are many delicious moments, such as when the French Horn makes its appearance in Sur la rivière, the Flauto Mirabilis in the Meditation, the ethereal Vox Humana in the Allegro risoluto, and so on. There are no lost masterpieces here, but both the organ and organist are class acts.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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