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It’s always a treat to receive a new CD from Stephen Tharp, one of the great virtuosi of the organ world. On this disc he demonstrates the recent Schoenstein organs at St James’s Church on Madison Avenue, NYC, where he is presently artist in residence. The two instruments (larger in the chancel, smaller on the west gallery) follow the typical Bethards/ Schoenstein blueprint: multiple enclosures, copious varieties of 8ftcolour and orchestrally imitative tone, and splendid voicing. In a dry room such as this one, it’s a smart way to build an organ, although one gets the sense of a lot of sound exciting not a lot of air. Tharp is in fine form, opening with a scintillating Duruflé Toccata and finishing with his own transcription of Ravel’s La valse; it is this latter transcription and that of the Walküre excerpts which really get to the heart of the instrument and Tharp’s brilliance. Bruce Simond’s Prelude on Iam Sol Recedit Igneus likewise shows offlots of colours but hugely outstays its welcome, while Anthony Newman’s Fuga Sinfonica (on BACH) seems diabolically difficult and not quite worth the effort.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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