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It’s a brave organist indeed who transcribes and performs Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade for organ. Sophie Rétaux’s fearless explorations of Russian repertoire, performed on ‘her’ Cavaillé-Coll at Saint-Omer, reveal an ingenious feeling for colour. But I remain stubbornly unconvinced that Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous violin solo really translates well to being played on a French Cromorne, no matter how beautiful, or that the visceral intimacy of the Shostakovich survives its translation to the vast space of a Gothic Cathedral and the ever-changing soundworld of this great organ (there’s more than a hint of Guillou in some of the registrations). Too much is changed, too much of the music’s essence fundamentally modified. The more abstract miniatures which comprise Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives for piano fair better; they too undergo metamorphosis, but their essential abstraction is enhanced rather than diminished. This is brilliantly clever, but leaves me with more questions than answers.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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