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Yuko Hayashi (1929-2018) – for many years the influential professor of organ at the New England Conservatory – is honoured in fine style here by former pupil Christa Rakich, now visiting professor at Oberlin. The disc opens, however, in less than convincing fashion, the opening bars of BWV 534/1 rather unsteady on their feet. Generally, Rakich’s rhythmic expressiveness in the Prelude feels overdone, the impact of the diminished seventh at bar 70 greatly reduced by the ritardando which precedes it. In the Fugue, on the other hand, Rakich’s flirting with the boundaries of agogic plausibility for me works brilliantly, though others will disagree. Elsewhere, Klaas Bolt’s lovely improvised variations on Ontwaak, gij die slaapt from a timeless recording made in Zandvoort in 1982 feels oddly displaced but shows offthe colours of the organ fittingly. The W.T. Best transcription of Mendelssohn’s Prelude & Fugue in E minor is a wholly convincing addition to the organ repertoire, while James Woodman’s Extravagance of Toccatas (2012) evokes three such pieces from different style- periods. The Richards, Fowkes organ at Duke (II/30) is a masterpiece: deeply and splendidly musical, the ear perpetually engaged.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica


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