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Guy Bovet has always been one of the most creative thinkers of the organ world. Here he transcribes Saint-Saëns’s ‘Organ’ Symphony as an organ concerto with a pared-down orchestration. This to sooth the organist’s ‘guilty conscience as they take their bow together with the conductor, having played no more than a few chords’. It’s a fun idea and the organ’s interjections throughout the first movement and the scherzo raise an eyebrow. But I can’t help thinking that from the opening clarinet and flute solos (transferred to the organ) to the piano duo, the work loses much more than it gains. Guy Bovet’s cadenza in the last movement upsets a momentum already diminished in this recording by tempi significantly under Saint-Saëns’s metronome indications, getting slower still with each entry of the ‘fugue’ material. While Ulrich Meldau plays brilliantly on the not-hugely-inspiring 1951 Kuhn organ, the Capriccio Baroque Orchestra sound a long way from their comfort zone (the repertoire advertised on their website tends to support this), with some sour wind and especially brass tuning adding to the discomfort of this somewhat eccentric venture. Meldau’s transcriptions of Saint-Saëns’s Romance op.37 for flute and organ, and Tarantella op.6 for flute, clarinet and organ, are much more enjoyable and deserve to be published.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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