Classical Music Sentinel

Great music, performed on a magnificent pipe organ, by an organist at the top of his game, all captured in vividly realistic sound. In other words, an outstanding recording. I never give out stars or number ratings on this website but if I did, this CD would get 6 out of 5 stars, or a rating of 11 out of 10. American composer and concert organist Carson Cooman (b. 1982) does not seem to be inflicted with the “sameness” syndrome that most of today’s composers appear to suffer from. His music is highly original and, on this recording anyway, all the pieces are as varied from one another as they are captivating.

For starters, the Toccata Festiva (which I’ve listened to over and over again) immediately demands your attention and doesn’t let go until the very end. It starts with both hands playing at top speed while the mighty pedals ring out the work’s main melody in a counter rhythm fashion, leading to a middle section where the organ’s impressive reed stops blare out a full fanfare, and then returns to the blazing tempo from the beginning and ends with a full-organ chord so powerful as to crack your windows. It’s a good thing it only lasts for about six minutes because I don’t think any organist’s hands could take this beating much longer. This piece alone is worth the price of admission. At the other end of the spectrum you have a piece like Remembering which showcases this organ’s beautiful softer stops and mellow flute pipes. The final chord is like a pillow of sound.

All works on this CD are very recent compositions, mostly from 2011 to 2013, and most are probably world première recordings. Organist Erik Simmons , who is an Intel software engineer by day, plays every piece with expression and interpretive freedom that avoids any mechanical pitfalls, and lends each piece a character all its own. And the 1973 Marcussen and Son organ of Laurenskerk in Rotterdam is a magnificent instrument that perfectly balances beauty of sound, tremendous power, and a set of trumpet stops so sharp they could cut through cast iron.

The recording engineer in this case is the organist himself, and he’s produced for Divine Art a state of the art recording so realistic you would swear you are sitting right there at the organ console. I believe Divine Art have released a benchmark recording. Recommended for everyone and definitely not to be missed by pipe organ fans.

—Jean-Yves Duperron