The Classical Reviewer

Back in March last year I particularly enjoyed a recording of organ music by American composer and organist Carson Cooman played by Erik Simmons and released by Divine Art Recordings (dda 25116).

Now from Divine Art comes a new release of preludes and fugues and an organ symphony by Carson Cooman again played by Erik Simmons on the Marcussen and Son organ of Laurenskerk, Rotterdam. Netherlands.

All of Carson Cooman’s Preludes and Fugues were written in 2013 with the exception of the Prelude and Fugue No. 1, Op. 913 , commissioned by the Boston Pipe Organ Encounter in 2011. There is a light textured fugue that quickly flows with lovely harmonies before a fugue that is slower; rising naturally with a sense of gravitas as Cooman slowly adds layers of harmony and texture, rising in drama and dynamics to a fine coda.

Commissioned by Erik and Charissa Simmons, Prelude and Fugue No. 2, Op. 1021 has a lovely gentle little motif over which a fine melody is played with beautifully judged quiet harmonies before a fugue that moves off with a gentle, light theme, so delicate and exquisitely played.

Prelude and Fugue No. 3, Op. 1022 , dedicated to Heinrich Christensen, opens with a lively prelude, again so pure and light textured before leading through some terrific passages to the fugue that gently proceeds with a particularly fine melody, gently weaving its way forward to the coda.

Dedicated to Randall Mullin and Dan Daniels, Prelude and Fugue No. 4, Op. 1023 brings a stately plodding theme where the pedal line keeps the pulse with a fine theme above, before slowing and lightening in feel. The fugue leads so very naturally on, an absolute joy, wonderfully light and airy.

Prelude and Fugue No. 5, Op. 1024 , dedicated to Nancy Granert, brings an exquisitely hushed melody that gently weaves its way ahead before rising up for the fugue, a constantly shifting theme, beautifully developed as layers and textures are added.

Dedicated to Sara Bareilles, the Prelude and Fugue No. 6, Op. 1025 has a lively prelude with a fine rhythmic figuration leading to a fugue that takes a slow, steady theme that is wonderfully developed.

Prelude and Fugue No. 7, Op. 1026 is dedicated to another fine organist, Kevin Bowyer, and has a quizzical little theme that gently progresses with some very lovely intervals and harmonies before a terrific fugue that opens with some lovely timbres as it swiftly moves forward, rhythmically in a kind of moto perpetuo.

Prelude and Fugue No. 8, Op. 1027 opens with a flowering of a theme, gently developed with harmonies slowly growing over a held pedal note before gently leading into the fugue that slowly grows in dynamics, layers of harmony and texture being added with a restrained yet forceful forward drive. It is dedicated to Jonathan Orwig.

The last of the Preludes and Fugues on this disc, the Prelude and Fugue No. 9, Op. 1028 , is dedicated to Harry Lyn Huff. The prelude sounds out loudly and confidently, showing this lovely organ magnificently, before falling to a faster lighter textured theme that has a fine rhythmic spring to it. It brings some fine textures as it develops before subtly transforming into a very fine, flowing fugue, rising forcefully in dynamics for the coda.

This is an absolutely terrific conclusion to these beautifully crafted Preludes and Fugues, finely played by Erik Simmons.

Preghiera, Op. 1058 (2014) , dedicated to Carlotta Ferrari, was composed especially for this new recording to act as a short interlude before the organ symphony. It opens with a rhythmic pedal pulse over which a theme is laid that slowly and quietly develops to the hushed coda.

Symphony for Organ, Op. 1038 (2013) was written for and dedicated to Erik Simmons and represents a progression from darkness into light. In three movements Masque opens with bold, dramatic organ chords that surge out full of drama before dropping to a reflective, quiet passage with some lovely colours drawn from the Laurenskerk organ. The music develops through some dark, threatening passages before the music rises again, this time lighter textured. Soon a rhythmic theme appears before the music rises again dramatically. When the music falls to a hush again, it retains an intensely brooding atmosphere only lightened by little drops of sound appearing. Eventually a lighter moment introduces dynamic runs on the organ as the music scurries forward to the tremendous, dynamic and threatening coda that ends with terrific growl.

With the Sarabande, the symphony finds a quieter yet somewhat brooding nature, slowly growing lighter and more optimistic before strange little harmonies and textures appear. Between the slowly moving, mournful passages a number of little motifs appear before leading to a gentle hushed coda.

In the Chorale, firmly but steadily, a theme is developed, the organ slowly rising in brilliance as though in expectation of a dawn, the light slowly emerging with constantly shifting and emerging colours and textures. The harmonies slowly richen as the music grows louder leading to a blaze of sunlight that appears in the dazzling coda.

This is an organ symphony to rival any, spectacularly played by Erik Simmons. He receives an excellent recording and there are excellent notes from Carson Cooman. Surely all organ enthusiasts will want this fine new disc.

—Bruce Reader