Gothic Toccata

Ingrid Austin
3MBS FM Libretto (Australia)

This CD is the first major recording of Australian organ works on an iconic Australian instrument. Calvin Bowman ’s brilliant talent and intimate knowledge of the rebuilt Melbourne Town Hall organ enable him to showcase this magnificent instrument and the extraordinary plethora of colours it is able to produce. His great skill is the choice of registrations and his virtuosity take us from the enormous power of, for example, Graeme Koehne’s Gothic Toccata, to the serene, ethereal sounds heard in Ross Edward’s Dawn Canticle, paired here with Organmaninya.

The diverse selection of pieces ranges from the earliest 20th century to the present day. Eight of the tracks are world premiere recordings and tracks one through nine are by contemporary composers. The CD opens with Richard Mill’s Epithalamium, a wedding ode of joyful celebration. Andrew Schultz’s Etudes Espace, its three movements entitled Rocks, Piping and Chorale, follows and Colin Brumby’s Assemblages is an interesting inclusion. Sir George Thalben-Ball’s much loved Elegy, with its romantic registration, leads us to the final four tracks which, apart from Fritz Hart’s Fantasia, are transcriptions and of a much lighter nature. In Bowman’s arrangement of Alfred Hill’s Valse Triste, the listener will hear some of the tricks that the organ can produce, including the side drum, bass drum, glockenspiel and carillon.  The brilliant and appropriately named stop “Trumpet Victoria” which was added in the 2001 rebuild can be heard in the power of the works by Schultz and Koehne. The CD concludes with Percy Grainger’s frolicking Children’s March – Over the Hills and Far Away.

The quality of this disc is excellent. It is the first CD recording of the instrument using Direct Stream Digital technology which is ideally suited to reproducing the wide dynamic range and tone colours of the different organ divisions. The included booklet is most informative, the composers themselves supplying the notes for the first nine tracks. This is a splendid recital which will have particular appeal to the discerning listener.