SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
“Variations on America” = ROSSINI: Wm. Tell Overture; DUDLEY BUCK: The Star-spangled Banner Concert Variations; HORATIO PARKER: Revery; IVES: Variations on America; WAGNER: Magic Fire Music; GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue (arr. Rudolf Innig) – MD&G Gold
Published on July 10, 2013
“Variations on America” = ROSSINI: Wm. Tell Overture (arr. Dudley Buck); DUDLEY BUCK: The Star-spangled Banner Concert Variations; HORATIO PARKER: Revery Op. 66 No. 2; IVES: Variations on America; WAGNER: Magic Fire Music (arr. James H. Rogers); GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue (arr. Rudolf Innig) – MD&G Gold multichannel (and 2+2+2) SACD MDG 917 1809-2, 70:16 [Distr. by E1] ****:
Recorded on the historic Walcker-Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ in Methuen, MA, this SACD presents an unusual American-centered program of organ music and comes out close to this nation’s Fourth of July celebration. (Interesting and rather sad that it has to be recorded and distributed by a German record company.) The longest and most unusual selection is probably the closing over-19-minute transcription by the organist Rudolf Innig of Gershwin’s famous Rhapsody in Blue. The organist says in the notes that he wanted to make the piece available to the instrument which was central to the development of an independent American music in the 19th century, and also have it heard on an instrument which nobody on either side of the Atlantic would expect to hear it. And that he does.
Dudley Buck was an important figure in American music in the latter part of the 19th century. Like many American musicians of that period, he studied for a time in Germany. He decided to transcribe the William Tell Overture to make it available to a larger audience that couldn’t hear the classic work performed by a symphony orchestra. He had to make some cuts and adjustments—the storm scene, for example, is cut quite short—but overall it’s quite an amazing transcription that works well.
Ives’ famous Variations on America was written when the composer was only 17, and sort of provides the centerpiece for this program. The Wagner Feuerzauber doesn’t at first seem to fit in here, but it illustrates the transcribing of famous European orchestral pieces to the pipe organ to reach a larger audience in America. Its transcriber, James Rogers, was a well-known organist and composer in the U.S.. who wrote many works for chorus and for organ. His transcription rather closely follows Wagner’s music.
I’ve taken to running most pipe organ multichannel recordings from the analog output of my Oppo deck and thru the analog option of my preamp, in order to use the ProLogic IIz height channels. They impart a fine impression of the Methuen concert hall and the organ’s sound, including the more vertical sounds. This will probably have an even more enhanced verticality when I try it out on a 2+2+2 speaker layout later, with additional small speakers over the front left and right speakers.