Search - Felix [1] Mendelssohn, Recorded Sound, Fritz Kreisler :: The Elegant Pipes of San Sylmar

The Elegant Pipes of San Sylmar
Felix [1] Mendelssohn, Recorded Sound, Fritz Kreisler
The Elegant Pipes of San Sylmar
Genres: Folk, Special Interest, Classical
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #1


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CD Reviews

Outstanding recording of San Sylmar organ.
Thomas A. Marney | Salem, Oregon United States | 07/31/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"To begin with, the San Sylmar organ is one of the best of its kind. Tom Hazelton has chosen a somewhat varied program that leaves no doubts about the capability of this oegan.
The pieces chosen are mostly classical in nature and give a dramatic example of the power available to Mr. Hazelton. There are, however, a couple of mistakes in the listing of the contents. For one, what the listing calls "Handel"s Water Music" is actually Handel's Royal Fireworks Music as revealed by the movements of the piece.
This is not to detract from the enjoyment of the program. I have a few theater organ cds and I count this as probably the best. Kudos to Tom Hazelton and Klavier Records (the sound is outstanding); it appears Klavier was onto something in their
recording process.
Did I mention that the San Sylmar organ also deserves praise? It does."
Classics Well Played On a Big, Fine Wurlitzer!
James Yelvington | USA | 08/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"From the highly talented fingers and feet of the late Tom Hazleton at the console of the great San Sylmar Wurlitzer theater organ we have a generous selection of mostly classical music transcribed and artistically arranged by the performer. This is no skating rink album, but a serious effort to present a variety of popularly accessible, musically worthwhile pieces for the general listener's aesthetic enjoyment. The effort has been very successful, I think.

If the classical organ is the "king of instruments," then the theater organ is perhaps the "drag queen of instruments," a creature of considerable fun and fascination but not bedrock respectability, with its flamboyance and its convincing--but not quite real--effects. Tom Hazleton, who sadly left us in March, 2006 (age 64), was hailed as one of few organists who could span the divide between the contrasting types, and though he may have been associated more with Wurlitzer than Cavaillé-Coll, he displayed a fine talent for and keen understanding of serious classics in addition to his acknowledged mastery of lighter musical works. A mark of his high repute was his naming as Organist of the Year by the American Theater Organ Society in 1986. A further testimonial was the memorial concert presented on the Wanamaker Organ (on which he had performed) about a year after his passing. Perhaps the best evidence of his musical accomplishment, though, lies in his public performances and recordings.

For the present compact disk our "queen" is conservatively dressed for the church or concert hall. Of the 17 tracks, 11 are classical transcriptions, 5 are from traditional or folk sources, and only one is music originally written for the organ alone. There is considerable variety of mood, from irenic to heroic, from whispers to fanfares. (Take care not to turn up the volume too much for the quiet pieces, or your ears may be rattled by the more boisterous ones.) English and French music dominates, with touches of German, Viennese, and American.

The disk begins with a good, strong arrangement of "The War March of the Priests" from Mendelssohn's "Athalie" (misspelled in the program listing). At nearly 7 minutes, it is a thorough presentation, as well as a rousing one. "The Bells" is, by contrast, less than a minute of charming solo bell music--from a "traditional" source which eludes me. Kreisler's "Caprice Viennois" is a drastic departure from the original quintessentially violinistic version, and in my view might be a bit disappointing for those familiar with the original. The slow movement from Saint-Saëns' Third "Organ" Symphony presents the sweet, peaceful, reflective mood of the piece, though it loses some of the interplay between genuine orchestral sonorities and those of the organ, transcribed as it is for the organ alone. Händel's "Fireworks Music," as a 5-movement suite, holds up very well in this organ transcription, owing to the very sturdy character of the music itself. (It would sound good played on just about anything.) Sullivan's "Lost Chord" is a transcription of an organ-centered song, and as such is very effectively and sympathetically performed. ("Seated one day at the organ...") The American folk tune "Shenandoah" is rendered in an artistic and imaginative arrangement initiated by soft flute, string, woodwind, and bell-like sounds which proceeds to swell into a stronger, full organ texture before fading away into wispy memories. It is as tender as a love song should be. "Nimrod," the most popular of Elgar's "Enigma Variations," is arranged and played to a high standard here, very artistic and musically apt. Beginning with an impressive fanfare, Parry's powerful hymn "Jerusalem" is sung out with enough glory and reverence to fill--and fulfill--even the most majestic of cathedrals. The English traditional "Greensleeves" is offered up in today's typically refined and genteel manner, perhaps less than faithful to the original earthiness of this lovely song. A meditative, meandering melody begins the overly tender arrangement of the Scottish traditional "Skye Boat Song" (misspelled "Sky" in the listing). The theme of this song would seem to call for bolder, more assertive treatment. ("Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing. Onward! the sailors cry. Carry the lad that's born to be king over the sea to Skye.") Starting with a nice, brief introduction, Hazelton proceeds to work over the traditional hymn "In the Garden" to what must be his full satisfaction in this contagiously enjoyable arrangement dedicated, we suspect, as much to the god of music as to the Eternal Almighty. The Vierne Organ Symphony movement, as the only piece written originally for the organ alone, gets respectful and faithful treatment here, in the excellently interpreted and performed presentation which wraps up this 67-minute CD.

The San Sylmar organ, located in Sylmar, California, is described as the second largest Wurlitzer in the world, with 74 ranks and over 5500 pipes in its present form, restored and expanded after being damaged by the 1994 earthquake. A part of the Nethercutt collection, it is obviously well maintained, for its sound is outstanding (as we easily discern from the fine 24-bit digital recording carried out by the Klavier engineers). If you should want to compare the present sound of the organ with that of its pre-earthquake version try listening to the CD "Pipes of the Mighty Wurlitzer," a Klavier disk recorded by Hazleton at San Sylmar just before the quake. Both disks include "The Lost Chord," in differing arrangements.

The liner notes provide information about the organ, the organist, and the composers, but say nothing about the pieces themselves. Still, nearly all the music is well-known, so this lapse may not be too important. (Tom Hazleton's name is spelled "Hazelton" on the back insert and on the disk itself. This confusion about spelling is also very common on the Internet, so I'd suggest you do any searching using both forms of his name.)

If you enjoy familiar classical music, classically arranged folk music, and the sound of a fine theater organ well-played, then you'll be happy with this CD. I think it's great!