A refreshing program with power and grace
David Robinson | Oakland, CA United States | 08/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dr. Susan Matthews has selected a wonderful variety of pieces for this solo organ recording. Mercifully, it's not titled "An Organ Spectacular" (like so many other showpiece recordings) but the results are indeed spectacular.
The selections include a few "standards" (such as the Barber Adagio) but also several unfamiliar works that are worth hearing: The ragtime "Sortie" of Lefebure-Wely and Paul Halley's "Outer Hebrides" reworking of Scottish themes.
The Grace Cathedral Aeolian-Skinner is a large romantic instrument originally voiced by G. Donald Harrison, although much extended. It suffers from being boxed into two concrete chambers that are far too small on either side of the chancel, so in live performance it sounds rather muddied in the nave. That this recording has been able to capture both its power and the tonal nuances of the very many stops is a considerable achievement.
This CD can be thoroughly recommended to anyone searching for a recording of any one of the tracks and will also be a worthwhile addition to the collection of serious organ aficianados."
Choose the "Chosen Tunes"
Charles Shipley | San Francisco, CA United States | 03/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Susan Jane Matthews new recording "Chosen Tunes" is phenomenal. The name is a play on one of the selections on this fine recording, The Chosen Tune by Herbert Howells. This is the first organ recording of this exquisite, small (less that two minutes) work that Howells wrote for his own wedding. Other gems on Dr Matthews debut recording are the Cortege et Litanie of Marcel Dupre, "Nimrod" from Enigma Variations by Elgar - one can almost hear the British Empire decaying as one listens - and the astounding Te Deum of the French composer Jeanne Demisseux. All of these are performed with an authority and assurance that belie the young age of the performer. As important as the performer in any organ recording is the instrument, and this is one of the greats of the world. This Aeolean Skinner from 1934 is deftly captured in all its majesty. This is certainly one of the most carefully preserved instruments of its kind in the US. From the sinfully lucious strings to the riveting full organ, this performer knows this famous instrument well, playing it almost daily. It is often said that the most important stop in the organ is the room it's in, and in this Grace Cathedral is unexcelled. How about SEVEN seconds resonance! All of this aural glory is well captured on this amazing first recording by Susan Jane Matthews. Be sure to really turn it up to experience all the nuances of this CD. One nit to pick - it would be great to have a better photo of Dr Matthews in the liner notes. So, this is a grand slam: the performer, organ, room, and engineering make for one of the best listening experiences I can remember."
Hansklaus Grundhöfer | Trier, Germany | 10/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first heard Dr. Susan Jane Matthews live in recital at the Himmerod Abbey, Germany on July 27, 2008. Of the many organ recitals I have heard on the great Klais organ of this abbey, I thought it truly was one of the greatest. Because of this, I obtained a copy of her recording Chosen Tunes, from Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. Though the space and organ are different, in this recorded performance I hear the same genius and virtuosity which I heard live at the Himmerod Abbey. While it is always difficult to fully appreciate a pipe organ from a recording, this recording does give a wonderful glimpse of the phenomenal sound of the organ and acoustic at Grace Cathedral.
I hope that in the near future Dr. Matthews will make more recordings and return to Germany to perform once again."