PHI CD 198: The Romantic Organ
Chester Cathedral Roger Fisher, organ
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Sonata No. 1 in F minor Op. 65
Stephen István Heller (1813-1888)
Study in A flat Op. 47 No. 23
Joseph Gabriel Rheinberger (1839-1901)
Sonata No. 8 in E minor Op. 132
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Waltz in A, D. 799, No. 13
Julius Reubke (1834-1858)
Sonata in C minor on the 94th Psalm
TOTAL PLAYING TIME: 67.51
Recorded on the evenings of 6 & 7 January 2004, Chester Cathedral.
A Personal Note by Roger Fisher
When, in 1970, I telephoned EMI and suggested that a recording of the newly rebuilt organ at Chester might be a fitting addition to their Great Cathedral Organs Series, my suggestion was received with instant agreement. Producer, Brian Culverhouse and recording engineer, Stuart Eltham used 8 microphones to produce a sound which was stunningly good for its day. The recording sessions progressed with almost miraculous ease and the disc was completed in an evening and a half. The producer and engineers were booked to be in Chester for four days and, on completion of the recording we all wondered what to do. When I suggested a Rheinberger disc of Sonatas 7 and 8, Brian wondered whether we should complete this in the time available, but the fates smiled on us and we completed the second disc in record time. The reviews were good and the discs sold well, but eventually EMI decided to withdraw the whole series and enquiries about re-issue brought a negative response. In the 1990s Martin Monkman of AMPHION, with the encouragement of Paul Hale, bravely ventured forth on the re-issue of some of the most characteristic items from the Great Cathedral Organs Series and, splendidly engineered, these discs have met with great success.
Similarly, Michael Smythe of VISTA had recorded Mendelssohn's Sonatas in Chester in 1977 and these recordings, often preserving the first takes, were also recorded in record time most of the movements were taken in one evening. As with EMI, so DECCA, on their L'OISEAU - LYRE label issued discs in a splendid double album which revealed production standards of the highest quality. This remained in the catalogue for some while but was eventually withdrawn. Sadly, DECCA also found organ music to be too much of a minority interest to contemplate a re-issue.
Repeated requests for re-issue of Reubke, Rheinberger and Mendelssohn could not go unheeded for ever and, eventually it was felt that we should re-record some of these works using the latest digital technology. I felt that, after another 30 years of living with this wonderful music, I had gained more insight into it and wanted to pass this on to listeners. Rushworth's magnificent 1969 rebuild of the Chester Whiteley/Hill organ was indeed a milestone in its day, but had perhaps strayed a little further in a neo-classical direction than we should do today. Subsquent adjustments over the years have brought it nearer to its romantic roots and thus made it more suitable for the repertoire on this disc. Finally, although the original recordings were tonally splendid for their day and are still capable of giving great pleasure to the listener, there is no doubt that Martin Monkman's digital technology begins where Brian Culverhouse and Michael Smythe left off. As I listen to the test discs, I feel that I'm in Chester Cathedral and nowhere else, listening to one of our greatest cathedral organs.
Roger Fisher, January 2004