Here is one of the finest recordings of music for Organ and Orchestra that I know of, especially from the last few years. The "Concerto for Organ, Strings and Percussion" by Carl Rütti is especially exciting and powerful music (as is Poulenc's concerto, but that pretty much goes without saying!), and in my opinion it is one of the best concertos written over the past few years. Everything is exceptionally well played to boot. This is the world premiere recording of the Rutti concerto, and indeed the only recording-however I cannot imagine it being played any better than what we get here. This disc won Gramophone's Critic's Choice in 2012, and after/whilst listening I'm sure all of you will understand/hear why.
Carl Rütti, born in 1949, is a Swiss organist and composer who also writes a good deal of choral music. The organ concerto presented here, composed in 2011, is actually his second. It opens up with a driving, urgent Allegro and some positively wild solo work for the organ (I simply love modern organ music, and this fits the bill completely)-all very exciting and cogent. The Adagio starts out restful but returns briefly to the agitation of the first movement before settling back to a quiet ending. The third movement is a brief Scherzo, and the fourth and final movement is a theme and variations on a carol tune that builds to a satisfying climax, with plenty of percussion (including tom-toms, cymbals, temple blocks, snare drum, tambourine and triangle) and organ. This is a very impressive piece of music that audiences would really enjoy-let's hope it gets the concert outings it deserves. A complete knockout.
"Tongues of Fire" is a work for solo organ that lives up to its name, alternating between flickering mischievousness, thunderous declamation, and quiet introspection in its brief seven minutes. Again, modern organ music....love it.
Arensky's gorgeous "Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky" gets a sweet, nostalgic, lyrical performance that is almost as expressive as the classic Barbirolli recording. Although at first glance it may seem out of place on the program, it gives the orchestra a chance to shine, and after the powerful Rutti pieces, it cleanses the listener's aural "palate" so to speak before diving into the wonderful Poulenc concerto.
Francis Poulenc's concerto should be performed more often than it is, and although it's a staple of the twentieth century organ concerto repertoire, it's mostly heard on recordings. And as far as recordings of the Poulenc go, the playing here both from the soloist and the orchestra is first rate. The concerto is given a remarkably spiky reading, with a real intensity of approach by organist Martin Heini. One oddity is that while the short Arensky piece gets a separate track for each variation, the entire Poulenc concerto is on one unbroken 24-minute track. Needless to say it's such an excellent piece that I suppose the choice of single tracking hardly matters. Once a knockout always a knockout :)