Classical Music Sentinel

To a certain degree one could compare the music of Carson Cooman (b. 1982) to that of Olivier Messiaen, in the sense that it’s obviously very much inspired by events that occur throughout the liturgical calendar, but is best suited to a concert venue rather than a church setting. I’m convinced that some ministers or clerics officiating a service would find this music overly expressive and evocative, and therefore liable to distract the attention of the members of the congregation away from the actual ceremonial proceedings. But then again, it could have the opposite effect and bring some closer to God.

Carson Cooman being himself an organist, his major output has been for the pipe organ, but he also writes symphonies, piano music, and choral works at a prolific pace. For example, Exordium, the opening piece on this CD was composed in 2016 and is his Op. 1152. It certainly makes for a great beginning (the latin word Exordium means beginning) with an energetic opening motif, powerful chords, conflicting rhythms, all leading to a robust coda where the mighty pedals reiterate and emphasize the opening motif during which the hands hold down a bright and powerful chord, all of which pushes the organ’s and organist’s limits to their full potential. Besides the closing Veni Creator Spiritus also being a full on all-stops blazing type of piece, most of the other pieces sandwiched in between are soft, lyrical and evocative works, all great at displaying a pipe organ’s individuality and range of stops. I was immediately impressed by the short Romanza, Op. 186, with its beautifully melancholic melody on a flute stop over what sounds like a combination of Viola da gambe and Voix céleste registration (I’ve been playing this one over and over). I also admire organist Erik Simmons‘ choice of registration for Nettleton by which the main hymn tune really stands out. Each and every piece on this disc has a distinct style and unique sound, unlike many other composer’s collections that bring on ear fatigue after a while. I believe this is the sixth recording that organist Erik Simmons and composer Carson Cooman have collaborated on and they certainly complement each other. Each release has been an enriching listening experience.

The instrument you hear on this recording is the 1855 Cavaillé-Coll Organ of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saint-Omer, France. This recording was produced in live performance via the Hauptwerk system, which involves MIDI and virtual models of actual instruments. It would take too long to explain clearly how this works, but it is certainly worth your time to investigate it further. It’s almost like being in two places at once, or rather like playing an instrument remotely in real-time. If you have a MIDI keyboard and computer at home, you could be playing this Cavaillé-Coll pipe organ in your own living room, by simply downloading the required software. Quite fascinating!

—Jean-Yves Duperron