Classical Music Sentinel

You may recall that I was very impressed with the previous recording by organist Erik Simmons playing music by Carson Cooman , so much so that it found a place on the Definitive Recordings page. Well let me say that I am just as impressed with this new recording, but for altogether different reasons. Whereas Litany featured pieces concerned more with fantasy and flair, this new Masque disc centers more around form and structure, but that certainly doesn’t prevent composer Carson Cooman from yet again flexing his creative muscle and laying out a series of Preludes and Fugues as varied as they are meticulously crafted. Like I mentioned in the previous review, American composer and concert organist Carson Cooman (b. 1982) does not seem to be inflicted with the “sameness” syndrome that most of today’s composers appear to suffer from. While one piece may make use of harmonic intervals à la Keith Emerson, another sounds as if written by Bach if he were living today. While one works ideas out over a 5/4 time signature, another sticks to traditional form like glue. While one is melodic and bright, another’s dark charater reminds me of the organ music by Rued Langgaard. While some are very soft and serene, segments of one sound like a Hercules transport plane on take off. And once again, organist Erik Simmons , through the use of a wide variety of stop combinations and expressive playing, reveals each one’s unique colors and character.

The Symphony for Organ , actually dedicated to Erik Simmons, is quite something. With an opening movement that would have sounded right at home in the original black and white version of the Phantom of the Opera (maybe it’s subtitled “Masque” for that reason), a 21st century re-tooling of a Sarabande, and a tremendously powerful Chorale that will send your neighbours packing, not only because it’s loud, but also because they’ll think you’ve gone absolutely mad.

All of this great music is performed on the outstanding 1973 Marcussen & Son Organ of Laurenskerk, Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, comprised of 85 stops that range from a 1′ Octaaf to a 32′ Bazuin. It can purr like a kitten or roar like a lion, and everything else in between. This is yet another outstanding recording courtesy of Divine Art once again engineered by Erik Simmons himself.

—Jean-Yves Duperron