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David Vernier
ClassicsToday.com, November 2006

Vanderbilt University-based organist Carl Smith takes us on a pleasant little tour of some Tudor-era church music, visiting works by important contributors to the period's organ repertoire, most importantly John Redford, Thomas Tallis, and Thomas Tomkins. The pieces are typically short (most less than two minutes) and highly refined in their use of imitation and other developmental, structural devices. Most organs in England during the 16th and 17th centuries contained two manual divisions; pedal keyboards were virtually non-existent. Resources were relatively limited regarding registral compass and stops, especially compared to, say, instruments available in northern Germany at the time, and thus most English organ music of this period is for manuals only, the forms basic and unelaborate. Which is not to say the music by these very accomplished composers is uninteresting or inelegant. On the contrary, the pieces on this program show the same high level of invention and craft that we hear in these same composers' more lauded choral compositions. Beyond that, it's up to the organist to bring the music to life, to carefully measure and sensitively balance its melodic and harmonic elements relative to period style and the constraints of a given instrument. And for these reasons--and for this repertoire--the choice of instrument is very important. Which brings us to Carl Smith, who is a serious student of English keyboard music and who has selected two different yet entirely appropriate American organs (one of which is featured on the CD cover) for his performances. The first, which he uses for 21 of the disc's 30 tracks, is an organ of modest specifications, dominated by fundamental flue stops; the second is more varied in voices and colors, featuring a nice selection of mutations, mixtures, and reeds, in addition to the basic flue stops. Smith is quite adept at utilizing his resources, keeping things interesting by often subtle variations in color and texture. In other words, this recital is very easy to listen to--and it's expertly played and recorded. Highlights include Redford's Te lucis ante terminum, a distant cousin of Bach's chorale preludes, and the wonderfully weird, anonymous La Mi Re. I often wonder who is the intended audience for recordings such as this. The liner-note information regarding the organs and registrations employed is totally insufficient to satisfy organ aficionados--and the rather specialized content leaves it pretty much outside the realm of "non-organic" listeners. Fortunately, I like this kind of music and I was lucky enough to get to hear this CD; if you're of like mind, hopefully you'll make a point to hear it too.



David Vernier
ClassicsToday.com, November 2006

Vanderbilt University-based organist Carl Smith takes us on a pleasant little tour of some Tudor-era church music, visiting works by important contributors to the period's organ repertoire, most importantly John Redford, Thomas Tallis, and Thomas Tomkins. The pieces are typically short (most less than two minutes) and highly refined in their use of imitation and other developmental, structural devices. Most organs in England during the 16th and 17th centuries contained two manual divisions; pedal keyboards were virtually non-existent. Resources were relatively limited regarding registral compass and stops, especially compared to, say, instruments available in northern Germany at the time, and thus most English organ music of this period is for manuals only, the forms basic and unelaborate. Which is not to say the music by these very accomplished composers is uninteresting or inelegant.

On the contrary, the pieces on this program show the same high level of invention and craft that we hear in these same composers' more lauded choral compositions. Beyond that, it's up to the organist to bring the music to life, to carefully measure and sensitively balance its melodic and harmonic elements relative to period style and the constraints of a given instrument. And for these reasons--and for this repertoire--the choice of instrument is very important. Which brings us to Carl Smith, who is a serious student of English keyboard music and who has selected two different yet entirely appropriate American organs (one of which is featured on the CD cover) for his performances. The first, which he uses for 21 of the disc's 30 tracks, is an organ of modest specifications, dominated by fundamental flue stops; the second is more varied in voices and colors, featuring a nice selection of mutations, mixtures, and reeds, in addition to the basic flue stops. Smith is quite adept at utilizing his resources, keeping things interesting by often subtle variations in color and texture. In other words, this recital is very easy to listen to--and it's expertly played and recorded. Highlights include Redford's Te lucis ante terminum, a distant cousin of Bach's chorale preludes, and the wonderfully weird, anonymous La Mi Re.

I often wonder who is the intended audience for recordings such as this. The liner-note information regarding the organs and registrations employed is totally insufficient to satisfy organ aficionados--and the rather specialized content leaves it pretty much outside the realm of "non-organic" listeners. Fortunately, I like this kind of music and I was lucky enough to get to hear this CD; if you're of like mind, hopefully you'll make a point to hear it too.






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2:49:44 PM, 25 July 2014
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