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Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, February 2006

British born Healey Willan, who moved to Toronto while in his thirties, is considered Canada's most outstanding, church composer to date. He was a romantic at heart and all of his organ music included here stands right up there with the best written during the first half of the twentieth century. The "Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue" is his greatest and most popular piece and a frequent repertoire choice for all serious organists. This recording of it shows it off to better effect than any of the other extant ones for a couple reasons. First, the soloist, Canadian born Patrick Wedd, obviously has a real feel for this music, which is not surprising considering his background is very similar to the composer's. Second, the instrument chosen for this magnificent sounding disc is a newly restored Casavant of formidable size with both English and French tonal characteristics. This is particularly significant considering that a similar instrument by the same builder is in the church where Healey was organist and was what inspired him to write it in the first place. The other selections included here prove beyond a doubt that Willan should not be remembered for this work alone. In fact, you'll find the "Passacaglia and Fugue No. 2" a most welcome discovery and worthy sequel to it. The "Prelude and Fugue in C Minor" is a masterpiece with a stunning conclusion where all of the previous musical ideas are masterfully brought together. Seven other very inventive preludes and also included along with two shorter works. One of the latter, entitled "Epilogue" brings this outstanding recital to a festively joyous conclusion. This is a great release that's not to be missed!





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