Hyperion Records

Toccata di Concerto, Op 59

'Organ Fireworks, Vol. 4' (CDA66605)
Organ Fireworks, Vol. 4
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Track 2 on CDA66605 [7'57] Archive Service

Toccata di Concerto, Op 59
Lemare is certainly the most enigmatic, and possibly the greatest, of the organ virtuosi of the earlier part of this century. Whereas his contemporaries were part of the establishment, with church and academic appointments, circumstances conspired to force Lemare onto the treadmill of the travelling virtuoso. Just before Christmas 1900 he embarked on the liner Teutonic for New York and his first recital in the USA was on New Year’s Day 1901 when he played the 1893 Hutchings organ in St Bartholomew’s (which preceded the 1918 Skinner instrument). The critics were ecstatic about his playing, placing his improvisation above Guilmant’s, comparing his status as an organist with that of Paderewski among pianists, and remarking about his performance of music from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel that ‘one could shut one’s eyes and hear an orchestra performing.’

At the centre of his technique was the desire to give the organ the flexibility and subtlety of the orchestra. He absorbed all he could of orchestral playing and orchestral music, and made some spectacular arrangements of popular orchestral pieces. The Toccata di Concerto is an original organ piece whose manual parts have a superficial resemblance to the French toccata style. But beneath, on the pedals, strides an epic theme worthy of a place in a great Romantic opera or tone poem, music crying out for a Richard Strauss orchestra. At the centre of the piece the heroics subside after a pedal passage marked ‘furioso’ and there is a soft-focus romantic interlude, rich in ascending chromaticism, before the volcanic energy of the original theme erupts again, even more vigorously than before.

This is the piece which the organist and journalist Harvey Grace (1874–1944) found ‘a terribly difficult affair’ because of the virtuosity required, although he did concede that there is ‘more good stuff in it than such works are wont to have.’

from notes by Ian Carson © 1992

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA66605 track 2
Recording date
28 February 1992
Recording venue
St Bartholomew's Church, New York, USA
Recording producer
Paul Spicer
Recording engineer
Christopher Greenleaf
Hyperion usage
  1. Organ Fireworks, Vol. 4 (CDA66605)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: July 1992
    Deletion date: October 2012
    Archive Service
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