Bonbons for Organ. Setchell (Atoll) – INKPOT
Bonbons for Organ
Albert Renaud Toccata in D minor
Georg Frederich Handel Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Elvira Madigan
Felix Arndt Nola
Théodore Dubois Fiat Lux
Martin Setchell Three-Piece Suite
Ronald Watson Happy Birthday, Herr Bach
Billy Nalle Alles was du bist
John Philip Sousa Washington Post March
Gabriel Fauré Berceuse from Dolly Suite
Fauré Sicilienne from Pelléas et Mélisande
Giuseppe Verdi Grand March from Aïda
Creatures Great and Small
Louis-Claude Daquin The Cuckoo
Camille Saint-Saëns The Swan from Carnival of the Animals
Guy Bovet Fugue on The Pink Panther
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Flight of the Bumblebee
18th Century French Dances
Jean-Joseph Mouret Rondeau from First Suite
André Campra Rigaudon
Charles Gounod Funeral March of a Marionette
Bovet Hamburger Totentanz
MARTIN SETCHELL organ
The Rieger organ of the Christchurch Town Hall, New Zealand ATOLL ACD 600
>Who says that organ music can’t be fun? Despite Norman del Mar’s admonition that the King of the Instruments possesses “many contexts which can give the listener an uncomfortable jolt” in his treatise Anatomy of the Orchestra, this CD begs to makes an entirely different case for the organ.
Performing on the magnificent Rieger instrument at the Christchurch Town Hall, organist/curator/arranger Martin Setchell (left) presents a cornucopia of delightful pieces, both original and transcribed, for his chosen instrument. The packaging, which includes caricatures by Al Nisbet and cartoons, all but points this product in the direction of new and young listeners – but there is much here for all to enjoy (“all”, of course, inclusive of anyone from eight to eighty years young.)
This album has been loosely arranged into various sections, such as works grouped together by thematic content (Creatures Great and Small) or composer (Fauré Favourites), with standalone items slotted in-between to bridge musically from one section to another. The opening item, Albert Renaud’s oft-neglected Toccata in D minor is a rousing number, with the clever use of reeds in the registration.
One of the most intriguing sections must be Beautiful Women, consisting of three disparate items: Handel’s (Arrival of) the Queen of Sheba, Mozart’s Elvira Madigan – the slow movement from Piano Concerto No.21 – and Felix Arndt’s Nola. Elvira is a clever transcription that works delightfully, and one of many revelations to be had. Purists might well shudder at what pipes and bellows might do to the brittle filigree of Mozart, but the important thing here is how much of the spirit of the original Setchell captures.
Setchell also takes this opportunity to demonstrate his compositional talents – apart from the transcriptions, that is – with a natty three-movement suite comprising of a Trumpet Tune, Scherzo and Toccata on Joy to the World. The first section finds Setchell parodying 18th century styles (can you say Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony), the Scherzo fraught with whole-tonal wit and the concluding piece de resistance is a brilliant exercise in atonality and harmony: over the intricacies of fluent fingerwork, the counterpoint of Joy to the World is hammered out on the pedals. It would prove an interesting listening exercise for younger audiences.
But by no means is this the only parody. We also have an instance of Happy Birthday over the Sleepers Wake theme by Bach – always a popular target for counterpuntal enhancements, from Gounod to Schnittke. Likewise, The Washington Post March, like Elvira, is also a revelation: dashed off with boisterous, carnival-like aplomb – and listen to that left hand bearing out the oom-pah oom-pah marching rhythm. The Grand March from Aïda is somewhat less successful, with the choice of reedy registers for the opening fanfare – still, in this guise it could very well serve as an alternative wedding processional for those who are tired of Mendelssohn and Wagner.
It may come as a bit of a jar to hear two Fauré gems ported over to a mechanical behemoth of pipes-and-bellows: first the Berceuse from Dolly Suite and then Sicilienne from Pelléas et Mélisande. On the one hand, Setchell’s reading of this impressionistic idiom is fascinating; on the other hand, these works and the organ do make for strange bedfellows indeed.
Louis-Claude Daquin’s Cuckoo survives the migration from harpsichord to organ fairly well, as does Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, with the inspired switch of registers and manuals capturing the idiom of the music perfectly. Guy Bovet’s Fugue on Henry Mancini’s The Pink Panther is another veritable crowd-pleaser; the only question mark in the Creatures Great and Small section would be Saint-Saëns’s ubiquitous The Swan.
Somehow, for all of Setchell’s artistry, organ reeds lose heavily on the exchange from the violoncello, and perhaps a selection of mellow voices here would have been better. There is also a typo in the timing given for Bumblebee: not 4’40 (which would be absolutely exhausting for the poor bee) but 1’40.
Rounding off the album are two French dances (not uninterestingly, also fair alternatives as organ processionals at nuptial events) followed by two darkly humourous pieces (you can tell by the use of words like “Funeral” and “Dance of Death” in the titles). The Mouret Rondeau (recognizable to less-younger audiences as The Masterpiece Theatre theme), and Campra’s Rigaudon make a welcome cameo, even if the Rigaudon is taken much faster than I remember it to be. But both French movements have no shortage of majesty and nobilissmente.
The Hitchcockian association with Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette will no doubt also be lost on younger listeners, but they should not miss the disarming humour of the music against its morbid title. Guy Bovet’s Hamburger Totentanz, with its muted registers and show-offy pastiche of classical themes brings the album to a wonderful conclusion.
Martin Setchell’s playing throughout is spontaneous and displays the Rieger instrument in its full magnificence. Together with the attractive packaging, plus an intelligent selection and arrangement of music in various topical sections, this album is a godsend for younger listeners – indeed, one of the better children’s records (a rarity these days) I’ve seen.
Other more well-known labels, of course, have also started packaging and marketing children’s albums but what really sets Bonbons for Organ apart is its conviction in bringing classical music to younger listeners in an honest and direct fashion rather than just as another marketing ploy to capture market share. The added appreciation which this album provides to new listeners for the capabilities of the organ cannot be excluded, either.
Visit Martin Setchell’s homepage at: http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/setchell/martin.htm
869: 8.3.2001 Benjamin Chee
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