Magazine article The Tracker

Capital Romantic

Magazine article The Tracker

Capital Romantic

Article excerpt

Capital Romantic, James Johnson, organist, organs of National City Christian Church, Washington National Cathedral, and Saint Luke Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia. Music of Lefébure-Wély, Saint-Saëns, Mendelssohn, Franck, Fauré, Vierne, Bossi, Gigout, Lindberg, and Liszt. 2 CDs, Conch Classics CC-8, $22, postpaid, from James Johnson, 30 Steltzer Road, Plattsburgh, NY 12901, 518 561 3073. Most of the material in this production was originally recorded live and on modest equipment. I sympathize with Johnson on the problems this presents. Not only the possibility of wrong notes which are quickly forgotten in the live experience, but which cause increasingly piercing winces with each rehearing, but the limitations of non-studio recording setups can also mar the listening experience. I have many cassette tapes and even some reel-to-reel recordings, not to mention more recent mini-disc takes that I have attempted to edit and transfer to CD. Alas, I could not tap the help Johnson had from technicians at Boston's WGBH studios. Doubtless it is their contribution that makes the sounds heard on these CD's quite tolerable and, indeed, gives a fair idea of the real character of the organs. Even the "wow" that is evident in Gigout's Grand- Choeur dialogué, originally recorded at National City Christian, and then copied onto a second cassette machine, is not fatal to the listening experience.

Thus it is unfortunate that the 'studio-situation' recordings on the Steiner-Reck organ in McLean, which doubtless benefitted from the possibility of multiple takes, reveal that the organ really needs tuning. …

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