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The museum for mechanical instruments in Seewen, Switzerland, houses the Welte organ built in 1913/14 for the ‘Britannic’, the sister ship of the ‘Titanic’. Unfortunately, the history of the organ is not adequately described in the otherwise extensive and beautiful booklet – how did it survive, and who carried out the changes in 1920 and 1937? The real interest here lies in the player rolls made by famous organists of the day to demonstrate Welte’s player mechanism. These include Carl Hofner’s Bach rolls (BWV 727 and 549) made c.1912; as David Rumsey writes in the booklet, ‘this must be the closest recorded playing we will ever have to Bach’s era’. BWV 727 drips with sentimentality while BWV 549 is, rhythmically, highly liberal and makes extensive use of the ‘Glocken’. Lemare breezes through Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas Overture (fascinating to hear such a legendary figure) while Dupré provides an extended improvisation on a theme of Schubert. By comparison, Rumsey’s ‘human’ demonstration of the organ in nuggets of mainstream repertoire is less interesting, if undeniably well played. I suspect some digital reverberation has been added to the sound.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Choir & Organ, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing