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William McVicker hails the IV/71 Harrison organ of St Mary Redcliffe as ‘the finest high-romantic organ ever constructed’, so it was a no-brainer for Jonathan Vaughn to return to Bristol after his successful Wagner at the Organ album [REGCD 394] with Tchaikovsky in his sights. To Edwin Lemare’s vivid transcriptions of the Andante cantabile from Symphony no.5, the Nocture in C sharp minor and the Fantasy-Overture: Romeo and Juliet, Vaughn applies his own transcriber’s skills to the Finale of Symphony no.4 and the Nutcracker Suite. As Isabelle Demers revealed in these pages [Mar/Apr 2017], transcription is a complex art, once an essential means for audiences to experience orchestral music, and now enjoying a welcome renaissance at the hands of today’s virtuoso recitalists. While the reception history of Tchaikovsky’s music is uneven, these days his soaring melodic inventiveness and colourful, dramatic rhetoric is once again fully welcomed in our musical culture – unabashed extroversion is therefore the keynote for Vaughn, as it was for Lemare. For ballet audiences, Tchaikovsky’s towering genius has never been a matter of dispute; perhaps Vaughn’s Nutcracker might open up an avenue for ballet companies to perform in venues with functioning theatre organs, although the dancers would plead for a more relaxed tempo in Waltz of the Flowers, which here leaves even the listener breathless. But this is a mere chip off the mahogany: Vaughn and the Harrison organ do full justice to Tchaikovsky in this thrilling release.

GRAEME KAY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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