Like Virgil Fox before him, Jean-Baptiste Robin has a mission to popularize the organ by performing music on it that might already be familiar in other versions. The French virtuoso already has an estimable discography of his own and other composers’ music, including a well-received debut on Brilliant Classics, ‘Symphonic Organ’ (94726), which features the showpiece E.M. Skinner instrument now located in the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio.
For his latest album, Robin has pitched up in Los Angeles to play the kaleidoscopic Rosales organ installed in 2004 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ. This has already featured on recordings of the Saint-Saëns
Third Symphony, and its reeds and mixtures are eminently suited to the colours of the French Romantic repertoire.
And in a hall sponsored by Disney, why not tell magical stories? Robin has devised a fairy-tale for organ, opening with an improvisation on the March from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Clouds gather over the grim passacaglia opening Duruflé’s three-movement Suite Op. 5 (dedicated to Dukas, he of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice) but they clear in the lilting Sicilienne, and the sun shines brilliantly over the concluding Toccata, a true organ showpiece. There follows the dreamy Clair de lune, whose gently sustained mood is admirably suited to sensitive organ registration, and the ‘Raindrop’ Prelude of Chopin. Preceding his own powerful reflection, The Hands of Time, Robin plays his own transcription of the Mother Goose Suite by Ravel. Inspired by the composer’s orchestration of the ballet, he accentuates the solo reeds (clarinet, cor anglais, cromorne, oboe), as well as the acutely refined swell box.
‘Robin’s own transcriptions… are entertaining and effective, and they demonstrate the Skinner organ’s potential… He is an imaginative player, with a flair for drama, but he doesn’t allow the music to turn into a vehicle for his ego… This disc is a must for organ fanciers, as long as they are not too rigid, and it can be enthusiastically recommended.’ (Fanfare magazine reviewing ‘Symphonic Organ’)
At its official opening in October 2003, Walt Disney Concert Hall (a generous gift from the widow of Walt Disney) was hailed as an acoustical triumph. A year later the organ was inaugurated, built by Manuel Rosales. With its curved wooden pipes shooting out like an explosion of Roman candle fireworks the instrument is a masterpiece of design and its stunning musical possibilities made it one of the most remarkable organs in the world.
The program played by Jean-Baptiste Robin is perfectly suited to the huge potential of the instrument: the selection of musical fairy tales (Ravel, Massenet, Debussy, Duruflé, Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Robin) brings out a myriad of colours, timbres and sonorities of a truly symphonic scope.
French organist Jean-Baptiste Robin is one of the foremost organists of today. His recordings on Brilliant Classics include works by Alain and a recording of the American Symphonic Organ built by E.M. Skinner in the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal.
The booklet contains excellent liner notes on the music as well as a description and specifications of the organ.