THE ART OF THE SYMPHONIC ORGANIST
Ken Cowan plays the 1921 Skinner at the Parish Church of Saint Luke, Evanston, Illinois
JAV RECORDINGS JAV141
The work of Ernest Skinner, organ builder, is known worldwide in much the same way as that of ‘Father’ Willis in this country – indeed they were both very good friends. Reference to the Skinner Opus 327 of 1921 at St Luke’s, Evanston is to be found in an excellent article by Joseph Vitacco in the February 2004 edition of Organists’ Review.
Ken Cowan studied with, amongst others, Thomas Murray at Yale and is currently one of the leading organists in the United States. His CD opens with three pieces by Wagner, two of which were recorded by George Thalben-Ball in the Alexandra Palace, the Grand March from Tannhauser and I>The Ride of the Valkyries in 1931, becoming a landmark in recording. Ken Cowan’s approach to these bears a considerable resemblance, despite a gap of 73 years.
The two major works, the Liszt Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen and the Symphonic Choral on ‘Jesu, Meine Freude’ by Karg-Elert display Ken Cowan’s stunning abilities at the console. I was most impressed by the Choral Song and Fugue by S. S. Wesley, which shows off the distinct resemblance to the Willis in the Alexandra Palace. Best of all, however, was the Karg-Elert – a masterpiece.