October 18, 2009 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Please point me toward the very best classical organ music!

I have been collecting bits here and there. I have a little Bach, of course, and a little Vivaldi. The more overwhelming or emotional or unsettling, the better -- music that evokes the feeling of being inside an immense cathedral. But I'll listen to anything you recommend. Wht are your favorites?

I'll buy albums if I have to, but I'd love to be able to buy (or just download) individual tracks.
posted by hermitosis to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
You might already have some of the tracks, but I heartily recommend the album Bach: Great Organ Works. Inspring, timeless music with the added bonus of a quick snigger at "great organ". What more could you want?

From my somewhat hazy recollection, Handel's "Messiah" has some fun organ work in it, although usually only fairly short sections. There's a particularly nice bit of fugue in the Amen chorus, although I've heard at least one arrangement that had this scored for trumpets instead.

Also, consider digging around in I haven't gone hunting through for organ music (although I will now) but a quick google search turned up a page of free recordings of Bach organ works.
posted by metaBugs at 3:21 PM on October 18, 2009

Olivier Messiaen, french and modern, so maybe not exactly what you are looking for but don't let that scare you it's good stuff.
posted by sundri at 3:30 PM on October 18, 2009

Bach, of course:

The Grand Toccata and Fugue in G Minor

Passacaglia in C minor

are really great ones. Anything called "Toccata and Fugue" by Bach will give you that fabulous churchy feeling.

Do you know the horror-movie cliche Toccato and Fugue in D Minor?

it's still great.

You can go to You Tube, of course, and find any of these.

And for something more modern, try the organ works of Olivier Messiaen.

Turangalila Symphony is a long one, but there are loads of them. He incorporated bird song into his music, and also a strange proto-electronic instrument called the ondes martinot, that is a sort of theremin.

A wild and wacky guy!
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:33 PM on October 18, 2009

This isn't quite what you're talking about, but maybe you'd like it: Symphony #3 by Saint Saens, "The Organ Symphony".

It is really monumentally good, and the organ is a critical instrument in the orchestra. But it isn't a concerto; the organ isn't used constantly. But when it is, it's magnificent. It's one of my favorite symphonies of all time.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:33 PM on October 18, 2009

Camille Saint-Saens Symphony #3 (The "Organ" Symphony) is worth a listen. Way back when I was heavily into HiFi equipment , the local guy who distributed Ohm speakers kept this on tap to demo the Ohm F speakers. Well, at least until the 16 hertz low C caused a window to shatter in the mall upstairs. (But that is a different story).

Seriously, worth a listen, just because it's different enough to stand out.
posted by pjern at 3:34 PM on October 18, 2009

posted by hortense at 3:49 PM on October 18, 2009

Handel's Organ Concerto in D minor is very beautiful; the first movement in particular will make you want to rend your clothes in grief. (The organ doesn't come in for a couple minutes; be patient. The later movements are more organ-intensive. It's worth getting your hands on a copy of the whole thing if you can.)
posted by Commander Rachek at 4:16 PM on October 18, 2009

I second Franck, particularly the Prelude, Fugue, and Variations, Op. 18. Here's a good recording.

Also check out some Buxtehude -- he hugely influenced Bach's organ works.
posted by epimorph at 4:16 PM on October 18, 2009

So much wonderful organ music out there .. here are a few YouTube favourites:

Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707): his Prelude in G Minor played by Gustav Leonhardt.

Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-76): his Choral Song and Fugue played by Herbert Sumsion.

Marcel Dupré (1886-1971): playing Cesar Franck's Pièce Héroique, playing his own Cortège et Litanie, improvising on Veni Creator Spiritus.

The incomparable Olivier Messiaen (1908-92): L'Ascension played by Olivier Latry at the Royal Albert Hall, and Messiaen himself improvising on Puer natus est nobis.
posted by verstegan at 4:45 PM on October 18, 2009

I love it when the organist at my parents' church plays Widor's Toccata from the 5th Symphony, even though many consider is tacky.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:02 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

More an artist than a particular piece, you might give E. Power Biggs a listen. Virgil Fox was one of his "rivals" although more of a showboat.
posted by plinth at 5:34 PM on October 18, 2009

Liszt's Fantasy and Fugue on "Ad Nos Ad Salutarem Undam" is my personal favorite in the emotional and unsettling category. Parts on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
posted by greekphilosophy at 5:54 PM on October 18, 2009

Saint-Saens 3rd symphony is currently available of free on amazon: Its symphony number 3 in C minor, Op. 78.
posted by bzbb at 6:06 PM on October 18, 2009

I was just going to come in here and mention E. Power Biggs and Virgil Fox.

My mom says that Virgil Fox was from her hometown (north-central IL), and when he would come back to visit he would wear a giant cape to meet the kiddies at the junior high.

As for pieces that others haven't mentioned already, Marcel Dupre's "Variations sur un Noel pour Orgue, Op. 20" is in-saaaaane. Our organist plays it as a Christmas prelude, and it's like evil clown music mixed with the underground scene in Super Mario Brothers. In a good way :)

Others I've enjoyed by our organist (that I can identify):
"And the Birds Sang Also" by Louis Claude d'Aquin
"Jubilate Deo" by Benjamin Britten (he wrote few organ pieces, and this is a choral piece, but it's got wonderful organ accompaniment and is a fantastic piece in its own right)

I would also be remiss if I didn't include my favorite "Processional and Maria" from Sound of Music :)
posted by Madamina at 6:47 PM on October 18, 2009

Ah, crap. I knew that Britten title didn't sound right. It's "Rejoice in the Lamb."
posted by Madamina at 6:48 PM on October 18, 2009

If you want that true "oh my God this is intense!!" experience, try anything by Max Reger, Cesar Franck, and Olivier Messiaen.

You shouldn't miss these, either:
Léon Boëllmann: Toccata (Movt IV) from Suite Gothique Jehan Alain: Litanies

...and should definitely check out the Youtube videos of organists Jean Guillou and Cameron Carpenter.
posted by aquafortis at 8:01 PM on October 18, 2009

Are you aware of the Pipedreams program distributed by American Public Media? It's been on forever and there are insane volumes of shows available to listen in the archives (see under the Programs selection in the upper right hand menu). All pipe organ, as you might guess.
posted by nanojath at 8:18 PM on October 18, 2009

mandymanwasregistered told me to tell you that you should check out the works of Maurice Duruflé.
posted by speicus at 9:45 PM on October 18, 2009

This recording of Messiaen's La Nativite du Seigneur literally blew my mind this afternoon. [This program is a godsend for Rapidshare downloading.]

As Virgil Thompson famously observed: Messiaen's music vibrates.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:55 PM on November 28, 2009

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