Although one encounters Barbara Harbach most frequently as a harpsichordist and editor of neglected music of the distant past, as composer Harbach is very much of the present. One would have to go back to her Gasparo and Hester Park recordings of the '90s to find Harbach in the organ loft on disc; MSR Classics' Toccatas, Flourishes & Fugues marks Harbach's first return to the organ on disc, and this time in her own compositions. The art of the organ hymn paraphrase is something that goes back to the seventeenth century, and this very well-filled MSR disc features a variety of hymn settings, ranging from Harbach's growling, slightly discordant setting of "Sufferer" to her bright and radiant rendering of "Antioch" (i.e., "Joy to the World"). Harbach brings together an interesting mix of the hardy counterpoint and fugues common to the German tradition and the harmonic preferences and flourishes of the French approach, though many of the tunes are American. Although there is some variance in the volume level of the recordings on a track-to-track basis, the recording itself, made with an Aeolian-Skinner at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, MO, is splendid. MSR and Barbara Harbach's Toccatas, Flourishes & Fugues will provide some interesting and fresh pieces to the attention of organists everywhere -- the music is published by Harbach's own Vivace Press imprint -- and likewise will bring enjoyment to those who welcome a novel twist on familiar hymn tunes as played on the organ.
Toccatas, Flourishes & Fugues: A Celebration of Hymns, Vol. 3 Review
by Uncle Dave Lewis