Andrew Scanlon, no longer new in our little corner, has had over three years to become familiar with the peculiarities and difficulties of the large C. B. Fisk organ in St. Paul's Church, Greenville. His familiarity paid huge dividends, showing that he understands the dangerous runaway volume this instrument is capable of and keeping it under his complete control at all times. A solid hour of excellently-executed music, inflated with spoken-word gas, never produced the splitting headache of other organists' performance on this instrument.
Scanlon opened with John Cook's Fanfare, a useful piece, of no musical interest, but handy for coronations and graduations, much like Locklair's Phoenix Processional.
A meatier piece followed: Jean-Adam Guillaume Guilain's Suite du second ton, an alternatim composition for use with Magnificant at Vespers. Scanlon's registrations were perfect, as easy on this instrument as difficult on most others. Scanlon's playing was at the same time precise and relaxed, bringing out all the subtlety of this most French of the French musical styles. Particularly praiseworthy was the Basse de Trompette on the inimitable Fisk French trompette, with its flamboyant razzmatazz; also fine was the second part of the Dialogue, strengthened by the very finely played echo passages.
Next was the meatiest piece of all, the music that was created when pious J. S. Bach sat down to speak through music about his understanding of the nature of God, S. 552. This is the prelude and fugue of Clavier-Übung II, the bookends to Bach's musical thoughts on Luther's Little Catechism. The Prelude was taken at a stately tempo, as befits a stately organ in a stately acoustic. The second theme could profit from more detached playing (the room begs for more separation) and more register contrast between the manuals. It may not be obvious from the keydesk just how very loud the smaller plenum is on this organ. The God-the-Father theme began on a rather tubby principal; Scanlon's reverent tempo fitted the reverent theme. The second theme bubbled up at a spritely tempo like a sparkling boiling spring. The over-arching third theme was a little faster still. The pedal could have used more shouting German trompete sound and less fat principal, subtly pointing out the fallacy of the notion of an organ that can do everything; all in all a masterful, magic, majestic performance of this great piece. Although I just couldn't bring myself to shout bravo at the name of God, Scanlon's playing was first rate!
After intermission, Maurice Duruflé's Sicilienne (from Suite, Op. 5) was a very welcome contrast to previous earsplitting renditions of French music on this organ. Scanlon's registrational restrain was praiseworthy; he clearly understands the mystique of the French cathedral school. The program concluded with the Final from Vierne's Symphonie No. 1, an equally effective interpretation of late-nineteenth-century French organ music. Scanlon again showed restraint in bringing on the loud stops until very near the end and well before the headache-making length of exposure was reached. Loud applause is due to Andrew Scanlon, both for what he learned in school, and for what he has learned about this large organ.