Variations on America – Organ Spectacular
Simon Preston
Catalogue No.

An original album from the last days of the Argo label and a spectacular display of virtuosity in both composition and performance.

Simon Preston had been a recording artist for almost three decades when in March 1988, he recorded this collection at the organ of the Methuen Memorial Music Hall in Boston. The instrument itself is a noted example of organ-building in the Romantic German school, commissioned from the firm of E.F Walcker by the president of the Boston Music Hall Association, Jabez Baxter Upham. The organ was later moved – to a purpose-built hall – and significantly restored by the Aeolian-Skinner company. It is still a demonstration-quality instrument: shimmering strings, sparkling mixtures and brilliant reeds provide seemingly endless resources for the interpretation of all periods and styles of the organ repertoire.

Preston’s program on the present album is seemingly designed to put such an organ through its paces. The most substantial work is the First Organ Sonata by Guilmant, which is celebrated for its barnstorming finale. However, there are fireworks aplenty from Ives, Lemare and Sousa, in works which draw on almost every colouristic possibility from a well-equipped organ, and with an almost riotous abandon. ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ variations form a fine tribute to the instrument’s first appointed organist, Dudley Buck whose duties included three hour-long recitals each week.

This anthology is one of five newly remastered sets canvasing Simon Preston’s complete solo organ recordings for Argo.They also include Preston’s complete recordings of Messiaen (482 4917), ‘Simon Preston at Westminster Abbey’ (482 4933), Romantic organ music (482 4941) by Brahms, Liszt and Reger, 20th-century organ music (482 4925) by Elgar, Hindemith and Maxwell Davies, among others.


JOHN PHILIP SOUSA: The Stars and Stripes Forever
CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS: Danse macabre, Op. 40 (transc. Lemare)
CHARLES IVES: Variations on America
DUDLEY BUCK: The Last Rose of Summer, Op. 59
MARCO ENRICO BOSSI: Étude symphonique, Op. 78
EDWIN LEMARE Andantino in D flat major ‘Moonlight and Roses’
ALEXANDRE GUILMANT: Organ Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 42

Simon Preston at the organ of the Methuen Memorial Music Hall, Boston

Recording information

Recording Producer: Peter Wadland
Balance Engineer: John Dunkerley
Tape Editor: Simon Bertram
Recording Location: Methuen Memorial Music Hall, Boston, USA, 22–24 March 1988
Original CD Release: Argo 421 731-2


‘The marvellous Walcker/Aeolian-Skinner organ of the great Memorial Music Hall in Methuen, Massachusetts projects itself with eminence and verve and is, once again, seized in splendidly balanced sound on disc … Preston’s admirers will also recognize the blue-blooded reverence for style and architectural shaping of the substantial works he programs. The Saint-Saëns and Bossi works, in particular, draw praise for Preston’s immaculate and ardent performance.’ Fanfare, May/June 1991