- Stephen Tharp: Complete Organ Works of Jeanne Demessieux

Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper

By Craig Smith

The brilliant, short-lived French composer Jeanne Demessieux (1921-1968)
left some notable pieces for voices, piano, orchestra, and choir behind her, but is best known for her big solo organ works. Mostly inspired by Roman Catholic psalms and chants, mostly multimovement, these preludes, responses, meditations, and études demand an immense space, an equally large, rainbow-hued instrument for best effect, since Demessieux tailored them to her own Olympian ability, a stellar player.

Aeolus put a perfect pairing together for this SACD project: the excellent, insightful American virtuoso Stephen Tharp and German engineer Christoph Martin Frommen, keen-eared and tasteful. Both seem to have been perfectly at ease with the organs and acoustics of two grand French churches, Saint-Martin in Dudelange and Saint-Ouen in Rouen.

The overall sound vibrantly fills the ear but is also amazingly cohesive, and the pieces are polished to the highest sheen by Tharp's obvious, confident joy in the music-making.

The set offers about three hours of music on three discs - not a bad bargain, as the third disc includes a bonus track of Demessieux playing her own Poème for organ and orchestra in 1952 at the Salle Pleyel in Paris.