Christopher Houlihan

concert organist

Winnipeg Free Press review: Christopher Houlihan plays Bach

American organist Christopher Houlihan goes toe-to-toe with the "king of instruments" in his first all-Bach recording. The 29-year old dynamo performs five of the Baroque master’s enthralling pipe organ works, as well as his own intriguing arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Italian Concerto BWV 971.

Recorded on a relatively modern organ at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., Houlihan’s skillful interpretation of such classics as Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542, a.k.a. The Great, features non-traditional dynamic shadings and register changes that might rattle purists’ bones, positing that Bach’s creative genius would have allowed these nuances, if they’d been possible. This is especially displayed during his interpretation of the Italian-styled, three-movement work originally penned for harpsichord. Nevertheless, his conviction in performing it on organ, replete with booming pedal tones, adds an orchestral sensibility while ultimately deepening one’s appreciation.

The album also includes the intensely dramatic Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 544 and Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 564, wisely balanced with lighter fare: Trio Sonata in G major, BWV 530, which further showcases the soloist’s sparkling technique. Finally, Houlihan treats listeners to the mighty Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582, regarded one of the organ repertoire’s cornerstones, performed with flourish right up to its last, thunderous chord. ★★★★

— Holly Harris

© 2017 Christopher Houlihan