For quite a few years I was sort of the in-house reviewer of organ records
for The Absolute Sound (in what I think of as its better years), so I do
bridge the audiophile and organ worlds. By common consent, and certainly in
the view of Harry Pearson, the late founder-editor of the magazine, the
greatest of organ records in the vinyl years was Mercury SR-90169, with
Marcel Dupré playing his works and two by Charles-Marie Widor -- blessedly,
not the Toccata from the 5th Symphony -- at the magnificent Aeolian-Skinner
organ of St. Thomas Church in New York. There was also a companion volume
SR-90168 with works by César Franck -- obviously the same quality of sound,
but less dramatic material. Although Dupré was in his 70s, the playing is
strong, and the organ -- since altered and many would say desecrated --
makes a glorious sound. The recording sessions were difficult because of
the subway that runs under the church, and there are some audible splices.
But it remains a fabulous record. Unfortunately when Mercury released their
classics on CD, they chose to transfer all of the Franck and Widor material
and not Dupré's own compositions. Still the CD 434 311-2 is a must-have.

For newer digital recordings, there are four small US companies that
specialize in organ music: Gothic (, JAV (, Pro Organo (, and Raven ( Their usual technical standards are high. If I were to pick
one CD, it would be Pro Organo's CD 7253, Ken Cowan Plays the Great Organ
of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York. It's a big organ in
a very big building, and Cowan is one of the young giants of the organ

You could also check the online catalog of the Organ Historical Society (, which offers a huge selection of organ CDs, including
many imports. (The English in particular have always been devoted to organ
recordings, most notably Vista in the days of LPs, and Priory continuing
into the CD era.)

I'd be happy to suggest any number of recordings, but they would probably
lean toward my preference for electro-pneumatic romantic or modern classic
American, English, and French organs rather than purely classic mechanical

Michael Fox

On Sun, Apr 19, 2015 at 9:22 AM, John Schroth <[log in to unmask]>

> Can anyone recommend a couple of well recorded and produced pipe organ
> CD's. I have a couple of older ones that I picked up from a friend, but I'm
> not sure if I like the quality of the recordings. They sound a tad flat and
> muffled to me.