“Grieg’s modest “Holberg” Suite might well have been overwhelmed by an organ of such size, range, and power, but thanks largely to the late organ virtuoso and arranger Richard Ellasser, who understood the context of this music, the arrangement is musically appropriate. But even more so, organist Thomas Murray is to be credited with—you’ll pardon the pun—resisting pulling out all the stops, instead finding just the right combination of registrations to tint Grieg’s neo-Baroquish suite with the sound of an 18th-century organ. Grieg, I’m sure, would find this arrangement and Murray’s performance of it not just effective but quite lovely.
In contrast, it might be said that Franck’s Symphony in D Minor is made for the organ. As possibly the greatest organist of the 19th century, Franck has been criticized by some—not entirely without justification—for having conceived his orchestral works in terms of the organ sonorities he was most familiar with. I have to say that this arrangement of his symphony works so well on the organ that one doesn’t miss the orchestra and wouldn’t even realize the piece was originally written for orchestra if one had never heard it before. It sounds completely natural and right in this setting, and it affords Murray the perfect opportunity to show what he and the “Gloria Dei” organ are made of. … I find Murray’s performance of it on organ absolutely thrilling. It’s amazing how closely his choice of stops and registrations simulates the instruments in the orchestral version. There are moments when you can’t be 100 percent sure you’re not listening to an orchestral performance. But most of all, I think, Murray’s playing of the piece made me appreciate its beauty in a way I don’t think I ever have hearing the orchestral version. Murray has convinced me more than ever that the roots of this symphony lie deep in the French Romantic organ tradition.
This is a recording you must hear. It will change your whole perspective on Franck’s symphony, putting it in the same category of the organ symphonies to come by Charles-Marie Widor and Louis Vierne. A magnificent organ, played by an extraordinary organist and complemented by a fantastic recording. This is a must-have, and not just for organ fanciers.” —Jerry Dubins, Fanfare Magazine