If a big pipe organ can be called the king of instruments, the new one at Cal State Northridge could be considered a princeling, distinguished but far down the line of succession. Why it was necessary to go to England and J.W. Walker & Sons for a basic tracker instrument in the German style is not clear, but having done so, the Northridge authorities secured a fine example.
Saturday evening, faculty organist Samuel John Swartz offered the dedicatory recital on the two-manual, 16-rank instrument in its acoustically hospitable home in the University Student Union, displaying the instrument to better advantage than its repertory.
In the music for which it was designed, the new organ sounded fresh and dazzling. Swartz played a Prelude in G minor by Buxtehude and Bach's Fantasy and Fugue in G minor with complete textural clarity and stylish spirit, despite some stumbles in the Bach.
His affection for agogic accents often introduced momentum-fracturing hiccups. That was a problem in the lavishly ornamented Offertory on "Vive le Roy" by Andre Raison, also afflicted with some balance inequities between solo stops and the principal chorus. An "Imperial" Batalla by Cabanilles emerged in all its generically peculiar glory, setting out the instrument's sonic resources vividly.
The second half of the concert began with the premiere of "Agincourt Variations" by faculty composer William Toutant. There are attractive variations in the overlong group, particularly a Satie-like one for a shuttered positive division with its elegant tremulant.
"Reflections on B-A-C-H" by George Heussenstamm, also of the CSN faculty, rambles to the point of terminal ennui. Swartz's registration here suggested, as it had elsewhere, that the pedal division without its 16-foot stops has to struggle to be heard against a smothering treble.
John Stanley's Voluntary No. 8, in D minor, with its unintentionally hilariously cliched finale, and Ives' ubiquitous Variations on "America" completed the program.