Houlihan Reviews

The playing of the revered repertoire on this recording is that of a mature artist who possesses a surefire technique that is never self-serving, but rather presents the music in rarefied, Bachian clarity. That Christopher Houlihan was a mere lad of 19 when he made this recording makes the above statement seem all the more remarkable. Mr. Houlihan’s great talent and popularity among organists and non-organists alike has won him that adulation of his cadre of “Houli Fans.” When he made this recording, he was a student at Trinity College, under the tutelage of John Rose. He spent his junior year studying in France, where he served as an assistant musician at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris. Mr. Houlihan prefaces Vierne’s Second Symphony with two beloved movements of Widor: the “Allegro” from the Sixth Symphony and the “Andante sostenuto” from the Gothic Symphony. He concludes the disc with Vierne’s ever-popular Carillon de Westminster. The allegro movements are played with gusto, precision, clear phrasing (a decidedly detached manner in the Widor Allegro), rhythmic control, and fine attention to detail. Houlihan avoids excessive speed, a temptation to which many young (and older!) musicians fall prey. The slow movements are played in a sustained, lyrical manner, creating an aura of beatific serenity. Brian Jones sums it up: “Christopher Houlihan is a musician who plays the organ…” This kind of elegant playing, coupled with the tonal beauty and brilliance of the landmark Austin with its fiery reeds, incisive fluework, and warm colors, reveals facets of this music that are often lost. A particularly lovely movement is the “Cantabile” of the Vierne Symphony, for which Houlihan selects a hauntingly beautiful reed with tremulant, in both treble and tenor ranges. Cleary, Christopher Houlihan is a major talent whose star is destined to brightly shine over the horizon of the years ahead. Says Phillip Truckenbrod, “This recording will serve as an interesting benchmark in a performance career that is bound to flourish and bound to reveal a marvelous continued artistic development…Christopher will continue the magnificent development as a performer he has shown to date, and we will have this recording to mark his progress at age 19.” Buy it for its historical significance, and enjoy it for the sheer joy of great music making.
James Hildreth, The American Organist, April 2009)

"Clearly a talented young player, and one admires his controlled tempi allowing the music to speak clearly....flair and polish...some fine playing with stylish touches of registration and rubato." (Choir & Organ, London, 2009)

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"Houlihan plays with a gentile and well-controlled sense of romantic rubato that is so beautifully crafted that the listener finds himself lost in the sheer beauty...You might find yourself playing this track [Widor] over and over again....The challenge for any organist is to make all five [Vierne] movements, different in character yet with the same explosive and almost violent energy, come together as one continuous work that unfolds movement by movement. Christopher Houlihan does this admirably...The listener soon forgets that he is listening to a 19-year-old American organist who has yet to finish his undergraduate degree, and is swept away with the various moods and emotions that accompany this almost 40-minute exposition of the art of Louis Vierne...What a wonderful finish to this recording with Houlihan literally dancing through this show stopper...you will no doubt become a 'Houli fan' after just a few minutes of listening to this recording." (The Diapason, January 2009)

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"The CD, recorded on the fantastic French-style Austin Organ in Trinity College's Chapel, is a marvel of both playing and engineering. The recording is crystal clear and absolutely marvelous in terms of sound quality. The organ sounds in top form, and sounds for all the world like an Austin speaking French (fluently!).

Christopher Houlihan has played a very demanding program on this disc..... Taken at a very martial tempo, Widor's Allegro from the Sixth Symphony displays all the pomposity and grandeur due it. Christopher does a fantastic job of manipulating the instrument, with some very deft registration changes (made possible by the French-style registration aids on this instrument), and the glorious reeds are in full bloom here! The wonderful acoustic of the chapel is well suited to the tempo, and the full, muffled, Swell is absolutely stunning and powerful.

The Andante Sostenuto...is played with the ravishingly beautiful Harmonic Flute. One can clearly hear the inner voices and reed counter melody in this beautiful piece.

Christopher again displays clear mastery of the music, and an innate understanding of the composer's intentions....The Vierne 2nd Symphonie is played extremely well throughout...Christophers is certainly up to the task, and his communicative style makes for a wonderful rendition of the Symphonie.

This is a very fine release overall, and I do believe that more great things will come of Christopher Houlihan!" (Nicholas F. Russotto, Chiff-Chat, newsletter of the Springfield MA chapter of the American Guild of Organists)