I'm looking for suggestions on the biggest and baddest pipe organ pieces ever written, as well as specific audiophile recordings of these pieces. Suggestions for both CD and vinyl sources would be appreciated. I'm looking for MASSIVE dynamic range, and EXCRUCIATING detail. I want an organasm...
Saint Saens Symphony # 3. Classic Records re-issue on 45 RPM and King Super Analog Disc are both stellar recordings.
I'm affrad that you'll just have to stand up and head for the pipe organ hall and listen to it live instead.
Marakanetz is correct in that no recording I've heard will be able to approach the power of the instrument in real life. The best commercial recordings I've heard of organs are the old Mercury recording of Dupre in St. Thomas Church playing the Widor Symphony No. 6 1st movement (available on CD and very expensive vinyl, but the vinyl has the audiophile benefit of the sound of a truck driving down 5th Avenue at the end of the piece which they cut off on the CD!), the Dorian recordings of Gillou playing Pictures at an Exhibition, an audiophile classic (some will question his performance, however, as he is a bit different in his interpretations), and playing the Jongen Symphonie Concertante at the Meyerson Hall, the Reference Recordings "Pomp and Pipes" from that hall, most any Delos recording of an organ, particularly their recording of David Higgs on the Meyerson Hall instrument (John Eargle is terrific at recording organs, but watch out, some of the earlier Delos discs are preemphasized, which can give a bright sound), and, as a series, the Priory recordings of great European organs is quite well-done. And the bis SACD Prieres Sans Paroles, a recording of modern, read atonal, pieces for pipe organ and trumpet in a huge cathedral space, is the best recording of an organ in a large acoustic I've ever heard, in large part due to being an SACD (it just gets ambience and decay better, more naturally, than CD). Michael Alan Fox of TAS always has good recommendations, you should check back issues of TAS for them. For full bore, large scale romantic organ works, look for pieces by composers such as Widor, Vierne and Guillmant. On a less bombastic note, the Hyperion recording of Christopher Herrick playing the Bach Trio Sonatas is an excellent performance and recording of a smaller organ in a very reverberant church, and is some of Bach's finest writing, IMHO. A disc I'm always returning to for the fun of it. Herrick's Bach cycle on Hyperion is very well-done, though not as bombastic on all the works as some might want.
For sheer glory, try "Mass for Christmas Morning" (Michael Praetorius, composer) on the Archive label. I don't know where my wizard friend Jan finds these works but I'm sure glad he does!

allow me to put in my two cents....just some background, I am a guy who was raised on organ music on my Dad's huge Bozak speakers with McIntosh tube gear (60's vintage) and loved it so much I studied the organ for nearly 20 years! (God bless him for giving me the gift of music, and damn him for the disease of audiophilia...)
That having been said, let me add to the other messages by elaborating on recordings; I am not so sure that it is just a system that can not reproduce such a massive instrument, but that it is also hard to record. The best organs are in huge cathedrals - where do you put the mike(s) and how do you capture the space?
Anyway, I agree that many of the mentioned recordings are excellent - and they are probably some of the best for overall quality of recording, dynamic range, and overall detail - all the things you wanted (for some of the best low pedal notes the Rutter Requiem on Reference Recordings --check out #9-- is great, if you have a good sub or true full range). said you wanted to really enjoy the sound of the organ. Pomp and Pipes and all of those ARE great, but they are played and recorded on organs used as accompanying instruments. You need to listen to a REAL organ.
Some of the best organs ever built were built in the 1800's in France by Aristide Cavaille Coll. There are many recordings of them. It is these - in addition to the others mentioned - that I highly recommend. Understand that many concert hall organs (like the Meyerson and many built in modern churches) are built on a foundation of an average air pressure of 3 inches. Your Theater organs (built to play for silent movies, now a much dying art by the way, and in large theaters that were extremely damped with velvet curtains, seats, and rugs) were centered around upwards of 25" of air. They get by very well with 20-25 ranks of pipes (yes they are unified, but we won't go into that!), much like the Cavaille Coll organs (though there were very large ones too) vs. 100's of ranks on some of the others. Anyway, what you get is a HUGE, round sound. I believe the beauty of the organ (in listening) is not just the weight of the pedals but the massive sound that is produced in such organs at the middle octaves (8' pipes).
Don't let my lengthy discourse dissuade you from heeding my recommendation (and here are some finally!):

1. Louis Vierne 24 pieces de fantasie - Olivier Latrie at Notre Dame, Paris - BNL 112742 A/B (check out Carillon de Westminster)
2. Durufle - same organist at St. Etienne du-Mont a Paris (by the way not sure who built this organ, but Cavaille Coll was a restorer) - BNL 112508 (check out #10)
3. Frank complete works - Michael Murray at St Sernin de Toulouse - Telarc (that's right) CD-80234

Also, it is not one of the aforementioned builder's instruments, but if you want some serious BASS check out Jean Gillou's OTHER good Dorian recording, "Organ of St. Eustache" Dor-90134. And actually if you contrast this recording with the other 3, you will see my point. This is a modern organ, and all the 8' pipes and above seem completely outweighed by the bass. Could be the recording, who knows.
And at the risk of carrying on way too much, let me just add that the 1st recommendation (Notre Dame) is truly awesome, because the recording gives you a good feeling for the IMMENSE size of the place. If you have been there, it is a dark, long, and hugh cathedral with very high ceilings. Unlike modern churches, the organ is WAY up there. Anyway, when you first play a track, before the organ comes in you just hear "AIR." Turn the lights out, let your system take you into the place, and enjoy...

Many of these disks are hard to find - the only place you might find them is at the Organ Historical Society in Richmond, VA. Not sure what their website is, but you can get to it through

As for vinyl, if you can find it, one of the best records (and hard to find, probably out of print) was E. Power Biggs playing French Organ Music (I think at St. John the Divine in NYC, but not sure - - sorry, don't remember the label, but if you can find it, awesome performance and decent recording).
Thank you for the recommendations Jimmy--I've been looking for a good Vierne disc with the Carillon de Westminster on it, I'll see if it's in my Gothic catalog, otherwise I'll check your source.
RCPrince - I ordered your recommended SACD - thanks for your suggestions.
The main reason I am reposting though is that I can't believe I left out the best one of all, if you can find it. (I forgot I had it). It is the "Recital a Notre-Dame de Paris" again by Olivier Latry. It is the SDV label, Organa Viventia series, distributed I believe by BMG. The number on the side is 74321470132. This recording is by far the best recording I have of this (or any other) French organ, and the selections/performance are outstanding. This recording is a MUST HAVE if you want to hear the glory of a Cavaille-Coll organ. It is detailed and there are no "nasties" or haze anywhere to be heard. But otherwise it is a rare gem. Selections include Franck 3d Choral, Boelleman's Suite Gothique, and the last two movements from Vierne's 1st Symphony (my all time favorite), among other selections by Saint-Saens, Guilmant, Gigout and others. Very awesome disk.