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The Kelvingrove Organ
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Sinfonia to Cantata 29 ‘Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir’, (‘Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks’).

Transcribed by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) [4.50]
Felix MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY (1809-1847)
Overture to Oratorio: St Paul, Op. 36
Transcribed by W. T. Best (1826-1897) [8.12]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Overture to Oratorio: Messiah
Transcribed by W. T. Best [4.13]
Engelbert HUMPERDINCK (1854-1921)
Prelude to Opera: Hänsel and Gretel
Transcribed by Edwin H. Lemare (1865-1934) [9.36]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Overture to Opera: Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)
Transcribed by W. T. Best [8.13]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Overture to Opera: Der Freischütz (The Freeshooter)
Transcribed by A. L. Peace (1844-1912) [11.16]
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
‘1812’ Overture, Op. 49
Transcribed by Edwin Evans (1844-1923) [17.57]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Suite from Opera: Carmen

Transcribed by Edwin H. Lemare [11.16]
Timothy Byram-Wigfield (Organ)
Recorded 8-11 November 2001, on the Lewis organ at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow.
DELPHIAN RECORDS LIMITED DCD 34004 [75:38]


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I’ll be surprised if this release from the dependable Scottish label Delphian is not on my list of ‘discs of the year’. The disc most successfully showcases the world famous Kelvingrove organ of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow and features transcriptions of popular and larger-scale works by many eminent composers. Built by the firm of T. C. Lewis and Co. Limited of Brixton, London in 1901 the magnificent three manual organ was exported to Scotland initially for the Glasgow International Exhibition and was subsequently purchased by the Glasgow City Corporation before moving to its present home in 1902.

Throughout most of Europe the primary role of the organ has been a liturgical one. However in Edwardian Britain the established Anglican Church tradition began to be substantially augmented by copious amounts of secular organ compositions. In the late-nineteenth Century considerable technical advances in organ design lead composers to write increasingly more complex and imaginative music for the instrument. Across Britain it had become fashionable for large organs to be constructed in secular buildings such as Concert Halls and Town Halls. Between the 1950s into the 1970s the organ had became unpopular. Often considered by many to be an obsolete instrument many organs had fallen into disrepair owing to neglect and some had been even dismantled. Thankfully, over the last couple of decades, these large organs have regained their respect as an integral part of British heritage with many having been restored back to their former glory and some considerably improved.

This release pays tribute to the widespread trend in Edwardian Britain for transcriptions for the organ of popular orchestral and choral works, opera and even some chamber works. The vast number of organ transcriptions completed by composer/organists such as William Best, Edwin Evans, Edwin Lemare, Alfred Hollins, Albert Peace, William Faulkes et al allowed a considerable number of people to hear much admired repertoire previously inaccessible to them.

Organist Timothy Byram-Wigfield, the newly appointed master of music at St George’s, Windsor, has selected a varied and fascinating programme of transcriptions which is eminently suited to the impressive and colourful Kelvingrove organ. Seven of the eight transcriptions are taken from the British concert organ tradition and range from William Best’s transcription of Mozart’s The Magic Flute overture to Edwin Evans’ eighteen minute transcription of the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky. For reasons that remain unclear to me the recording includes a fine transcription by twentieth-century French composer/organist Marcel Dupré’s of J.S. Bach’s Sinfonia to Cantata 29, ‘Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir’, (‘Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks’).

Timothy Byram-Wigfield’s playing is magisterial with colourful performances that are alive with fluency and abound with expression. There is never any hint of ill-mannered showmanship just a strong sense of concentration of giving full justice to the score and the technical demands of the instrument. The excellent sonics give an impression of being surrounded by the music.

An enterprising release from Delphian, magnificently performed and recorded. A thoroughly recommendable addition to the organ canon.

Michael Cookson


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