Organ Lollipops Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750) Toccata and Fufue in D minor, BWV
Fugue [6:54] Albert KETÈLBEY (1875–1959)
In a Monastery Garden [6:08] Edvard GRIEG (1843–1907)
Wedding Day at Troldhaugen [8:48] William WOLSTENHOLME (1856–1931) Lied [4:48] Alfred HOLLINS (1865–1942)
A Trumpet Minuet [4:43] Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809–1847)
War March of the Priests [7:17] J REDMOND, J CAVANAUGH and F WELDON
Thirty-Two Feet and Eight Little Tails [1:39] Théodore DUBOIS (1837–1924)
Toccata [6:51] Revd Frederick SCOTSON CLARK (1840–1883)
Vienna March [4:17] Giovanni MORANDI (1777–1856) & WT BEST
Bell-Rondo (Rondo de Campanelli) [7:12] Edwin LEMARE (1865–1934)
Andantino in D flat (Moonlight and Roses) [4:04] Sir Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869–1941)
Solemn Melody [3:46] Thomas ARNE (1710–1778)
Gavotte in B flat [2:09] Louis LEFÉBURE-WÉLY (1817–1869) Sortie in E flat [4:15]
Peter King (Klais Organ, Bath
rec. 20-21 November 2007, 2 April 2008, Bath Abbey REGENT REGCD279 [75:50]
title Organ Lollipops implies well-known organ standards
like Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the Widor Toccata,
maybe Les Carillons de Westminster and a handful
of other favourites for ‘The Queen of Instruments’.
Bach piece is there all right. In additin we are treated
to arrangements of ‘popular’ music for orchestra (In
a Monastery Garden) and piano (Wedding Day at Troldhaugen).
Quite a few readers will also have heard the War March from
Mendelssohn’s incidental music to Racine’s Athalia.
The rest, however, is as far from the criterion ‘established
favourites’ as could be imagined – and the programme is
none the worse for that. Even so all the pieces here are
true lollipops in the sense that they are easy on the ear:
unassuming but nice. Some are sweet - lollipops usually
are - while others have that refreshing acidity that is
a healthy counter-weight to the sweetness. Apart from the
Bach masterwork this is a disc that doesn’t demand wrinkled
brows and deep analysis. Comfortable relaxation and sheer
enjoyment are quite acceptable. I am no friend of wallpaper
music, I hate going into shops that belch out ‘bang-bang’ or ‘treacle’.
I never visit restaurants that pollute the steak with wailing
guitars and screaming teenage-sopranos. Even so, I like
to sit down once in a while with a record of my own choice
and let the music embrace me without laying claims on me.
This may be as an accompaniment to a glass of white wine
or doing a crossword or just closing my eyes and wallowing
in the sound and melodies. This is a disc for such occasions.
62 stop organ in Bath Abbey is a superb instrument, built
in 1897 by Johannes Klais of Bonn. I have never heard it in
situ but this disc has inspired me to go there as soon
as I get an opportunity. Peter King has been organist and
Master of the Choristers at the Abbey since 1986. He was
also, together with Nicolas Kynaston, responsible for overseeing
the design and installation of the organ. And with this
experience he knows how to get the most out of the instrument.
The recording is, as far as I can judge without knowing
the venue, truthful. The sound is well integrated while
there is no lack of clarity. One gets, so to speak, both
sides of the coin without having to turn it over.
mighty bass is presented as a calling card in the opening Toccata,
while in the Fugue King surprises somewhat by his
almost reticent playing – which is in no way out of place.
Ketèlbey’s In a Monastery Garden is programme music
and King presents the composer’s own programme in his excellent
notes. It is played in Peter King’s own arrangement and
he incorporates some atmospheric birdsong – as in the original – played
by the page-turner James Scott. Transcribing this particular
piece for organ is no bad idea, considering the setting,
but I do miss the singing of the monks in ‘Kyrie Eleison’,
which should be sung by the orchestra. Grieg’s Wedding
Day at Troldhaugen – ‘Troldhaugen’ was the name of
his home outside Bergen. No doubt it is well suited to
heavier playing; it is one of the pieces in book VII of Lyric pieces
for piano. Even though ‘Troldhaugen’ means ‘Troll Hill’ I
doubt that the trolls were invited to the wedding festivities.
I do however agree with Peter King that ‘organs are so
good at making troll noises’. Mendelssohn’s pompous War
March is played here in the rather well-known setting
by W T Best, who also had a finger in the Bell-Rondo (tr.11).
Scandinavian I have to admit that most of the remaining
compositions – and most of their composers – were unknown
quantities to me. British readers may be better informed
in this matter but since a high percentage of our readers
are non-British I will give some facts about the pieces
and their originators, which I have culled from Peter King’s
blind William Wolstenholme was encouraged and coached by
Elgar and his beautiful Lied has a whiff of Elgar
about it. He was a skilled improviser but also studied
the violin with Elgar. Peter King’s mentioning of this Lied owing
something to the style of Salut d’amour seems fully
Hollins was also blind and like Wolstenholme was an outstanding
improviser, obviously also as pianist. He had studied the
piano in Berlin with Hans von Bülow, no less. However the
organ eventually became his main instrument and he held
the position as organist at Free St. George Church in Edinburgh
from 1897 until his death in 1942. The Trumpet Minuet has
no church atmosphere; it is jolly and stirring.
Feet and Eight Little Tails refers
to Santa Claus’s eight reindeer and in spite of its slight
length it needed three composers. Peter King contemplates
this fact in his note and wonders how the collaboration
was organised. It is gentle music but slightly naughtily
swinging. King’s verdict is that ‘any temptation to play
this piece on the occasion of a visit from the local
Archbishop should be resisted’. I could however think
of numerous occasions of less solemn character when it
would fit like a glove. Anyone who can hear it without
smiling at least faintly must be a notorious sourpuss.
being in the least condescending I would label this and
the previous two pieces charming ditties. Théodore Dubois’s Toccata is
something more substantial and could be mentioned in the
same breath as Widor’s famous piece. Among the positions
the composer held the most fashionable was as organist
of La Madeleine in Paris. Among other organists there Fauré and
Saint-Saëns may be the most famous. This piece, gloriously
played, is probably the one I will most often return to.
Revd Frederick Scotson Clark’s mother was a piano pupil
of Frederik Chopin and probably she named her son after
her teacher. There is not a trace of Chopin in his music,
though, and his light and entertaining Vienna March would
be just as unsuitable at Notre Dame – where he once studied – as
the aforementioned Thirty-Two Feet … W
T Best, who arranged Mendelssohn’s War March, also
had a finger in Morandi’s Bell-Rondo. This is another
charming piece, actually the longest on the disc, and this
is also the main weakness. The music isn’t substantial
enough to be drawn out like that. It ends jubilantly.
in D flat is the nondescript
title of Edwin Lemare’s composition, but with the text ‘Moonlight
and roses bring wonderful mem’ries of you my heart reposes
in beautiful thoughts so true’ it became famous. It is
a nice pop song even when played on the organ. The composer,
who toured as recitalist, was the highest paid organist
of his day.
Henry Walford Davies’s Solemn Melody would definitely
be suitable to play even for the Archbishop. It is a fine
composition. Thomas Arne’s jolly Gavotte was published
in a volume entitled A Second Book of Wedding Pieces,
with music suitable for your second wedding! Walking to
the altar accompanied by this music one can imagine both
bride and bridegroom smiling happily.
Lefébure-Wély’s music has been regarded as ‘Vulgar and
banal’ and there is more than a grain of truth in that.
I have to admit that I sometimes love to wallow in his
vulgarities. It is a pleasure to hear a good organist letting
his hair down – as Peter King does here. Don’t be ashamed
to listen to this Sortie, but afterwards – ‘Rinse,
with a liking for entertaining and not-too-deep organ music
will have his fill here. It is excellently played on a
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