Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

The Salisbury Sound
Edward Elgar (1857-1934) Imperial March Op.32 (1897) (arranged by George Martin)
Herbert Howells (1892-1934) Rhapsody Op.17 No.3 (1918)
Frederick Delius (1862-1934) On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring (arranged Eric Fenby) (1911-1913)
Marcel DuprÉ (1886-1971) Le Monde dans l'attente du Sauveur (from Symphonie-Passion Op.23) (1921)
John Gardner (1917-) Jig (from Five Dances Op.179) (1988)
J.S. Bach (1685-1750) Fantasia and Fugue in C minor BWV 537 (1708)
John Philip Sousa (1884-1932) Liberty Bell (arranged by David Halls) (1893)
Francis Jackson (1917-) Toccata Chorale & Fugue Op.16 (1955)
Percy Whitlock (1903-1946) Scherzetto (from Sonata in C minor) (1937)
Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) Finale (from the Symphony Op.42 No.6) (1878/79)
David Halls (organ)
Recorded at Salisbury Cathedral, 14-15 October 2002
GRIFFIN GCCD 4038 [75.33]

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Any organ recital has to do at least two things. Firstly there needs to be a healthy balance of music - old favourites and lesser-known works need to complement each other. The ‘Big Names’ of the organ world need to be represented alongside those composers of lesser renown. Secondly the power and the specification of the particular organ need to be revealed in a good light. The present recording fulfils both these criteria. We have a fine programme of original works and one or two lesser played transcriptions. A nice balance is struck between classic heavyweights such as Bach and pieces by more modern composers like Francis Jackson. We have intimate works in the Delius, studies in organ action such as the Whitlock Scherzetto and war-horses like the Widor Finale from the 6th Symphony. These are all played on the fine four manual Father Willis organ at Salisbury Cathedral. Like all good organ CDs the pipe rack specification is given in the programme notes. It is not necessary to outline the details here. However, it is important to realise that this particular organ, built in 1877, is a near perfect example of an English Victorian Romantic Organ. The importance of the present CD is that what we hear is a sound virtually identical to that conceived by the builders 130 years ago. It is the kind of tonal adventure that would have impressed Edward Elgar and Basil Harwood (1859-1949)

It is not really necessary to give details about each composer and his works as represented here. However a few comments may not go amiss. The Elgar Imperial March has been transcribed for the organ by George Martin, one-time organist at St Paul's Cathedral. The original work was written for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. It has all the features that Elgar was to make popular in the much more famous Pomp and Circumstance Marches. Herbert Howells was an assistant organist at Salisbury for a short time. His Rhapsody No.3 is one of his most intense and turbulent works. It was written in York during a Zeppelin raid. In some ways it appears to be ahead of its time, the excessive chromaticism giving it a more 'modern' flavour. Intimacy is provided by the attractive arrangement of Delius's On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring. This was transcribed by his amanuensis Eric Fenby from the first of the Two Pieces for Small Orchestra. It is an ideal piece to show off the organ’s delicious string sound. The Jig by John Gardner from his Five Dances is a fun piece that is more 'popular' than the composer perhaps intended. Fu though it may be, it still sports lots of interesting changes in registration. I was amazed just how many works this composer has produced. Opus 179 in 1988! We will pass over the Liberty Bell March by John Philip Sousa, save to point out that earlier generations of organ recital goers would have expected these lightweight classics. It certainly provides a nice contrast to the Bach and Dupré!

The programme notes annoyed me a teenie bit on the Bach. Not about the fine and moving Fantasia and Fugue in C minor by JSB. Nothing to complain about here - an excellent performance of this great work. It is the comments about Sir Edward Elgar that irritated me. Elgar did not cease to compose after his wife's death in 1920. True he did spend much time arranging works by Bach (including the present piece) and Handel. But this was also the time of the 2nd Organ Sonata, the Third Symphony sketches and a number of charming miniatures including the Severn Suite, the Nursery Suite and Mina. Not all great works perhaps, but certainly not lacking in inspiration.

The two challenging works on this CD are the Marcel Dupré and the Francis Jackson. Dupré holds a commanding place in the history of organ music - both in France and elsewhere. He studied with Alexandre Guilmant and Widor. The piece presented on this CD is the World awaiting the Saviour, from his Symphonie Passion Op.23. This work was originally improvised in the United States and was later committed to manuscript. It is a huge piece that tests the organist's skill and the resource of the instrument. I hasten to add that the Willis organ copes admirably with this important work - as does the organist.

The longest work on this CD is Francis Jackson's Toccata, Chorale and Fugue Op.16. It is a work that is in many ways untypical of the era in which it was written. The programme notes suggest it owes much to César Franck. It is certainly not atonal or obviously serial, although I wonder if there is perhaps some tone row underlying the structure? It is an extremely attractive and interesting work, that once again tests the resources of the organ and the technique of the player. It is one of those works that ought to be played much more often in our churches and cathedrals. However its scale and complexity probably means that it will only be aired by the very best of organists. Needless to say David Halls gives this a fine performance. A great work, well played.

Percy Whitlock is one of my favourite organ composers. He combines invention with a certain English reserve. He was never afraid to use a popular idiom if it served his musical intention. This Scherzetto is a case in point. Excerpted from his fine Organ Sonata in C minor, it has certain nods in the direction of the theatre or cinema organ. This is hardly surprising as Whitlock was organist at the Bournemouth Pavilion for many years. As a minor digression, if you get a chance to listen to the Whitlock Organ Symphony - take it. It is one of the best concerted works of its kind in the repertoire.

Widor is probably best known for the Toccata from the 5th Symphony made famous at the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. However this prolific Frenchman wrote much else beside this war-horse. He composed ten organ symphonies and much orchestral music too. However the finale to the 6th Symphony deserves as much popularity as the better known work. It is in the form of a rondo and this gives the composer the opportunity to experiment with a variety of styles and effects between the recurrence of the main theme. A good piece for showing off the full organ and Willis's tubas.

An excellent recital all round. This CD manages to do what it sets out to achieve-show off the panache of this fine historical organ.


John France



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