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Michael Bonaventure
Contemporary Organ Works

Avril ANDERSON (b. 1953)
Repetitive Strain [7'28]
Peter NELSON (b. 1951)
On the Beach [12'04]
Judith WEIR (b. 1954)
Ettrick Banks [4'53]
Wild Mossy Mountains [5'16]
Ian McQUEEN (b. 1954)
2000 Nails [19'57]
Eddie McGUIRE (b. 1948)
Prelude IV [5'17]
Michael BONAVENTURE (b. 1962)
Animus VI [11'00]
Lyell CRESSWELL (b. 1944)
The Urim and the Thummin [13'02]
Michael Bonaventure, organ
Rec: McEwan Hall, Edinburgh University, 9-10 September 2003. DDD
DELPHIAN DCD 34013 [79'02]




Delphian have produced a number of well presented recordings recently featuring Scottish organs and Scottish based organists. This is perhaps their most adventurous release to date, featuring the works of contemporary composers, many of whom have links with Scotland or are indeed Scottish. Perhaps the most striking thing about the music though, is that, by and large, it is composed by non-organists. Interesting then to hear a fresh approach to 'our' instruments from musicians with perhaps fewer pre-conceived ideas and notions.

I admire this recording a lot. The formerly Edinburgh based organist, Michael Bonaventure has picked an utterly uncompromising programme and performs it with virtuosity and commitment. Perhaps the best known piece is Judith Weir's marvellous miniature 'Ettrick Banks'. Here I missed a little lightness in the approach; think of John Scott's quicksilver reading in St Giles' Cathedral, also in Edinburgh, for Priory. For me, this is also the most attractive work on the disc. Elsewhere I enjoyed Avril Anderson's 'Repetitive Strain', making use of minimal techniques, and even, after repeated listening, Peter Nelson's offering, depicting a whale stranded on a beach. Some astonishingly virtuosic pedal writing here. That apart the music, mostly atonal, is an acquired taste; not quite mine I should say, but others will enjoy it more than I did, and Ian McQueen's excellent programme notes do enhance the experience! Incidentally, I would find it hard to believe that Eddie McGuire's Prelude doesn't take at least some inspiration from Philippe Boesmans' much admired organ work 'Fanfare II'. Written six years apart the works begin and end almost identically and share other features.

The organ is an interesting choice and, at the moment, flavour of the month in terms of recent recordings. Essentially a Willis III of 1953, it incorporates pipework and the eccentric layout of a Hope-Jones instrument of 1897, as well as the Tuba and Swell reeds from the former Willis III organ of St Giles' Cathedral. This rather strange instrument sounds improbably impressive in the room, at least partially due to the resonant acoustic. It strikes me as not being the obvious organ in the city for the repertoire, surely the 1992 Rieger now in St Giles' matches the aesthetic of this repertoire better than any other? That said, Bonaventure finds some extraordinary sounds and the result is undeniably effective.

Congratulations to Delphian on an innovative, daring and challenging release.

Chris Bragg


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