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Organ Spectacular
Louis James LEFÉBURE-WÉLY (1817-1869)
Sortie in E flat [3:54]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Rhosymedre [4:01]
Théodore DUBOIS (1837-1924)
Toccata (1886) [6:38]
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621)
Ballet des Matelotz (arr. Noel Rawsthorne) [1:57]
Sir George THALBEN-BALL (1896-1987)
Elegy (1944) [5:28]
Alexandre GUILMANT (1837-1911)
Interlude Op.19 [1:52]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Capriccio (1911) [5:06]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Coronation March (1849) (arr: Bryan Hesford) [4:04]
Herbert HOWELLS(1892-1983)
Master Tallis’s Testament (1940) [6:44]
Sir Edward BAIRSTOW(1874-1946)
Organ Sonata in E flat – Scherzo (1937) [3:46]
Guy BOVET (b. 1942)
Hamburg (Prelude No.3) from Trois Preludes Hambourgeois  [5:09]
Percy WHITLOCK (1903-1946)
Folk Tune [3:58]
Eugène GIGOUT (1844-1925)
Scherzo (1892) [4:28]
Herbert MURRILL (1909-1952)
Carillon (1949) [2:23]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Rondeau from ‘Abdelazar’ (arr. Christopher Gower) [1:29]
William MATHIAS (1934-1992)
Processional (1965) [3:31]
Jeremiah CLARKE (1673-1707)
Trumpet Voluntary (arr: Desmond Radcliffe) [2:30]
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Nimrod (arr: W. H. Harris) [3:53]
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Toccata (1880) [5:35]
Huw Williams (organ)
rec. St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, 8–10 February 2005. DDD
GUILD GMCD 7304 [77:44]

We’re comfortably in gift-shop CD territory here. The genre is difficult; is the intention to popularise the organ in general or demonstrate in the instrument in question? Mostly such CDs end up trying to do a bit of both. This example however is rather clichéd and lazily conceived. Both of these shortcomings are a shame, as the playing of St Paul’s Cathedral sub-organist is always virtuosic and well controlled, if only occasionally really inspired.
Too much of the music here has been recorded before. We just don’t need another Rhosymede, Master Tallis, Trumpet Voluntary, Nimrod, Thalben-Ball Elegy or Widor Toccata.  At least not all on one CD. The result is a programme of exclusively short pieces, the longest clocking in at less than seven minutes. A sort of Classic-FMifying of the organ.
OK, so is it possible to conceive a really successful gift-shop CD of your Cathedral organ? I think so. The best examples which spring to mind are David Briggs’s ‘Popular Organ Music Volume 2’ on Priory (PRCD 568) including transcriptions of music by Dukas and Tchaikovsky, a reconstructed improvisation by Cochereau and music by Bach an Alain, and, far less known in the UK a stunning disc by Friedrich Fröschle of ‘his’ Walcker organ in the Cathedral of Ulm. The latter features the Choral Varié of Duruflé, music by Bach and Krebs - which don’t really work on the organ but never mind - a Reger Fantasia, and the finest recorded performance of Gaston Litaize’s fiendish Prélude et Danse Fuguée which I know of. It has now been re-released on Hänssler with the number HAN 98954. The key is not only in the variety of repertoire, or even in its familiarity - very little organ repertoire is familiar to anyone except organ buffs - but in the imaginative presentation of a programme of some genuine substance.
The highlights of the present release are to be found in the English repertoire – Ireland’s Capriccio is quite wonderfully played as is the middle movement of the Bairstow sonata. This is undoubtedly Williams’ best repertoire. Elsewhere the Meyerbeer - is that the Wurlitzer trumpet in the Dome or another? - and Praetorius offerings are good fun.  It’s also nice to hear Herbert Murrill’s Carillon again, I grew up listening to a recording of Simon Preston play this at Westminster Abbey on an LP of my father’s. Elsewhere though the Lefébure-Wély is treated in a typically non-serious way: listen ye doubters please to this disc to hear how his music can sound (see review)! Lefébure-Wely was a serious composer! The Widor is also typically superficial, why does no-one believe, despite the composer’s own recording, Widor’s tempo mark, so bound up with the left hand articulation? Listen to Michel Bouvard’s new recording on Solstice (SOCD 233) from Toulouse to hear the real meaning of the piece! Bouvard takes 70 seconds longer over it than Williams despite St Paul’s having around 2½ times the acoustic of St Sernin.
Apart from these moans, it has to be said that Williams’s command of the mammoth Willis/Mander is excellent, and, in the English repertoire he comes into his own. The organ sounds impressive despite an obviously close - and high? - microphone placement. I would like to hear this player in some meaty repertoire next time and in a better conceived release in general.
Chris Bragg



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