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
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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