Schubert sonatas

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Dunelm Records

Ronald Frost: Organ Music Volume 6 Stockport:
Henry HERON (1730-96)
Voluntary in G (1760) [3’00]
Ronald FROST (b 1933)
Partita on Conditor alme (1996) [6’47]
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637-1707)
Toccata and Fugue in F [5’10]
Joseph BONNET (1884-1944)
Elfes [3’15]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Liebster Jesu BWV 731 [3’44]

Bridgewater Hall, Manchester:
Michel CORRETTE (1709-1795)
Magnificat [10’23]
Flor PEETERS (1903-1986)
King Jesus hath a garden [8’15]
Theodore DUBOIS (1837-1924)
Toccata (1886) [6’53]
St Ann’s Church, Manchester:
John R. WILLIAMSON (b 1929)
Organ Sonata (1999) [19’30]
Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester:
Johann Sebastian BACH

Fugue in E flat – St Anne [sic] BWV 552b [6’31]
Ronald FROST

Toccata for St Ann’s (1980)
Ronald Frost (organs)
rec. Mellor Parish Church, Stockport, Blackburn Cathedral, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, St Ann’s Church, Manchester, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. DDD


This CD from Dunelm has a rather homemade feel to it – the photo on the cover is of too low resolution to be printed for instance. It’s the sixth in an ongoing series of recordings by Ronald Frost, mostly on his own organ at St Ann’s in Manchester, but here also featuring a number of other instruments in North-West England.

Ronald Frost was for many years Principal Lecturer in Organ, Keyboard Musicianship and Harmony and Counterpoint at the RNCM. He has been organist of St Ann’s Church since 1978. The music recorded there is by far the most obscure, the Organ Sonata by J.R. Williamson, about whom, like the remainder of the featured composers, the booklet tells us nothing. This is a shame, because the music of Williamson is worthy; well constructed, with strong thematic material. Perhaps the second movement alone outstays its welcome. Unfortunately the booklet tells us nothing about the organs either, beyond their stoplists. The St Ann’s organ has been endlessly rebuilt, mostly by Jardine, most recently by Sixsmith. The church is very dry and the organ, not surprisingly, doesn’t sound terribly distinguished. Of the other featured instrument, Mellor is a rather ‘neo-baroque’ small Mander from 1977, which aesthetically matches Frosts’ attractive Partita well. Shades of Distler here, but without the frantic energy. The Blackburn Walker/Wood is well known, but with the exception of a slightly uncomfortable reading of Bonnet’s Elfes, it doesn’t sound well in the chosen repertoire, the baroque music at best featuring a sort of Gonzales-esque French neo-classical sheen. The Bridgewater Hall is the all-too-weak Marcussen from 1996. The Corrette is played unconvincingly, with an all-too-equal inégalité and untidy ornamentation. Finally the ultra-scharff Hradetzky of the RNCM spits its way through the E-flat Fugue BWV 552/b, the middle section again untidy and the rallentando destroying the tempo relationship into the final section. Finally Frost’s own Toccata, less effective than the partite - albeit with a nice rolling theme - and the composer is never quite in charge of his semi-quaver writing. There are also notable tuning problems. This Hradetzky incidentally was one of two large organs from that Austrian firm which came to the UK in the early 1970s advised by Geraint Jones. Hradetzky’s son would later build far more distinguished instruments.

This is only recommendable for those interested in recordings of less-known instruments, or maybe the sonata by Williamson. Despite good recordings of each organ, the playing only occasionally rises above the ordinary, and the booklet contains mostly superficial notes about the pieces. Ronald Frost lists his qualifications no fewer than twice, one of my pet-hates in CD booklets. Also, Buxtehude’s initials are repeatedly listed as being “F-D”. I know nothing about the ‘F’, and neither seemingly does Kerala Snyder. Can Mr Frost fill us in please?   

Chris Bragg


Dunelm Records



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