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.
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?