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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Works for Organ:
Sonata in G (1895) (26:40)
Organ Sonata No. 2 (1933) (13:45)
Vesper Voluntaries (1889) (19:00)
Cantique (1879 for winds trans. Elgar 1912) (3:47)
Chanson de Matin (1897) (trans. Brewer) (3:13)
Nimrod (Enigma Variations) (1898) (trans. W.H. Harris) (3:23)
Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4 in G (1907) (trans. G.R. Sinclair) (5:14)
Thomas Trotter (organ)
rec. Salisbury Cathedral, 23-25 November 2006
REGENT REGCD256 [75:28]

The Father Willis Organ at Salisbury Cathedral, built and installed in 1876-7 is regarded as one of the finest organs of its period. Its specification was: “55 sounding stops, 9 couplers, manual compass CC to a’’’, pedal CCC to F played from a four-manual console contained within the northern organ case immediately behind and above the choir stalls.” This CD’s notes include a fully detailed specification of the instrument.

The organ is ideally suited to the late-romantic magnificence of Elgar’s music. Elgar’s G major Sonata was written in 1895 for Hugh Blair, organist at Worcester Cathedral who wanted to impress a party of “enthusiastic Americans” on a whistle-stop tour of English Cathedrals. Blair was a good friend and Elgar was willing to oblige even though he had only two weeks to comply. Even so he composed this masterpiece using unfinished sketches to fire his inspiration and delivered the score to Blair five days before the concert. Alas Blair was not up to the task and delivered a lamentable first performance.  The music is almost symphonic in concept, proved when Gordon Jacob made a marvellously effective transcription for orchestra some fifty years later. This is a wonderfully melodic work. Thomas Trotter responds to its sweep and grandeur with an eager, colourful, stylish reading that lifts the spirits.

The Vesper Voluntaries were written in 1889 when Elgar was struggling quite unsuccessfully, to make a name for himself in London.  This was one of his few successes. It was written in response to a commission for a set of organ pieces, seen as a popular series of Organ Melodies for the amateur Catholic organist.  After an Introduction, follow eight delightful pieces, the Allegretto piacevole and Poco lento in particular lingering in the memory.

The contrasting, more intimate, Cantique, described by Lady Elgar as a “beautiful piece from former days” is certainly lovely and it originated as an 1879 wind quintet.

The remaining works are all transcriptions for organ by others, recognisable as, in the main,  friends of the composer.

The Sonata No. 2 in B-flat is a transcription, made in 1933, shortly before Elgar’s death, by Ivor Atkins of Elgar’s Severn Suite but omitting the original fourth movement and substituting, with Elgar’s blessing, a retrospective cadenza of Atkins’ own creation. Again Trotter responds exuberantly to its majesty and chivalry and with sensitive shading in its more cloistered moments.

The charming salon piece, Chanson de Matin transcribes well for organ and Trotter sensitively contrasts a nicely controlled swell with delicacy. Many might find Trotter’s Nimrod, in W.H. Harris’s transcription, a tad dispassionate but the Pomp and Circumstance is regal and exuberant enough.

An exemplary organ recital, excellently recorded in stylish, colourful, committed performances taking full advantage of all splendours of the great Father Willis Organ at Salisbury Cathedral.

Ian Lace


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