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Four Hands/Four Feet

HANDEL Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
J.S. BACH Air in D (Orchestral Suite no. III, BWV 1068); Badinerie (Orchestral Suite no. II, BWV 1067)
GUILMANT  Cantilène Pastorale

MERKEL Psalm Sonata for Two Organists
FAURÉ Pavane
ELGAR Pomp and Circumstance March no. IV in G
ALBINONI Adagio
BOURGEOIS Serenade for Organ Op. 22
WAGNER Ride of the Valkyries

Max Kenworthy; Nicholas Grigsby (organ)

rec. no date given

NO LABEL NO NUMBER [c.49:00]

 

 


Looking for a collection of pops arranged by two performers for organ four hands? If so you will not go far wrong with this although the shortish playing time takes a little shine off the end result.

Born in Huddersfield, Max Kenworthy has performed recitals throughout the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. He arrived in New Zealand in October 2002 to take up the position of Assistant Organist at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul. He is partnered here by the distinguished concert organist Nicholas Grigsby. Max and Nicholas gave their first organ duet recital together at Wellington Cathedral in May 2004. They have now given recitals at most major venues throughout New Zealand and Australia including Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney. 

The Dunedin Town Hall organ is known as ‘Norma’. It was built in 1919 and its 23 tonnes were toured the length of the UK as “the Bathurst Mammoth Cathedral Organ”. It was used at the 1924 Wembley Stadium Exhibition but by 1930 ended up installed as a permanent at Dunedin Town Hall. In 1990 it need ed a refit. This was done, we are told, with attention to the original sound of the instrument, a console upgrade and solid-state logic supplanting the old electro-pneumatic switch-gear. 

The big sound achieved in Dunedin Town Hall in front of an applauding audience is splendidly sumptuous. The two organists have the giant instrument capering with an agility that in large part belies its forbidding mass of pipes, manuals and stops along with an array of novelty percussion. 

The exhilarating blast and speed of The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba is tempered by the awkwardness of getting such a colossus to move at such a speed. Two Bach favourites cool the passions before Guilmant's Cantilène Pastorale with its nicely tiered dynamics and reedy sentimentality. The tripartite Psalm Sonata in D minor for Two Organs by Merkel returns us to massive statements of rib-reverberating grandeur. It can be compared with the giant oratory for organ by Liszt and Reubke although there is some reflective respite in the adagio. 

With the exception of the Derek Bourgeois we are then back in pops land.  Fauré's Pavane is taken at too brisk a saunter for my liking but the arrangement brings out some nicely-tiered effects from this instrument. I did not at first recognise Pomp and Circumstance No. 4 but it soon finds its feet complete with tambourine effect from the organ. Again it's a trial not completed discharged to make this sound as agile as the original, pleasing though it is overall. The Albinoni Adagio, on the other hand, works very well.

Derek Bourgeois, with 34 symphonies to his name, not to mention 14 concertos, now lives in Mallorca. His Serenade for organ is a real tonic and works well. It is superbly carefree perhaps with a touch of rumba in its DNA. It's a real discovery that organists should certainly seek out without delay. 

The Ride of the Valkyries bids fair to bring the house down. The crushingly powered arrangement spares no-one and includes some superb 'howls' along the way. However the downward-slashing figures towards the end just cannot match the slippery celerity of a full orchestra.

There are good notes in English only and a full specification for the organ together with extensive photographs of organ and artists. 

This is quite a winning disc even if the arrangements cannot be as nimble on their toes as the orchestral originals. In this they continue a noble 19th and 20th century calling that only bloodless purists will object to. As for the rest of you who crave a mix of stunning pops, stunningly recorded and leavened with the saccharine Guilmant (I love his organ symphonies), the brutally romantic Merkel and the cheery original Bourgeois, look no further. 

Heck, is that the Tracey Brothers on the cover? Never knew they were so musical. FAB. Sandy Shaw eat your heart out! 

Rob Barnett 

 

 

 


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