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Alfred HOLLINS (1865-1942)
Organ Works
Concert Overture in C major (1889) [8:33]
Benediction Nuptiale (1898) [5:38]
A Trumpet Minuet (1929) [5:01]
Allegretto grazioso (1906) [4:31]
Concert Overture in C minor (1899) [7:48]
Evening Rest (1917) [7:28]
Concert Overture in F minor (1922) [8:52]
Andante in D (1895) [9:50]
A Song of Sunshine (1913) [4:49]
Maytime Gavotte (1927) [3:54]
Theme with Variations and Fugue (1911) [13:13]
Timothy Byram-Wigfield (organ)
rec. Caird Hall organ, Dundee, February 2005
DELPHIAN DCD34044 [79:40]

 


Though he was blind from birth Alfred Hollins – born in Hull in 1865 – pursued a career as an international virtuoso pianist. For half a decade between 1883 and 1888 he played with, amongst others, the Berlin and New York Philharmonics and the Halle. Even von Bülow, not an easy character to win over, thought highly of him. But Hollins came to realise that the “physical strain” involved in incessant touring would have eventually proved too great. Instead he became an organist firstly in Norwood and eventually in Edinburgh, where he was to spend the remainder of his life. He did tour as a virtuoso organist – to the Dominions and to America and extensively so – and he was also responsible for organ designs. He designed the organ for Dundee’s Caird Hall and gave the opening recital on it in 1923. That is the instrument played on this recording by Timothy Byram-Wigfield.

The recital includes the three Concert Overtures and they comprise the spine around which the programme develops. The C major dates from 1899 and opens in brilliantly confident style – lashings of virtuoso swagger and some cocksure themes as well. The bravado and élan of the writing, entirely matched by the playing by the way, is further cemented by the sound of the organ itself, which is magnificently realised. It must have been no easy matter for the Delphian team to capture this powerful beast with its intensely powerful wind pressure – but capture it they have and triumphantly too.

Benediction Nuptiale provides an immediate contrast – delicate and limpid registrations and written for a marriage. Its dreamy, hazy delicacy seems to evoke popular song as much as anything. A Trumpet Minuet might seem to evoke Walford Davies and Hamilton Harty – and perhaps does - but its bluff vigour is highly infectious whereas the much earlier 1906 Allegretto grazioso is a total charmer. The C minor Concert Overture is cast in late nineteenth century orchestral style. Apparently Cyril Rootham said “I hear the fiddles in it.” True, and I can also hear the clarinets in it. Though it’s rather sectional – or seems so – it has a strong and decisive logic and a grand, grand climax.

The French horn stop and carillon are to the fore in the Evening Rest – written in 1917. The work that Hollins most liked was his Andante in D  - it’s ripely romantic, hugely impressive and has a genuinely resplendent climax before quietly dying away. Needless to say A Song of Sunshine is very un-Delian and cast in similarly jovial, though not bucolic, style is the Maytime Gavotte. The Theme with Variations and Fugue is a big, grand and noble affair and the last Concert Overture is rousing with a capital R.

Well, this is a real stunner of a disc. Everything about it is right – from the booklet to the recording and all stops in between. Byram-Wigfield marshals it all with memorable vivacity.

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by John France

 


 


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