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Decca Phase 4
H. HARRIS (1883-1973)
Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Campion [10:59]
Peggy HADDON (1931-2004)
Suite Piccanin: Lullaby [3:47]; Kwela [1:52]; Lament [2:34];
Josef RHEINBERGER (1839-1901)
Sonata No. 18 in A major: Phantasie [6:05]; Capriccio [5:32];
Idyll [4:19]; Finale [7:58]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Chanson de Nuit [4:58]
Severn Suite: Introduction [2:30]; Toccata [4:56]; Fugue
[3:12]; Minuet [8:12]
Peta-Ann Holdcroft (cello).
rec. St Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg, 9, 11 May 2007. DDD
organ of Johannesburg’s Anglican Cathedral was built in Rushworth
and Dreaper, at that time in their heyday. It dates from
1929, the same year in which the church building was completed.
At that time, the area in which the Cathedral was built was “at
the very centre of Johannesburg society” to quote the booklet.
Unfortunately, it now finds itself on the edge of a slum,
and keeping its organ in anything like good condition is
increasingly difficult. Despite the efforts of the Dean,
those in “positions of influence” have provided only “limited
support”. Reason enough to buy this CD then. They need your
support in Johannesburg.
organ retains all of its original pipework. However, a comprehensive
programme of enlargements was carried out between 1987 and
1997 which all but ignored the essential character of the
instrument. These additions included a horribly misconceived
Choir division with every imaginable squeak and rasp; there’s
even a Rohr Schalmei as if the Krummhorn wasn’t
enough. The core of the organ still belongs to the late imperial
English organ style and there is enough here, despite the
organ’s condition - which is sometimes audibly detrimental
- to enjoy.
Fisher, for many years organist of Chester Cathedral, plays
with great panache, as indeed he always has. For me he is
one of the English-speaking world’s great players of Romantic
and late Romantic literature. His 1970 Reubke recording for
EMI remains breathtaking, as does a more recent live recording
of the Whitlock sonata at Lincoln. The sheer flourish of
the opening of the William Harris is contagious; the piece
deserves to be better known. The Rheinberger is a curious
choice, I find his music invariably dull, and Fisher plays
it, as indeed it always is played in the UK, as if Rheinberger
was a turn of the 20th century Englishman. The
swell box(es) flap, the tuba makes occasional appearances;
in short, the aesthetic is very different to anything Rheinberger
would have recognised. Nonetheless the approach suits the organ well.
Fisher’s playing in general always strikes me as a sort of
unsullied ‘English’ view of the organ as heard in old recordings
of Jackson, Eden, Sumsion, Dearnley et al, but now
rather rare, even among the younger generation of organists
in the UK. Continental influences of any sort are
charmingly absent here.
undoubted highlight of the disc is the Elgar Severn Suite.
A version of part of this was made in 1933 by Ivor Atkins
and published as the Sonata No. 2 for organ. The Edinburgh
organist Dr Jeremy Cull has transcribed the entire work and
transposed it from B-flat to C, a far more practical ‘organ’ key.
The results are thrilling; hopefully this transcription will
gain more popularity than Atkins’.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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