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The Organ in the Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling
Alexandre Guilmant (1837–1911)
Grand Choeur in D (alla Handel) Op. 18/1 [7:13]
Maurice Durufle (1902–1986)
Méditation pour orgue (1966/2001) [4:08]
Charles-Marie Widor (1844–1937)
Symphony No. 4, Op. 13 [27:31]
Feike Asma (1912–1984)
Fantasie over de Avondzang “‘k wil U o God mijn dank betalen”
Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924)
Hymn prelude: St Columba Op. 101 [2:28]
Robin Milford (1903–1959)
Hymn prelude: St Columba Op.14 (1928) [2:51]
Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848–1918)
Hymn prelude: Croft’s 136th [3:43]
Alec Rowley (1892–1958)
(1931) [4:11]
Edward Elgar (1857–1934)
Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1 in D Op. 39/1 [6:55]
Cor Kee (1900–1997)
Variations on a Dutch song Merck toch hoe sterck [11:51]
John Kitchen (Rushworth & Dreaper organ)
rec. Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling, Scotland, 31 October-1 November 2007. DDD.
DELPHIAN DCD34064 [78.32] 


Experience Classicsonline

John Kitchen has made a number of well-liked recordings for the Delphian label, as accompanist and as solo performer.  My colleagues praised the first volume of his programme, Instruments from the Russell Collection (DCD34001 – see review) and the second (DCD34039 – see review).  The music on those earlier recordings was designed principally to show off the instruments; while this very well filled new CD also serves the same purpose for the Stirling organ, its musical content is much more substantial. 

The Rushworth and Dreaper organ at the Church of the Holy Rude is a massive beast, reportedly the largest in Scotland.  Its history is outlined by Andrew Caskie in the booklet and a full specification is given, though the registration for each individual piece is not listed.  Together with John Kitchen’s own notes on the music and some excellent colour photographs – including that on the CD cover – this makes for an attractive and informative booklet.  For all its size, the organ does apparently have an Achilles’ heel – the inadequate cornet combination had to be replaced in performing the Asma piece by the French horn. 

The wide range of music puts the instrument and its player through their paces, a test from which both emerge with flying colours.  The Guilmant Grand Chœur ‘in the manner of Handel’ makes an excellent extrovert introduction to the recording – though not especially Handelian – and the following Duruflé Méditation (as thoughtful a piece as its name implies, derived from the Agnus Dei of the Messe ‘Cum jubilo’) is an excellent foil.  If you don’t yet know Duruflé’s Fauré-inspired Requiem and his other Masses and choral works, you should make their acquaintance as soon as possible. Duruflé’s own recording of the Requiem, Messe ‘Cum jubilo’, etc., is a fantastic bargain on super-budget Warner Apex 256461139 2.  Its mid-price predecessor has been my version of choice for a long time.

The Widor Symphony No.4 is not the Symphony with the famous Toccata – it’s less overtly appealing but it certainly has its compensations: the Andante cantabile (track 5) is especially attractive.  I don’t suppose that anyone is likely to buy this CD for the sake of the Widor or the other French works but if, as I expect, most purchasers will obtain it as a memento or because they have some connection with the church or the organ, they will receive good performances of all these pieces into the bargain.  Those who insist that the likes of Widor must be played on a Cavaillé-Col organ will be very pleasantly surprised to discover how idiomatic the Stirling instrument can be made to sound.  It would have been instructive if the notes had given the registration employed to achieve this effect. 

The other music on the CD will be less well known.  I hadn’t come across Feike Asma but his fantasy on the evening hymn ‘k wil U o God mijn dank betalen (I offer you my thanks, O God) is attractive, as is the music by the other Dutch composer, Cor Kee, variations on the song Merck toch hoe sterck (Just see how strong they are) which ends the CD.  Asma works the hymn tune very subtly into the music, commencing with another tune altogether and only gradually introducing the main theme; sadly, of course, this effect is somewhat lost on those – myself included – not well acquainted with Dutch hymn tunes: listen for something that sounds similar to O God, our help in ages past.  It’s a reflective piece rising to a climax, the sort of music that would make an effective prelude or postlude to Evensong, and deserves to be better known. 

I hadn’t come across Cor Kee, either, though, of course, I had heard his son Piet Kee, the organist.  As Kitchen notes in the booklet, Merck toch is an extremely inventive piece, based on a song about the valiant Dutch struggle against their Spanish overlords, and its final climax makes a splendid conclusion to the CD. 

The three hymn preludes by Stanford, Milford and Parry and the Rowley Benedictus are smaller beer but well worth hearing and well played.  The transcription of Elgar’s first Pomp and Circumstance march is something of a sore thumb in this company, the opening Guilmant piece and the Widor having already very effectively demonstrated the sound of the full organ. 

The recording is excellent throughout and the notes in the booklet are most informative.  The information about the less familiar pieces is especially valuable – that on Feike Asma, for example, partly helps to atone for the listener’s lack of familiarity with the tune on which the fantasia is based. 

One small problem: there are actually 15 tracks on the CD, not 13 as reported on the insert and in the booklet.  The Feike Asma Fantasia is track 9, not 7 as stated, and for every track thereafter two needs to be added to the number given.  Otherwise, you may wonder why Asma’s music sounds so much like Widor’s or where the familiar hymn tune St Columba comes into the Stanford and Milford preludes!  This is the kind of mistake more usually associated with bargain-basement recordings than with a distinguished independent like Delphian and I hope they will put it right.  The text displayed when the CD is playing gets its right. 

No jokes, please, about the Scots spelling rude for rood, derived from the Old English word ród for ‘cross’, as in the poem The Dream of the Rood

Rod wæs ic aræred.  Ahof ic ricne Cyning
heofena Hlaford ...
... Weop eal gesceaft
cwiðdon Cyninges feall.  Crist wæs on rode.

[I was raised up as a cross.  I bore up the mighty King, Lord of the Heavens ... all creation wept, told of the fall of the King.  Christ was on the cross.] 

Delphian are becoming a real force to be reckoned with.  Their recent 2-CD set of Messiaen’s organ music is a splendid bargain (Michael Bonaventure on DCD3406, 2 CDs for the price of 1) as well as a fine performance – see review.  Mention of Messiaen reminds me that Jennifer Bate’s authoritative performances of his music are available absurdly cheaply from Regis – see review – and, with their original Unicorn covers, as very inexpensive downloads from The Classical Shop.

Brian Wilson


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