Aureole etc.




Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android


Mahler symphony 6 Nott


Vaughan Williams Symphony 3 etc.


Lyrita New Recording


Lyrita Premiere Recordings

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 

 

 

alternatively
Crotchet

Adeste Fideles – Organ Music for Christmas
William T. BEST (1826-1897)
A Christmas Fantasy on Old English Carols [09:44]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Chorale: Vom Himmel hoch [00:41]
Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706)
Chorale-Prelude: Vom Himmel hoch [03:09]
Fughetta: Vom Himmel hoch [01:50]
Johan Bernhard BACH (1676-1749)
Chorale-Prelude: Vom Himmel hoch [01:45]
J.S. BACH
Chorale-Prelude: Vom Himmel hoch BWV.738 [01:28]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Weihnachten op.145/3 [09:30]
Jean-François DANDRIEU (1682-1738)
Noël cette Journée [03:17]
Il n’est rien de plus tendre [02:16]
Louis-Claude D’AQUIN (1694-1772)
Noël X [06:56]
Pierre COCHEREAU (1924-1984) transcr. J. Filsell
Variations on “Adeste Fideles” [10:32]
Alexandre GUILMANT (1837-1911)
Noël Ecossais [02:43]
Jeanne DEMESSIEUX (1921-1968)
Adeste Fideles (Musette) [02:25]
Jean LANGLAIS (1907-1991)
Noël Breton [03:32]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
The Holy Boy [03:15]
Arthur SOMERVELL (1863-1937)
The Shepherd’s Cradle Song [03:00]
Alfred HOLLINS (1865-1942)
Christmas Cradle Song [02:52]
Garth EDMUNDSEN (1900-1971)
Vom Himmel hoch (Toccata-Prelude IV) [05:11]
Thomas Laing-Reilly (organ of St. Cuthbert’s Church, Edinburgh)
Concluding track: The Bells of St. Cuthbert’s Church (St. Cuthbert’s Change-Ringers. Tower Captain: Mhairi Hargreaves) [03:34]
rec. 10-12 July 2006, St, Cuthbert’s Church, Edinburgh, Scotland
DELPHIAN DCD34077 [77:50] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


This record arrived too late for a Christmas review. Oxonians and others who indulged in some sort of politically correct “Festival of Light” last December may feel January or February a good time of year to indulge in the guilty pleasure of an interesting and often unusual – but never “difficult” or intellectual – programme of music inspired by the event that still remains fundamental to the lives of many in the western world.

As all organists – and semi-organists like myself – know, anthologies of Christmas fare abound, and a good many pieces are common to a lot of them. Thomas Laing-Reilly has to be congratulated for mixing the odd drop of the familiar with more unusual byways. Some of these latter require more resources – from both player and instrument – than popular anthologies envisage. Furthermore, the recital has a clear shape, with Best as a curtain-raiser, followed by German, French and British groups, rounded off with a peal of bells. A further binding factor is the German Christmas chorale “Vom Himmel hoch” which dominates the German section and returns in Garth Edmundson’s Toccata.

Since the three national schools in question have developed very different organ-building characteristics, such a wide ranging programme could risk some parts sounding more authentic than others. However, the description of the St. Cuthbert’s organ reveals that, though the various actions undertaken since its installation in 1899 are tactfully described as “rebuilding”, it is essentially a 1997-8 Walker organ based on the more modern concept of doing justice to all the different schools. Moreover, with its current incumbent to play it, both organ and organist should win friends among listeners who don’t always respond to organ music.

Even very good organists can seem flatfooted in their rhythms, their performances creaking around the seams of their registration changes. We hear immediately in the W.T. Best Fantasy that Laing-Reilly knows how to set up an orchestral-sounding overall rhythmic pulse, with the many changes of colour coming in like different sections of the orchestra. Non-organists often complain that the instrument is not touch-sensitive like a piano and therefore mechanical. Laing-Reilly has the key to those little tricks of timing and articulation that almost convince you that it is touch-sensitive after all. Furthermore, the acoustics of St. Cuthbert’s Church, as recorded here, seem pretty well ideal, with enough reverberation to sound like a church while permitting everything to be heard with clarity.

Having established his credentials Laing-Reilly plays his German baroque group with due respect for the scale of the organs available to these composers – he avoids the temptation to blast out the pedal tune in the Pachelbel Prelude on the tuba – but without being afraid of going over the top within these limits. In the Bach BWV738 he makes merry with the “Cymbelstern” – recently added to the organ on his own instructions. This creates the effect of a continuous shower of silvery bells accompanying the music. I thought the Reger rather a lugubrious composition though it certainly builds up powerfully.  Unfortunately, inspiration and length in Reger often seem in inverse proportion to each other. This one is a midway case. Moreover, the insertion of “Stille Nacht” towards the end rather reminds us that nobody, so far as I know, has yet managed to write a really beautiful piece on this favourite tune.

The earlier French items are done neatly with piquant registrations. The d’Aquin is the “usual” one – out of twelve – and the piece by which most people remember him, especially now that even “Le coucou” seems to have fallen from favour. The Cochereau is an improvisation which was recorded and later transcribed by Jeremy Filsell. Laing-Reilly heard Cochereau play and recalls in his notes that he was “an awe-inspiring improviser”. We may take it that he has done everything to reproduce the effect that he heard, and there are some fantastic colours and effects towards the end. I’m afraid I feel about the earlier stages rather as I do about Reger.

The remaining French pieces are delightful, and a riot of colours, both gentle and brilliant. We are not told if the Guilmant is based on a real Scottish tune but it has all the features of one. A lovely find. The Demessieux and Langlais pieces are more in the nature of high-class doodling raised to the level of high art by their understanding of the colours of the instrument, flamboyantly realized by Laing-Reilly.

Ireland’s “The Holy Boy” was originally a piano piece, of course, but, though I am a pianist myself, I find I get more satisfaction out of playing it in the composer’s arrangement for the organ. I seem to be not alone in preferring a slightly more flowing tempo, but Laing-Reilly’s treatment is long-breathed rather than sticky and aligns the piece with the description of Ireland – by Christopher Palmer, I think – as an “epic miniaturist”. Going back to the Victorian age, the Somervell was originally a piece for contralto and piano*. Laing-Reilly does not say if this arrangement is the composer’s – maybe it’s a semi-extemporised version of his own? The filigree accompaniment is fairly elaborate at times but nothing of importance is omitted while the melody always sings warmly and clearly. The result is enchanting; rather more so, I would say, than the song in its original form. The Hollins is perhaps too similar in mood and less interesting. I suppose the composer’s Edinburgh connections decided his presence. The Edmundson Toccata does everything a noisy organ toccata should do, and Laing-Reilly has his “Cymbelstern” tinkling away again towards the end. I could personally have done without the bell-ringing on the last track, but those living within earshot of St. Cuthbert’s bells will doubtless welcome the opportunity to drive themselves mad with the things even when the real ones are silent.

Thomas Laing-Reilly has been Organist and Director of Music at St. Cuthbert’s since 1999. He read music at Edinburgh University and subsequently travelled abroad to study with Flor Peeters and Jean Langlais. While in Paris he was able to hear such legendary figures as Messiaen, Marchal and Cochereau. He later studied in the USA. He has given solo recitals in the UK, France, Denmark, Holland and the USA. He has been a lecturer at Edinburgh University since 1995 and, to judge from his scholarly but readable notes to this CD, he must be a good one. If he’s thinking of a sequel, there’s plenty more Christmas music around. Italy and the USA might get a look in next time. While, away from the Christmas season, the name of Flor Peeters reminds us that this remarkable musician has sometimes been named as one of the major 20th century organ composers, almost on a par with Messiaen. The sheer number of his works – his op. 100 alone consists of 213 choral-preludes covering the entire liturgical year – has rather discouraged systematic investigation. So there’s plenty to look at.

Disclaimer: I’m not entirely convinced that the following is necessary, but some people feel that the slightest personal connection may colour a critic’s judgement. So I will state that Thomas Laing-Reilly was a contemporary of mine at Edinburgh University. I remember him quite clearly and he even played in a performance of a Dufay Mass that I conducted. We have not been in contact during the intervening 30-odd years. I am naturally glad that I have been able to write in such glowing terms, but had stern duty required a very different review I should not have hesitated. I am quite satisfied that the only way in which these distant memories have affected the review is that, had the organist’s name not been known to me, I doubt if I should have requested a review copy of a CD of Christmas organ music at all. And I should have been the loser.

*Musicological note on Somervell. Laing-Reilly states that the original of this piece was for baritone and piano. I think this is unlikely. It was dedicated to “Mrs. Henschel” who was presumably – though I don’t actually know this – the wife of George Henschel, a baritone and a conductor. But she was also a singer in her own right. The undated Edwin Ashdown edition names on the cover, after the manner of the day, six singers who performed the song. They are all ladies. Apart from Mrs. Henschel herself, they include Miss (as she still was) Clara Butt. The song was published in four keys (E flat, F, G, A) with no indication of which might be the original. Even the highest does not go above F sharp. Obviously, we know Butt was a contralto. Such fleeting references as I can find to two of the other ladies mentioned suggests they also had low voices. 

Furthermore, the back cover of another Somervell song, published by J.& J. Hopkinson in 1892, advertises what I presume to be an earlier edition of “The Shepherd’s Cradle Song”. It is described as “Dedicated to & sung by Mrs. Henschel & all the leading Vocalists. The most successful Cradle Song of modern times”. At this stage in its life it was published in only the middle two of the four keys – F and G. So presumably one of these was the original. Unless documentary evidence exists to the contrary, then, we may fairly safely describe the song as for contralto and piano.

Christopher Howell 



 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.