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CD: Crotchet


Organ Lollipops
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750)
Toccata and Fufue in D minor, BWV 565
Toccata [2:56]
Fugue [6:54]
Albert KETÈLBEY (1875–1959)
In a Monastery Garden [6:08]
Edvard GRIEG (1843–1907)
Wedding Day at Troldhaugen [8:48]
William WOLSTENHOLME (1856–1931)
Lied [4:48]
Alfred HOLLINS (1865–1942)
A Trumpet Minuet [4:43]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809–1847)
War March of the Priests [7:17]
Thirty-Two Feet and Eight Little Tails [1:39]
Théodore DUBOIS (1837–1924)
Toccata [6:51]
Revd Frederick SCOTSON CLARK (1840–1883)
Vienna March [4:17]
Giovanni MORANDI (1777–1856) & WT BEST
Bell-Rondo (Rondo de Campanelli) [7:12]
Edwin LEMARE (1865–1934)
Andantino in D flat (Moonlight and Roses) [4:04]
Sir Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869–1941)
Solemn Melody [3:46]
Thomas ARNE (1710–1778)
Gavotte in B flat [2:09]
Louis LEFÉBURE-WÉLY (1817–1869)
Sortie in E flat [4:15]
Peter King (Klais Organ, Bath Abbey)
rec. 20-21 November 2007, 2 April 2008, Bath Abbey
REGENT REGCD279 [75:50]
Experience Classicsonline

The title Organ Lollipops implies well-known organ standards like Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the Widor Toccata, maybe Les Carillons de Westminster and a handful of other favourites for ‘The Queen of Instruments’.
The Bach piece is there all right. In additin we are treated to arrangements of ‘popular’ music for orchestra (In a Monastery Garden) and piano (Wedding Day at Troldhaugen). Quite a few readers will also have heard the War March from Mendelssohn’s incidental music to Racine’s Athalia. The rest, however, is as far from the criterion ‘established favourites’ as could be imagined – and the programme is none the worse for that. Even so all the pieces here are true lollipops in the sense that they are easy on the ear: unassuming but nice. Some are sweet - lollipops usually are - while others have that refreshing acidity that is a healthy counter-weight to the sweetness. Apart from the Bach masterwork this is a disc that doesn’t demand wrinkled brows and deep analysis. Comfortable relaxation and sheer enjoyment are quite acceptable. I am no friend of wallpaper music, I hate going into shops that belch out ‘bang-bang’ or ‘treacle’. I never visit restaurants that pollute the steak with wailing guitars and screaming teenage-sopranos. Even so, I like to sit down once in a while with a record of my own choice and let the music embrace me without laying claims on me. This may be as an accompaniment to a glass of white wine or doing a crossword or just closing my eyes and wallowing in the sound and melodies. This is a disc for such occasions.
The 62 stop organ in Bath Abbey is a superb instrument, built in 1897 by Johannes Klais of Bonn. I have never heard it in situ but this disc has inspired me to go there as soon as I get an opportunity. Peter King has been organist and Master of the Choristers at the Abbey since 1986. He was also, together with Nicolas Kynaston, responsible for overseeing the design and installation of the organ. And with this experience he knows how to get the most out of the instrument. The recording is, as far as I can judge without knowing the venue, truthful. The sound is well integrated while there is no lack of clarity. One gets, so to speak, both sides of the coin without having to turn it over.
The mighty bass is presented as a calling card in the opening Toccata, while in the Fugue King surprises somewhat by his almost reticent playing – which is in no way out of place. Ketèlbey’s In a Monastery Garden is programme music and King presents the composer’s own programme in his excellent notes. It is played in Peter King’s own arrangement and he incorporates some atmospheric birdsong – as in the original – played by the page-turner James Scott. Transcribing this particular piece for organ is no bad idea, considering the setting, but I do miss the singing of the monks in ‘Kyrie Eleison’, which should be sung by the orchestra. Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen – ‘Troldhaugen’ was the name of his home outside Bergen. No doubt it is well suited to heavier playing; it is one of the pieces in book VII of Lyric pieces for piano. Even though ‘Troldhaugen’ means ‘Troll Hill’ I doubt that the trolls were invited to the wedding festivities. I do however agree with Peter King that ‘organs are so good at making troll noises’. Mendelssohn’s pompous War March is played here in the rather well-known setting by W T Best, who also had a finger in the Bell-Rondo (tr. 11).
Being Scandinavian I have to admit that most of the remaining compositions – and most of their composers – were unknown quantities to me. British readers may be better informed in this matter but since a high percentage of our readers are non-British I will give some facts about the pieces and their originators, which I have culled from Peter King’s notes.
The blind William Wolstenholme was encouraged and coached by Elgar and his beautiful Lied has a whiff of Elgar about it. He was a skilled improviser but also studied the violin with Elgar. Peter King’s mentioning of this Lied owing something to the style of Salut d’amour seems fully plausible.
Alfred Hollins was also blind and like Wolstenholme was an outstanding improviser, obviously also as pianist. He had studied the piano in Berlin with Hans von Bülow, no less. However the organ eventually became his main instrument and he held the position as organist at Free St. George Church in Edinburgh from 1897 until his death in 1942. The Trumpet Minuet has no church atmosphere; it is jolly and stirring.
Thirty-Two Feet and Eight Little Tails refers to Santa Claus’s eight reindeer and in spite of its slight length it needed three composers. Peter King contemplates this fact in his note and wonders how the collaboration was organised. It is gentle music but slightly naughtily swinging. King’s verdict is that ‘any temptation to play this piece on the occasion of a visit from the local Archbishop should be resisted’. I could however think of numerous occasions of less solemn character when it would fit like a glove. Anyone who can hear it without smiling at least faintly must be a notorious sourpuss.
Without being in the least condescending I would label this and the previous two pieces charming ditties. Théodore Dubois’s Toccata is something more substantial and could be mentioned in the same breath as Widor’s famous piece. Among the positions the composer held the most fashionable was as organist of La Madeleine in Paris. Among other organists there Fauré and Saint-Saëns may be the most famous. This piece, gloriously played, is probably the one I will most often return to.
The Revd Frederick Scotson Clark’s mother was a piano pupil of Frederik Chopin and probably she named her son after her teacher. There is not a trace of Chopin in his music, though, and his light and entertaining Vienna March would be just as unsuitable at Notre Dame – where he once studied – as the aforementioned Thirty-Two Feet …
W T Best, who arranged Mendelssohn’s War March, also had a finger in Morandi’s Bell-Rondo. This is another charming piece, actually the longest on the disc, and this is also the main weakness. The music isn’t substantial enough to be drawn out like that. It ends jubilantly.
Andante in D flat is the nondescript title of Edwin Lemare’s composition, but with the text ‘Moonlight and roses bring wonderful mem’ries of you my heart reposes in beautiful thoughts so true’ it became famous. It is a nice pop song even when played on the organ. The composer, who toured as recitalist, was the highest paid organist of his day.
Sir Henry Walford Davies’s Solemn Melody would definitely be suitable to play even for the Archbishop. It is a fine composition. Thomas Arne’s jolly Gavotte was published in a volume entitled A Second Book of Wedding Pieces, with music suitable for your second wedding! Walking to the altar accompanied by this music one can imagine both bride and bridegroom smiling happily.
Louis Lefébure-Wély’s music has been regarded as ‘Vulgar and banal’ and there is more than a grain of truth in that. I have to admit that I sometimes love to wallow in his vulgarities. It is a pleasure to hear a good organist letting his hair down – as Peter King does here. Don’t be ashamed to listen to this Sortie, but afterwards – ‘Rinse, please!’
Anyone with a liking for entertaining and not-too-deep organ music will have his fill here. It is excellently played on a supreme instrument.
Göran Forsling


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