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Christopher Herrick - Organ Fireworks XIII
Guy WEITZ (1883 – 1970)
1. Grand choeur ‘Benedicamus Domino’(1939) [4:19]
Derek BOURGEOIS (b. 1941)
2 – 3.  Prelude and Toccata (2002) [9:08]
Johann Christian Heinrich RINCK (1770 – 1846)
4 – 14. Variations and finale on Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman, Op. 90 (1828) [11:57]
Otto OLSSON (1879 – 1964)
15. Introduction and Allegro Credo in unum Deum from Credo symphoniacum, Op. 50 (1918) [13:46]
William LLOYD-WEBBER (1914 – 1982)
16. Dedication March (1953) [5:51]
Edwin LEMARE (1866 – 1934)
17 – 18. Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Op. 98 (1923) [8:05]
Percy GRAINGER (1882 – 1961)
19. Handel in the Strand (Clog Dance) from Room-Music Tit-Bits No. 2 [3:52]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872 – 1958)
20 – 21. Prelude and Fugue in C minor (1920 – 1921) [10:55]
Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902 – 1986)
22 - 26. Choral varié from Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le theme du ‘Veni creator’, Op. 4 (1931) [5:34]
William MATHIAS (1934 – 1992)
27. Recessional, Op. 96 No. 4 (1986)
Christopher Herrick (Organ of Västerås Cathedral, Sweden)
rec. 31 May, 1-2 June 2008
HYPERION CDA67734 [78:19]


Experience Classicsonline

The main organ of Västerås Cathedral was built in 1898 by Åkerman & Lund. It has been rebuilt, changed and enlarged on a number of occasions, most recently in 1998 when it was restored by Harrison & Harrison Ltd, of Durham. During the autumn and winter 2008 – 2009 it has again been renovated and was inaugurated in its new shape at the end of April this year. It is a four-manual instrument with a beautiful façade and the cathedral, centrally situated in Västerås about 100 kilometres from Stockholm, is well worth a visit. Inaugurated in 1271 and extended during the 14th and 15th centuries, it acquired its present size in 1517. It is one of only two cathedrals in Sweden awarded three stars in the Guide Michelin.

Christopher Herrick has now reached number thirteen in his series Organ Fireworks for Hyperion. The series started in 1984 at Westminster Abbey and has taken him to a lot of magnificent churches around Europe, including the mighty Veikko Virtanen 81-stop-organ in Turku Cathedral in Finland. Herrick has often chosen composers and works off the beaten track and volume XIII is no exception. Percy Grainger and Ralph Vaughan Williams are well-known but not for organ music, even though Vaughan Williams trained and practiced as an organist. Maurice Duruflé, who was organist of St-Étienne-du-Mont for 45 years, left a small but important oeuvre of organ music but is best remembered for his Requiem

Not being an organ specialist I still have a liking for the instrument and the one in Västerås Cathedral is certainly imposing. I regret though that great portions of the programme consists of rather reticent music that doesn’t live up to the ‘Fireworks’ title of the disc. It is true that the opening Grand choeur  by Weitz has a grandiose finale that certainly displays the instrument to its advantage. Weitz was born in Belgium and studied in Paris with Guilmant, Widor and d’Indy. I am less enthusiastic about Derek Bourgeois’s Prelude and Toccata. It is a recent composition, from 2002, and it is dark, even sombre. The toccata is more outgoing but feels unsettled and indistinct.

Rinck, born the same year as Beethoven, studied with a pupil of Johann Sebastian Bach. The theme for these variations is the same melody – ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’ – that Mozart employed in his K 265. Interestingly Rinck presents the theme first very slowly and in the minor key but then follows a livelier variant. The nine variations are very brief – only one surpassing one minute in playing time – and they are fairly restrained. The concluding finale – by far the longest movement – is a fugato and the only fireworks-worthy part of the composition.

Otto Olsson is a towering figure in Swedish music life during the first half of the 20th century. His choral song Advent is sung in most churches on the first Sunday of Advent, his Te Deum (1910) has been frequently performed and is, together with his second organ symphony, Credo symphoneacum, regarded as his best works. His Requiem, written 1901-1903, lay unperformed for 73 years and was a sensation when it was premiered (see review of the Proprius recording). But he was first and foremost organist, holding a post at Gustaf Wasa Church at Odenplan in central Stockholm from 1907 to 1956. The Introduction and Allegro heard on the present disc, is the first movement of the organ symphony mentioned above and it was obviously written for the ecumenical meeting at Uppsala in 1925, though my sources give 1918 as the year of composition. He was markedly influenced by the French school – Guilmant and Widor – though he never studied in France, not even visited the country. It was a wise decision to include this magisterial composition and the mighty conclusion of the allegro is truly stunning.

William Lloyd-Webber’s Dedication March feels futile, coming immediately after Olsson’s allegro, but it has its own charm. After a jolly opening a kind of Elgarian turn-of-the-century idyll takes over for a while but the carefree jolliness returns and maybe one can imagine flag-waving people celebrating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The march was written in 1953 but it is unclear if it was actually played in connection with the coronation.

Writing a Toccata and Fugue in D minor, even in 1923, inevitably invites comparisons with Johann Sebastian Bach. Edwin Lemare’s composition is however a brilliant piece and can hold its own and there is even a reference to JSB at the end of the fugue.

Percy Grainger’s Handel in the Strand is a charming piece, here played in Wolfgang Stockmeier’s arrangement. I have already mentioned that Vaughan Williams was an organist and his powerful Prelude and Fugue in C minor shows his affinity with the instrument. Composed in 1921 it was not published until 1930 when it appeared both as an orchestral piece and an organ piece.

I have often found Maurice Duruflé’s music rather elusive and his Choral varié is no exception. Not until the forth and final variation does it catch fire.

Finally there is William Mathias’s powerful and stirring Recessional. Its acrimonious harmonies are salutary and refreshing and brings the programme to a glorious end. Mathias was a prolific composer. He is probably best known for the anthem Let the people praise thee, O God, written for the marriage of The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer, which took place in St Paul’s Cathedral on 29 July 1981. It is a really fine piece and this Recessional, written five years later, is equally stimulating.

I may seem rather lukewarm about parts of this programme – and it is definitely not the fault of Christopher Herrick, who plays as gloriously as ever. The recording of this magnificent instrument is in the same class as other organ records from Hyperion I have heard and the documentation is fine. Organ lovers in general and readers who are curious of some little known composers will find a lot of interesting music here and I may very well grow to like some of the pieces I have written off. Isn’t it a blessing that we are not all cast in the same mould?

Göran Forsling


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