This is an enjoyable and well-filled anthology from a series of
recordings made for various mid-price DG-offshoot labels, Polydor
and Contour, in the 1970s by Brian Culverhouse.
Timothy Farrell’s Mendelssohn Wedding March
gets the programme off to a rousing start, followed by a meditative
(too meditative?) performance of the opening movement of the
Handel Organ Concerto in F - No.7, though the Regis notes
don’t identify it.
Farrell’s third item, the Radetsky March
is by Johann Strauss I, not II as stated in the booklet, on
the rear insert and on the Regis website. Composed in honour
of a reactionary general remembered for hindering the cause
of Italian reunification and nationhood, it’s always part of
the unpublished agenda, along with Johann II’s Blue Danube,
at the close of the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day Concert.
On this recording there’s no audience participation but the
performance is lively enough to warrant the handclapping which
the New Year audience delight in.
All three of these Farrell/Westminster Abbey recordings
are taken from a Polydor LP released in 1974, Music for Royal
Weddings. The two marches are played with tremendous energy
and the recording still sounds excellent.
Christopher Dearnley’s contribution begins with
a suitably glutinous performance of Sullivan’s Lost Chord
– if you’re going to play this highly sentimental piece, this
is the way to do it, with the heavens opening to the sound of
the full organ at the conclusion; it may be that only in heaven
I shall hear that great ‘amen’ but Dearnley gives us a pretty
good terrestrial approximation.
Moonlight and Roses is a pretty slurpy piece,
too; it, likewise, receives a performance to match. I may sound
superior about these sentimental works, but I have to admit
that they retain the power to move in these performances. The
extract from Water Music is well enough done.
This Barry Rose performance of the Clarke Trumpet
Voluntary appeared on the Contour label in 1974; the comments
made by reviewers then certainly apply, namely that this is
baroque music made comfortable in the English cathedral organ
tradition, with much of its dynamic range ironed out. The Rheinberger,
a very different work, also sounds rather comfortable in this
Allan Wicks’ performance of the Bossi Scherzo
appeared on Polydor in 1975. His performance of this virtuoso
work deserves all the praise that it received then and the recording
still sounds well.
The four works performed by Francis Jackson formed
a considerable portion of a 1974 Polydor LP, recorded soon after
the restoration of the York Minster organ. The three French
items ought not to sound ‘right’ on an English organ – they
certainly sound different on a French organ – but they are well
worth hearing in such sympathetic performances. Once again,
the recording, highly praised in its day, still sounds well.
By coincidence, I happened to hear a performance
of Cocker’s Tuba Tune on Radio 3 at breakfast this morning
and thought it pretty good – just as good as Francis Jackson’s
performance. It was Francis Jackson!
Finally, four items from a 1976 Polydor recording
of Noel Rawsthorne at the organ of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.
Brian Culverhouse thought this, the most recent segment of the
CD, the most exciting recording he had ever made and I’m not
about to disagree with him. The Charpentier is laid on a little
thick, but the two Whitlock items, attractive staples of the
English organ tradition go well and the CD ends with a powerful
performance from a very different school – an extract from a
Vierne Symphony which made me wish that he’d included the whole
The 1976 Polydor LP cost 24/9, £1.25 but equivalent
to at least £15 in today’s values. Now Regis bring us a distillation
of these Polydor and Contour LPs, with about twice as much music
as each of them contained, for a fraction of the cost. If you
like this sort of collection, you have every incentive to go
out and buy it. It’s very good of its kind; it still sounds
well; it comes with an informative set of notes, and it’s unbelievably
I enjoyed hearing this budget-price CD just as
much as the full-price recordings in Christopher Herrick’s Organ
Fireworks series for Hyperion – see my review
of Volume XII – and that’s high praise indeed. I came very close
to nominating this my Bargain of the Month; only the two Barry
Rose items, not representative of this organist at this best,
let the side down slightly.