RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Grand March from Aida (arr. Edwin LEMARE and Christopher HERRICK) [6:42]
Paul SPICER (b.1952) Fanfares and Dances (2004) [1:33]
César FRANCK (1822-1890) Pièce héroïque, M37 (1878) [7:56]
Iain FARRINGTON (b.1977) from Animal Parade (2007): Penguins - Alla marcia [2:09] Giraffes - Andante [2:37] Barrel Organ Monkey - Presto [1:28]
Marcel LANQUETUIT (1894-1985) Toccata in D (1927) [5:25]
Alfred HOLLINS (1865-1942) Triumphal March (1905) [5:59]
Samuel Sebastian WESLEY (1810-1876) Choral Song and Fugue (1842) [6:59]
Dudley BUCK (1839-1909) Variations on ‘Old Folks at Home’ (1888) [7:16]
Alexandre GUILMANT (1837-1911) Organ Sonata No 1 in d minor Op 42 (1874) [23:40]
Christopher Herrick (Melbourne Town Hall Grand Organ)
rec. 7-9 July 2009, Melbourne Town Hall. DDD.
Booklet includes organ specification.
HYPERION CDA67758 [72:16]
By now most of us know what to expect from a Christopher Herrick Organ Fireworks recording. What it says on the box is what you get, this time on the organ of Melbourne Town Hall, an 1871 William Hill instrument, restored from ruin in 2001. The Guilmant Organ Sonata No.1 is the appropriate principal demonstration piece. I came very close to nominating Volume XII my Recording of the Month in 2008: the only reason why I didn’t was that too much of the CD was taken up by an arrangement of Brahms which I didn’t think worked particularly well on the organ – see review. Just over a year later Göran Forsling was a trifle disappointed with some of the music on Volume XIII – see review.
The latest recording brings the series back on track. As always, the sheer range of Herrick’s expertise impresses, from first-rate Hyperion recordings of Buxtehude and Bach to the Fireworks in this series, concentrating on this disc on the English and French traditions of the 19th and 20th centuries. The word ‘cornucopia’ unfortunately gets rather overworked, especially in combination with the word ‘delights’, but you may take Hyperion’s description at face value this time. I’d love to be able to play as well as this, when the range of Herrick’s expertise is almost greater than my own very wide-ranging musical interests.
The CD opens with a comparatively restrained but enjoyable performance of the Grand March from Aida in an arrangement by Edwin Lemare and Herrick himself. If the Brahms arrangement on Volume XII didn’t work to my satisfaction, this certainly does, though I’m not sure that I’d describe it as ‘outrageous’, as per the Hyperion publicity material, since the performance stresses the grandeur of the music rather than anything else.
The short Fanfares and Dances by Paul Spicer which follow provide a welcome contrast before we are again in grand style with the Franck Pièce héroïque, a work which lives fully up to its name – and Herrick doesn’t let us down, capturing the mystery and lyricism of the music as well as its heroism.
The three pieces from Iain Farrington’s Animal Parade again provide a quiet interlude. They’re too short to make much impression, but they’re pleasant enough and they provide a lull before the meatier material to come, like the Lanquetuit Toccata which follows. I hadn’t heard this before: there’s only one rival recording from Jane Parker Smith on Avie (AV0034 – see review and review) but Herrick makes me wonder why.
The Hollins Triumphal March is an attractive and jolly piece – another welcome refresher which receives an idiomatic performance, as does the S.S. Wesley, though this is the kind of music that Herrick could probably sail through on auto-pilot, which probably applies also to the sentimental Dudley Buck Variations on ‘Old Folks at Home’. I thought this outstayed its welcome a little, though I admired the delicacy of the playing.
The Guilmant Sonata is the real star of the show – in addition to Christopher Herrick himself, of course – and one which doesn’t get too many outings. The main competition comes from Ian Tracey on Chandos (CHAN9271 with Widor and Poulenc), but there’s room for two recordings because the Chandos version is of Guilmant’s own arrangement of the work as his Organ Symphony No.1 for organ and orchestra. Does Herrick take the opening of the finale a little too fast? I thought so, but there’s not a note out of place in this dextrous performance: in any case, there’s plenty of repose later and Tracey with the BBC Philharmonic and Yan Pascal Tortelier are a little faster overall for this movement. All in all, the Guilmant provides a most satisfactory conclusion to a first-rate programme.
With excellent recording and notes which match Hyperion’s usual high standard, including the impressive organ specification, a strong recommendation is in order. The cover may not be as attractive as that of Volumes XII and XIII, but that’s a trifle. Only inveterate organ-haters or those envious of Christopher Herrick’s expertise on the instrument should stay away.
Another very successful fireworks display.