The Grand Organ of Canterbury Cathedral
Modest MUSSORGSKY (transcribed by Keith John)
Promenade from “Pictures at an Exhibition” [1:57]
Johann Sebastian BACH
Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor BWV 582 [13:27]
A Song of Sunshine [4:26]
Chaconne [3:49]
Claude DEBUSSY (transcribed by John Robinson)
Footprints in the Snow [4:30]
Passacaglia (from Sonata No. 8) [9:20]
Path in the Wood [4:10]
Ground in A minor [3:03]
Benjamin BRITTEN
Prelude to They Walk Alone [2:55]
Johann PACHELBEL (transcribed by John Robinson)
Canon in D [4:59]
Passacaglia from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk [6:06]
Théodore DUBOIS
Marche des Rois Mages [4:20]
Hubert PARRY
Toccata and Fugue “The Wanderer” [13:19]
John Robinson (organ)
rec. Canterbury Cathedral, April-May 2010
DVD in 5.1 and Stereo (with bonus CD)
Also available in NTSC format (PRDVD6N)
PRIORY PRDVD6 [78:06] 

This DVD is a real treat, living up to Priory’s exceptionally high standards and pretty much exemplifying what a music DVD should be. John Robinson has organised a programme of organ music for Canterbury based around the idea of travelling: after all, Canterbury was the spot in which Christianity is said to have arrived in England and for centuries pilgrims travelled there to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket. He chooses organ pieces that revolve around the device of structured movement, most notably the passacaglia, chaconne and ground bass. It’s highly effective as a concept and they’re all very well played, from the raw, hoary grandeur of Shostakovich’s Passacaglia, used in Lady Macbeth, to the gentler, more familiar tones of Pachelbel’s Canon, here working very well in Robinson’s own transcription. Other pieces like Mussorgsky’s Promenade and Debussy’s Footprints follow up the theme in a less formal manner.
Each piece is played with consummate skill and a complete lack of showiness, and it’s even more impressive that Robinson plays from memory. What really sets this DVD out as special, however, is the overall approach to the production. This isn’t just a concert that was taped: from start to finish it has been sensitively constructed as a complete experience for home viewing. The accompanying visuals are expertly chosen and act as a guided tour of the Cathedral that complements the music very well indeed. During Bach’s great Passacaglia and Fugue, for example, the camera homes in on the architectural detail of the vaulting and tower to emphasise architecture of Bach’s work; every section of the cathedral gets similar treatment as the DVD progresses. The disc isn’t limited just to this, either: at different moments we get lovely shots of the Kent countryside and surrounding area; the tourist board would be proud. During Ridout’s Path in the Wood, for example, we are taken through the local woodland, while Hollins’ Song of Sunshine - a delightful piece, incidentally - is accompanied by shots of Kent bathed in summer brightness; apparently Kent is the English county that gets the most hours of sunshine per annum. Every track has a special pictorial partnership that works very well and is never hackneyed: it goes without saying that the shots of the organ itself are subtle and well chosen, always leading the eye where the ear says it should be.
The quality of sound on the DVD is exemplary, each of the six speakers being used expertly to create a perfect sense of space, and the two documentaries are also excellent: Robinson talks intelligently about the choices he made in putting together the programme (9 minutes) and we are given a well managed tour of the organ itself in another extra (20 minutes). The quality of sound on the accompanying CD is bright and crystal clear, but the excellence of approach on the DVD makes this an immeasurably richer experience than the CD. This will give tremendous pleasure to any discerning music-lover, and it’s one that should be watched by music producers to show them how a music DVD should be done.
Simon Thompson
Will give tremendous pleasure to any discerning music-lover.