RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Golden Jubilee! - Celebrating the Harrison & Harrison Organ of Coventry Cathedral in its Golden Jubilee Year
see end of review for track listing
Kerry Beaumont (organ)
rec. Coventry Cathedral, England. No dates given. DDD
HERALD HAVPCD 377 [74:53]
The original 14th century church of St. Michael - Coventry Cathedral from 1918 onwards - was all but destroyed in World War II. Beside its ruins was built a brand-new St Michael's, consecrated in all its modernist glory in 1962. In tandem with many other organised events, this deluxe recording celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of this visionary cathedral and its massive Harrison & Harrison organ, with a generous and varied programme of short works, including many world premieres, from some of the UK's finest living composers.
With an average track length of four-and-a-half minutes, the listener could be forgiven for expecting no real depth to these pieces. However, whilst some do indeed lean, appropriately enough, towards the optimistic and lively, numerous others demonstrate how just much atmosphere and interest can be packed into less than five minutes on the king of instruments. Opening and closing with the two longest works, respectively Jonathan Dove's Niagara, cascading and secular, and John Casken's Sacrificium, dramatical and quasi-mystical, the listener is treated to a five-star tour of imaginative miniatures.
In their series 'Great European Organs', Priory Records devoted volume 25 to Coventry's Harrison & Harrison (PRCD373). Despite its almost futuristic design, its stupendous sound is in some respects almost traditional. For sightseers there may not be many reasons to travel to Coventry, but the Cathedral should top any list, and no visitor should pass up a chance to hear this marvellous instrument. For all those unable to make it, the sound is superbly captured by Herald's engineer, David Wright: this must be one of the finest organ recordings of the year.
Former student of the great improviser Pierre Cochereau, and Cathedral Director of Music since 2006, Kerry Beaumont gives a masterly performance, confident, expressive, technically brilliant, and making the most of this particular organ's amazing capabilities, not least through his choice of registers. The booklet provides detailed notes on every piece, a biography of Beaumont and a full description and specification of the organ, including even a page of sketches! One small blemish aside - a typo which has Grayston Ives still going strong at 164 years old! - this is a rock-solid pleasure-thing for all organ fans.
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Masterly, confident, expressive, technically brilliant, making the most of this organ's amazing capabilities.
Jonathan DOVE (b.1959)
Philip MOORE (b.1943)
Bob CHILCOTT (b.1955)
Sun Dance [3:16]
James MacMILLAN (b.1959)
Bryan KELLY (b.1934)
David BEDFORD (1937-2011)
Grayston IVES (b.1948)
William MATHIAS (1934-1992)
Judith BINGHAM (b.1952)
St Bride, Assisted by Angels [5:55]
Simon PRESTON (b.1938)
David MATTHEWS (b.1943)
John MADDEN (b.1956)
Tuba Magna [3:24]
Philip WILBY (b.1949)
Pensiero - Finale (from: For the Iron Voice) [5:54]
John CASKEN (b.1949)