The Grand Organ of Salisbury Cathedral
David HALLS (b. 1963)
Salisbury Fanfare [2009) [1:47]      
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)    
Toccata in F BWV 540 (c. 1714) [8:47]  
Walter ALCOCK (1861-1947)   
Andante grazioso  (1886) [4:51]   
John STAINER (1840-1901)
A Jubilant March (1879) [7:57] 
Edwin LEMARE (1865-1934)
Andantino in D flat (1888) [5:31]    
Geoffrey BUSH (1920-1998)
Trumpet March (1981) [5:32]
Frederick WOOD (1880-1963)
Sunrise on Stonehenge  (1929) [4:37]   
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Largo from Xerxes (1738) (arr. Noel Rawsthorne) [2:58]  
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)    
Rhapsody No. 2 (1918) [7:30]
Johann Sebastian BACH
Chorale Prelude: Wachet auf (1731) [4:40]    
Flor Peeters (1903-1986)
Toccata, fugue and hymn (1931) [8:44]     
Eric COATES (1886-1957)    
Dance in the Twilight (1919) [4:38]  
Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)    
Carillon de Westminster (1927) [7:26]    
David Halls (organ)
rec. 17-19 May, 25-28 July 2011, Salisbury Cathedral, UK
Bonus items: The organ tour; a guide to the console; the box organ; Coates with commentary [23:20 + 9:41 + 7:00 + 5:50]
Sound: stereo and surround (5.1)
Picture: PAL /16:9 (also available in NTSC)
Region: 0 (worldwide)
CD also included
The last organ DVD/CD combo to come my way featured Thomas Trotter on the marvellous Birmingham Town Hall instrument (review). It too offered a personal tour of the organ loft - the Salisbury disc has no fewer than four separate clips - plus a programme designed to showcase the talents of organ and organist alike. There’s another link, for David Halls, appointed director of music at the cathedral in 2005, has studied with Trotter. Both men have an engaging presentational style - Halls is perhaps a little more ‘chummy’ - and these ‘tours’ are interesting, if not essential.
It makes very good sense to offer a DVD and CD in the same box, as past experience suggests one is more likely to revisit the audio disc than the visual one. There are some minor irritations on the DVD; the set-up menu is very basic, and clicking on audio set-up - on most discs that allows one to select stereo or multichannel - I was confronted with ear-blasting white noise and pilot tones designed, I assume, to set-up four speakers and a subwoofer. Similarly, video set-up offers picture calibration; this really isn’t necessary, as most modern televisions are optimised already.
I’m also puzzled as to why Priory pursues what I can only assume is a more expensive ‘dual inventory’ by offering the DVD in either PAL or NTSC. Anyone who buys classical music, opera and ballet on DVD or Blu-ray will know that NTSC is the most widely adopted video standard; in the past ‘Never Twice the Same Colour’ might have been the case, but in the high-def age it’s no longer an issue. That said, the PAL picture on my review disc was sharp and the colours true; the sonics aren’t bad - in stereo at least - although it’s more of a wash of sound than the forensic, strongly three-dimensional presentation one expects from the best organ recordings.
Programming is key, and that Trotter disc is an example of how to construct a varied and entertaining one. All too often organ recitals tend to fall into one of two groups - safe or stimulating - although not everyone agrees on what makes for an interesting mix. Internet messageboard comments about Cameron Carpenter’s Bach at this year’s BBC Proms - some enjoyed it, while others complained of the organist’s ‘Wurlitzer treatment’ of the Toccata in F - rather prove my point. Either way his Proms were well attended, which is good news when the organ seems to be out of favour both as a recital instrument and on Radio 3.
Watching and listening to this Salisbury DVD I’m left with the overwhelming sense that it’s anodyne; Halls’ playing style and the preponderance of gentle, pastoral pieces is just too unvaried. Yes, there are some flashes of interest - the Salisbury Fanfare, Bush’s Trumpet March and the ‘Wurlitzer’ Coates piece are engaging, and the Howells makes a thrilling statement - but I just couldn’t summon much enthusiasm for the rest. Even the old staples - Bach and Vierne - are solid but unremarkable.
It’s not a patch on Regent’s Trotter box, which combines top-notch playing, superior sonics and, best of all, an inspired selection of pieces. Perhaps the Birmingham organ is better suited to such inventiveness and spontaneity than Salisbury’s splendid but rather staid ‘Father’ Willis. Indeed, I’m reminded of a comment Halls made - more than once - that the latter’s sound is always ‘coherent’; it certainly is seamless and well behaved, but that translates all too easily into meek and uninspiring. That may satisfy loyal parishioners and visitors to the cathedral’s gift shop, but it isn’t what I’m looking for in an organ recital.
A strangely muted affair; strictly for souvenir hunters.
Dan Morgan  

A strangely muted affair; strictly for souvenir hunters.