Variation Amrywiad
Joseph BONNET (1884-1944)
Variations de Concert, Op. 1 [8:38]
Harold Carpenter Lumb STOCKS (1884-1956)
Variations on Y Delyn Aur (The Golden Harp) [7:12]
Simon JACOBS (b. 1983)
Theme and Variations on Victimae Paschali [7:33]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Variationen und fuge über Heil, unserm König heil (God Save the King) [8:13]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partite diverse sopra il Corale Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig, BWV 768 [22:01]
David BRIGGS (b. 1962)
Variations on Greensleeves [8:12]
Pierre COCHEREAU (1924-84)
Toccata: Marche des Rois [4:20]
John HOSKING (b. 1976)
Improvisation: Variations on Suo Gân [10:45]
John Hosking (organ)
rec. 7-8 June 2012, St. Asaph Cathedral, UK
Variety is the spice of life - so they say. If that is the case then this recording ought to be filled with nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and even a little chilli powder. It features variations on a great many themes from a wide-ranging array of composers/improvisers.
Providing the opening kick of flavour is a very hearty rendition of Bonnet’s Concert Variations which were written for the organ at St. Eustache in Paris. The performance certainly has British overtones (Coleman’s Mustard perhaps) as the organ has a satisfying selection of foundation stops which give the music a heaviness that would be absent on a more French-inspired instrument. The slightly stodgy sound provides no restraint for Hosking’s virtuosic interpretation, which is summed up in the pedal cadenza - light, majestic and exciting.
The Welsh folk song The Golden Harp is given the variation treatment by Hosking’s predecessor at St. Asaph, Dr Stocks. I thought that this might be a little bland from the opening but the subtle use of time signature changes and folky tonal palette are reminiscent of some of Hindemith’s music.
Whilst all the spice mixes so far are interesting and enjoyable, Max Reger provides a little more chilli powder with his variations on what we now know as the English National Anthem. This music is always rather difficult to perform on English-type instruments. It was written for organs that have a Rollschweller to aid the quick addition and removal of stops and therefore providing huge dynamic contrast. Hosking manages the sounds well and if you enjoy this performance then Reger’s Dankpsalm or Fantasy and Fugue on BACH will also please you, if you like a hot curry that is.
Returning to more subtle flavours, the Bach Partita really shows off the organ’s variation in sounds. I found that the flute used in the first variation lacked a little clarity but the solo sound is lovely. I enjoyed this interpretation of these variations but I find slightly more to listen to in performances by Ton Koopman or Peter Hurford, for very different reasons.
Briggs’ suite on Greensleeves is like chilli-flavoured chocolate - unusual and surprising and makes a good contrast to the Bach. It shows off even more combinations of the wide array of sounds this modest-sized instrument is capable of producing.
The ending of this CD is given over to improvisations. Cochereau’s Toccata is very exciting but the loud registration gets a little tiring as we have heard this in almost all the other pieces.
John Hosking clearly hasn’t heard of the Eurostar as the booklet notes state that he has never set foot in France! Someone buy him a ticket. Nevertheless, the improvised suite on a traditional Welsh lullaby is vibrant and engaging.
My favourite piece on this recording has to be the Reger. It is a great piece of music but also expertly performed on an instrument that is not ideally suited for the job. This piece makes Hosking stand out as a master of his instrument and I would certainly look out for more of his recordings.
Hannah Parry-Ridout 

A mouth-watering array of sounds and styles executed on a surprisingly versatile instrument.