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Piping Blues – Jazz and Blues-inspired works for organ
Track listing below review
Philip Scriven (organ of Lichfield Cathedral)
rec. January and October 2008, Lichfield Cathedral
REGENT REGCD304 [64:07]

Philip Scriven is an experienced musician and has made several CDs which celebrate the more popular spectrum of his performing career – the more ebullient concert organist quality. This extroversion is accompanied by a thoroughly proficient, indeed startlingly assured technique and a desire to propagate contemporary music. His playing on this disc and his Piping Hot album, also on Regent, exemplifies what the Germans call the British ‘Town Hall’ tradition in the entertainment trade; somewhat broad, populist, and virtuosic but essentially fluffy repertoire. To be fair to Scriven, he has presented a balanced programme that seeks to examine the nexus of Jazz and Blues and organ music. If they – Jazz and Blues - seem sometimes quite remote here, that’s not to say that the influence is not apparent.

Scriven’s own arrangement of Bernstein’s Candide overture opens proceedings with self-confident brio. A trio of German approaches to that specialised sub-genre - the Blues chorale prelude - come next, grouped together. The most explicit is Go Down Moses arranged by Jürgen Rehberg though Hans-Martin Kiefer’s arrangement explores the Spiritual implications quite adeptly. Mons Leidvin Takle’s Blues-Toccata has earned its spurs as a result of its catchy syncopations whilst Joel Martinson’s Aria on a Chaconne offers very different and contrasting effects – refined, even limpid flute-like qualities couched in the form of a nostalgic reverie. There’s no doubting the excitement quotient served up in Jean Berveiller’s Mouvement whilst a more diffuse Blues spirit animates passages of Guy Bover’s Sarasota, a movement from his Trois Preludes Hambourgeois. What Scriven ensures is that his contemporary repertoire has plenty of spice and a fair degree of contrast – pieces with faster tempi, greater or lesser amplitude and so on.

A case in point is Peter Planyavsky’s Toccata alla Rumba in which the pedals tap out the rumba message to a large extent. Mozart Changes, courtesy of Zsolt Gardonyi is something Scriven has played often. There’s more than just a hint of silliness for those not quite won over. The same composer’s Light Music take on the Irish traditional melody Slane is, by contrast, tasteful. The final piece is the most extensive – Iain Farrington’s Fiesta!, a seven-movement suite written in 2003. It has energy, stride patterns even and plenty of rhythmic and timbral variety. As befits an organist-composer, it fits this recital like a glove.

Don’t mistake the title of the disc for an album inspired by, say, Fats Waller’s organ improvisations of the 1930s. The repertoire is often strongly imbued with blues or gospel spirit but sometimes more allusively so. There’s no doubting the ebullience or command of the playing.

Jonathan Woolf

Track listing
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990)
Candide Overture (1956), arr. Philip Scriven [4:53]
Three Blues Chorale Preludes: Go Do Mo (Go down Moses) (2003) by Jürgen Rehberg [4:04]: Lobe den Herren – German 1665 by Johannes Matthias Michel [1:21]: Die ganze Welt hast du uns überlassen by Hans-Martin Kiefer [3:44]
Mons Leidvin TAKLE (b.1942)
Blues-Toccata [3:56]
Joel MARTINSON (b.1960)
Aria on a Chaconne [4:17]
Jean BERVEILLER (1904-1976)
Mouvement (1953) [2:36]
Guy BOVET (b.1942)
Sarasota (from Drei Hamburger Präludien) (1987) [7:28]
Peter PLANYAVSKY (b.1947)
Toccata alla Rumba (1971) [4:41]
Zsolt GÁRDONYI (b.1946)
Mozart Changes (1995) [4:32]
Be thou my vision - traditional Irish melody (Slane) arr. Zsolt Gárdonyi [2:59]
Iain FARRINGTON (b. 1977)
Fiesta! (2003) (19:36)