Organ Spectacular! Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV565 [9:02] Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)
Carillon de Westminster [7:27] Sigfried KARG-ELERT (1877-1933)
Nun danket alle Gott [4:27] Sir William WALTON (1902-1983)
Coronation March: Crown Imperial (arr. Herbert Murrill) [10:01] Louis LÉFEBURE-WÉLY (1817-1869)
Andante: 'Choeur des voix humaines' [3:53]
Sortie in E flat [3:56] Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Imperial March Op.32 (arr. G.C. Martin) [5:18] Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Prelude on 'Rhosymedre' [3:51] Samuel Sebastian WESLEY (1810-1876)
Choral Song and Fugue [7:20] Ashley GROTE
Prelude on 'St.Cross' [3:01] Leon BOELLMANN (1862-1897)
Suite Gothique [13:53] Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Toccata from Symphony No.5 [5:50]
Ashley Grote (organ)
rec. Norwich Cathedral, 23-24 March 2015 PRIORY PRCD1153 [79:25]
This disc more than lives up to its name, and is very satisfying for that reason. It might seem like a “mere” collection of organ hits, but that in no way renders it prosaic: instead, Ashley Grote shows us how these pieces should be done, and if this is just a collection of organ pops then it’s up there with the best of them.
The disc kicks off with Bach’s Toccata and Fugue (what else?!), with a majestic, dark tone that suits the organ and the space beautifully. The Toccata sounds regal, played with quasi-orchestral variety of tone, and the fugue proceeds with a stately pace, culminating in a majestic and exciting close. The Carillon de Westminster has a gorgeously delicate beginning, with a great sense of space around it, followed by an inexorable build wherein, nevertheless, the tinkling of the bell stop is audible right to the end. Karg-Elert’s Nun danket sounds pleasingly big, as does the end of Crown Imperial which begins surprisingly softly, lending it the advantage of giving it somewhere to go.
The tracks are often paired as pleasing contrasts. Léfebure-Wély’s Voix Humaine, for example, is beautifully delicate, in contrast to his Sortie which romps its way merrily out of your speakers. There is a pleasing sense of momentum to Elgar’s Imperial March, then a beautifully understated contrast in Rhosymedre and a quiet grandeur to the Wesley. Grote’s own take on the hymn tune Cross of Jesus is gentle and thoughtful, leading into a tremendous, quasi-symphonic performance of the Suite Gothique, which makes the rafters shake. Widor’s Toccatta does too, of course, but it’s still pleasingly played and fully in keeping with its company on the disc.
It helps, of course, that Priory have such expertise in recording organs, and so the soundscape they create for the stereo is perfect, with the right amount of presence and the correct blend of bass to recreate the organ’s sound realistically. It sets the seal on a marvellous collection which is highly desirable and, if you know the organ, essential.