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Northern Lights
Christopher Herrick (organ)
rec. 6-8 August 2020, Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway
HYPERION CDA68376 [71:58]

It just so happened that on the morning when this disc plopped onto my doormat, a week or so before its official release, Radio 3 had broadcast the first work on this CD, Yes, by a name new to me, Mons Leidvin Takle - and I can admit that its joyous Spanish rhythms had us dancing around the bathroom. It’s a great start to this unusual, uplifting and well-filled disc, made during the Covid epidemic in Scandinavia.

Trondheim Cathedral is quite gaunt on the outside as I recall from my visit there in worryingly minus temperatures in February 2016, but inside it is welcoming and totally awe-inspiring. The Steinmeyer Organ, with its 9,725 pipes and 127 speaking stops positioned at the west end below the stunning rose window, is quite a highlight. I heard it for the Sunday morning service and its power was thrilling. It was restored to its now magnificent condition in 2014. The vast specification is given in the booklet.

Christopher Herrick has produced a programme here - his tenth for Hyperion - which should appeal to organ buffs and general music lovers alike.

After the Takle, we are treated to the bluesy arrangement of Amazing Grace by Ian Farrington, a versatile pianist and composer gaining a fine reputation for himself. As a good contrast, next comes a work by another versatile figure, this time from the earlier twentieth century: Theodore Dubois, with his Toccata Fiat lux.

The Dane Christian Praestholm is represented by three works each based on the same hymn melody translated as ‘See the Golden sun rising from the ocean’ but composed at differing times. The first has an impressive and solemn tread leading to a great climax in C major. By contrast the second piece is quite jazzy and the third is a brilliant toccata.

The name of Percy Fletcher may be associated with the Savoy and Drury Lane theatres of the early twentieth century, so perhaps it comes as a surprise to find him composing evocative, idiomatic and well-conceived organ works. In Fountain reverie the accompanimental figure creates the effect of a gentle waterfall and the Festival toccata is bold and vigorous; it would end a festival evensong splendidly.

To keep us on our toes and dancing, we now have three more Toccatas. The first is by Anders Börjesson and is full of irregular, syncopated rhythms. The brief one by Eugène Gigout will be well known to many organists - he was organ professor at the Paris Conservatoire - and in between is a Toccata by the German composer Hans-Andre Stamm which, like Bernstein’s ‘America', oscillates between 6/8 and 3/4 time as it grows towards its powerful climax.

The Brahm's Prelude and Fugue seems a little anachronistic in the context of the preceding music and, indeed, when set against the remaining two pieces, but it does show up the organ in its full colours, well exploited by Herrick.

Pietro Yon is well known to organists and was for a time organist at the Vatican. His 1915 Concert Study ‘Flying Feet’ needs a virtuoso set of feet and, for that matter, hands, for this exciting ‘moto perpetuo’ which even features a glissando for the left hand up and down its manual.

The programme could have ended there but to close proceedings Herrick gives us a dignified and curiously sober Wedding march by the Norwegian composer Sverre Eftestol.

The recording is immediate and with just a four-second echo in the cathedral there is no smudging of textures.

Gary Higginson

Mons Leidvin TAKLE (b. 1942) Yes [6.01]
Iain FARRINGTON (b. 1977) Amazing Grace [7.57]
Theodore DUBOIS (1837-1924) Fiat lux [4.14]
Christian PRAESTHOLM (b. 1972)
See the golden sun rising from the ocean, Op 32 No 1
The sun rising in the east, Op 11 No 13 [2.18]
Lord, you give us life and happiness, Op 22 No 10 [3.16]
Percy FLETCHER (1879-1932)
Fountain reverie [6.08]
Festival toccata [7.21]
Anders S BÖRJESSON (b. 1975) Toccata
Hans-Andre STAMM (b. 1958) Toccata giocosa [5.48]
Eugène GIGOUT (1844-1925) Toccata in B minor
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Prelude and Fugue in G minor [8.37]
Pietro YON (1886-1943) Second concert study ‘Flying Feet’ [4.18] 
Sverre EFTESTOL (b. 1952) Wedding March [2.20]

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