Notes on this Blog

Update: September 2010; Overall ratings of recitals are now to be stated as being out of 10, rather than 5. This increases the relative objectivity of the respective ratings between recitals.

This blog started in July 2010, as an e-resource with two main goals:
  1. To review, impartially, organ recitals that I attend in the UK, so that potential and actual members of the audience, and the performer alike, can read what I hope is a fair, balanced and unbiased account of events.
  2. To allow people who missed a recital they may have wished to attend to see what it was like, and what they missed (or didn't miss).

I am independent, and am not in any way affiliated (or at all directly or indirectly associated) with any bodies or venues named on this blog. I review all performances in the same way, so as to achieve and maintain my stated goals.

From now on, under 'Attendance' I will just report a rough number, rather than commenting on whether it is 'good', 'poor', 'excellent' etc. This is because attendance figures can be impacted by so many empirical variables (such as time, place, weather, a bus braking down, a blues concert down the road etc.) that it is not really accurate or meaningful, nor is it fair on the recitalist, to comment on numbers in this way.

I remain anonymous here, as to not do so impacts the impartiality of my postings.

I hope that people are reading these (what I hope come across as objective and fair) reviews with interest.

The Blogger

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Durham Cathedral: Wednesday 28th July 2010, James Lancelot

Durham Cathedral
Wednesday 28th July 2010
James Lancelot: Organist & Master of the Choristers, Durham Cathedral & Durham University Organist

The Programme
  • Rhapsody in C# minor, Opus 17, No3. Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
  • Voluntary in A, Opus 7, No1. John Stanley (1713-1786)
    Adagio - Allegro
  • Da pacem Domine in diebus nostris. Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)
  • Duetto in G, BWV 804. JS Bach (1685-1750)
  • Chorale Prelude Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, BWV 665. JS Bach (1685-1750)
  • Fantaisie in A major. Cesar Franck (1822-1890)
  • Chorale Preludes. Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
    O Gott, du frommer Gott, Opus 65, No 50
    O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, Opus 65, No 42
  • Chorale Prelude, Nun sei willkommen, Jesus, lieber Herr. Flor Peeters (1903-1986)
  • Postlude pour l'Office de Complies. Jehan Alain (1911-1940)
  • Toccata & Fugue in D minor and D major, Opus 59, Nos 5/6. Max Reger (1873-1916)

Time: 19:30
Price: £8 (£6 conc.)
Attendance: Fair, around 120.
Star Rating: 4/5 ****

The temptation to 'award' this recital with a five star rating was huge, but I must discipline myself and leave the five star rating for organ recitals which really do blow me (and others) away. The four star rating is at the very top end if you like of what a 'standard' organ recital is like, and this is where the recital by James Lancelot at Durham Cathedral most certainly was. The sheer quality of James' musicianship was very high, and he demonstrated well his knowledge of the organ itself, allowing us to hear many different sounds and effects. James has been in his post at Durham Cathedral since 1985, and it isn't difficult to hear the effect of knowing an instrument for some 25 years. As always, the introduction to the recital itself was done by James, who with a beaming grin on his face, gave us a short and informative talk through the pieces he was about to play. His enthusiasm (and admirable apparent lack of nerves) really built up the excitement for what was about to come. In true Durham fashion, James' brief talk was preceded by a prayer by a member of the Cathedral chapter - always a nice touch, given they explain how everything done in the Cathedral is done to the glory of God. Like it.

The recital itself was superb. Notable highlights include the Howells Rhapsody at the start, which was the only time we heard the Harrison Tuba and Orchestral Trumpet stops from high up in the triforium of the quire. This was a bold and thrilling start to the recital. Many of the much older pieces that followed were clearly well suited to the Durham organ, known locally as the 'Harrison flagship'. Personally, I am of the opinion that it doesn't sound as well as the Harrison at Ripon, but perhaps it primarily has something to do with the fact that Harrison are based in Durham! Cunning. James had explained beforehand that the first of the Karg-Elert Chorale Preludes was in fact written in its entirety on the day of his own mothers' death. This was quite emotional, and in that sense, one could say the composition is superb given how much of the inherent emotion of the composer can be felt. The final impressive piece, the Reger Toccata & Fugue, was faultlessly executed and showed off the clear skill and virtuosity contained in James' playing, in addition to the broadness of his repertoire. The exciting close on the 'full' great and swell sounds sent us on our way beaming similarly to how James was at the start - perhaps its infectious, or perhaps its just damn good! For those of you who may be interested, the friend I noted as having joined me at Central Methodist in York on July 22nd also came with me to this, and thoroughly enjoyed it again. A good result all round, and a splendid evening was had by all.

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