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

Friday, 6 August 2010

Durham Cathedral: Wednesday 4th August 2010, Margaret Phillips

Durham Cathedral
Wednesday 4th August 2010
Margaret Phillips: Professor of Organ, Royal College of Music, London

  • Prelude & Fugue in C major, BWV 545. JS Bach (1685-1750)
  • Chorale Partita, Ach was soll ich Sunder machen, BWV 770. JS Bach (1685-1750)
  • Allegro, Chorale & Fugue in D minor. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
  • Andante Cantabile in G. Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)
  • Choral No 3 in A minor. Cesar Franck (1822-1890)
  • Prelude & Fugue In Memoriam Maurice Durufle. Fredrik Sixten (b.1962)
  • Andante, 'Choeur de Voix Humaines'. Louis Lefebure-Wely (1817-1869)
  • Prelude et Danse Fuguee. Gaston Litaize (1909-1991)

Time: 19:30
Price: £8 (£6 conc.)
Attendance: About 140
Star Rating: 3/5 ***

This was an interesting recital, but one that I only partly enjoyed. The first mistake I made was not taking my programme from the previous recital by James Lancelot, as these contain all recitals, and cost £1 a go. The second mistake was to sit in the quire. The organ is FAR too loud when heard at 'full whack' from that part of the Cathedral. You are literally sandwiched between a really rather large organ in a rather small space - not great. Nevertheless, the organ was sensitively played for much of the programme, and a great variety of registration was used. Despite the penultimate piece sounding like a field full of sheep, given the extensive use of the Vox Humana stop (with a flute above it), most of the programme was very sensible.

Margaret was introduced after the usual introduction and prayer, and proceeded to give an interesting but rather brief synopsis of the pieces. To be honest, I think a lot of the audience though were more interested in her sparkly top. The Bach to open the recital was good, with a heavy duty but nicely voiced pedal reed below the manual chorus, although the Chorale Partita got extremely boring after what seemed like the 10th variation. The Wesley was a bit of a quiet reprieve after the rather grandly registered Mendelssohn beforehand, and of course was extremely fitting as in this year we celebrate the bi-centenary of Wesley's birth.

A particular highlight of this recital was the Franck Choral, which is one of my favourites. Margaret did well with making the rather English Harrison organ at Durham sound French, although the piece was played a little fast for my liking in places. The final piece is worth a mention, which was a most curious work, which seemed asthough it may have been composed as a joke! It was rather vigorous, random, and ended on the most unpleasant but somehow thrilling full organ sound the organ could have made, with the big Tubas sounding more or less next to us. This was when it became a bit too loud, and it must have been pretty loud for me to say that. Still, it was worth going to hear, although I would have preferred a little more genuine interest here and there, and to have been sat somewhere else on a more comfortable seat. [NOTE: the stalls in the quire at Durham are NOT comfortable seating].

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