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3 August : David Briggs
David Briggs is one of the organ world's most widely admired figures, and there was much here to suggest why.
He handled the gradual build-up of Mulet's Tu es Petra compellingly, effectively distinguishing the music's different layers. This was followed by a rhythmically alert performance of the Scherzetto from Whitlock's C minor Sonata.
Bach's G major Fantasia, BWV572, was one point in the evening where David Briggs's love of a full sound did the music something of a dis-service. He pitched the three sections at too similar a level, with the opening section having little of the brightness and sparkle I usually look forward to in this piece.
His control of pace and tension in the Romance from Vierne's 4th Symphony was compelling, and in the same composer's Carillon de Westminster he offered sharp, clear outlines as a convincing alternative to the misty shimmer often met with.
Orpheus is the most poetically restrained of Liszt's symphonic poems. If only Jean Guillou had conceived his organ transcription in the same spirit. As it is, his (or was it David Briggs's?) extravagant piling on of colour almost overwhelmed Liszt's invention, though David Briggs's control of the music's dying fall at the end was impressive.
He was handed Vaughan William's hymn tune Sine Nomine as the basis for his improvisation, which he plunged into with his head obviously still full of Vierne, evolving from this thrilling start a virtuoso toccata.
Elgar's G major Sonata received in many ways the evening's most satisfying performance. The second movement had the right degree of Elgarian waywardness, and the finale was full of energy.
Another improvisation, a brief, will-o'-the-wisp affair on the flutes, ended the evening.
Copyright © 23 August 2005
Mike Wheeler, Derby UK