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17 August : David Johnson
Derby Cathedral's summer organ recitals have produced some memorable occasions over the years, but I suspect that this one will be talked about for some considerable time.
No question about what was the evening's main event -- the world première of Three Chorale Preludes by Francis Jackson, which David Johnson had commissioned, with the composer present. They are based on three well-known hymn tunes, No 1 weaving elegant lines around Parry's Laudate Dominum, No 2 full of gentle allusions to the same composer's Repton, before quoting it in full, and the last adopting a more pungent harmonic language for Angel Voices Ever Singing. Their unassuming skill and subtlety compelled the attention of the largest audience yet seen at one of these recitals, and I'm sure organists will be clamouring to take them into their repertoire.
The evening began with a sturdy account of Guilmant's Grand Choeur. David Johnson found some appropriately reedy sounds for the Kyrie from the Mass in the Second Tone by French baroque composer André Raison, before demonstrating what Bach did with Raison's passacaglia theme in his Passacaglia and Fugue, BWV 582. One of Bach's most imposing structures, it received a suitably big-boned performance.
A sensitive, atmospheric account of Alain's Le Jardin Suspendu preceded the last piece of the evening, Franck's Chorale no 3 -- more Gallic-sounding reed stops, and a near-ideal balance between the music's restlessness and serenity.
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Copyright © 23 August 2005
Mike Wheeler, Derby UK