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An organ recital by John Keys,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


John Keys, organist of St Mary's Church, Nottingham, UK, launched this year's series of Derby Cathedral summer organ recitals [5 July 2006] with a programme that went for the big statement -- no delicate, meditative or airy miniatures here.

Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 settled down after a shaky start, to be followed by the first of this year's Mozart centenary offerings -- the Adagio and Allegro in F minor, K594, originally written for mechanical clock. Keys spoke beforehand of his intention to 'let the music speak for itself'. His performance did precisely that, with no unnecessary point-making.

He took a monumental view of J S Bach's great C minor Passacaglia, BWV 582, with a rock-solid rhythmic foundation, and with judicious changes of registration to articulate the music's structure.

In spite of his tragically short life, Jehan Alain is a major figure in French music. His Two Fantasies, from 1933 and 1936 respectively, are startlingly original and powerful pieces, and Keys showed a lively sympathy with Alain's teeming imagination.

Liszt's Fantasy and Fugue on 'Ad nos, ad salutarem undam' is, as Keys said in his introduction, 'long and rambling', but it is also a remarkably compelling piece. To have succeeded in holding it all together as successfully as he did was quite an achievement in itself. His wide dynamic range did not always work to the music's advantage -- there were one or two moments when the volume from the manuals covered some essential information in the pedal part. But Liszt's rhetoric was pitched at the right level, neither over-dramatic nor understated.

Copyright © 10 July 2006 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK




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