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An organ recital by Malcolm Riley,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


The name of the Canadian composer Ernest MacMillan (1893-1973) was new to me, but his breezily Waltonesque Cortège Académique made an effective opener to Malcolm Riley's recital [26 July 2006, Derby Cathedral, UK]. While his programme tended towards the lollipop end of the repertoire, it was still nicely varied, and he proved adept at projecting the contrasts both within and between pieces.

His deceptively placid opening to S S Wesley's Andante in F gave him plenty of room to explore the turbulence of the middle section, and the changes of mood and colour in the third of Saint-Saëns's Rhapsodies on Breton folk-songs were adroitly handled.

His effective transcription of the second minuet and trio from Mozart's B flat wind Serenade K361 prefaced a performance of Hindemith's Third Sonata notable for the clean, sharp colours of the chosen registrations (in the first movement, especially), and brightly energetic playing in the finale.

Riley is an acknowledged expert on Percy Whitlock, and his portable mini-exhibition on the composer, set up near the Cathedral's west door, was very much appreciated. Whitlock's Fantasy Choral No 2 seemed to ramble a bit to begin with, but the increase in tension towards the end was expertly paced.

Adrian Self's pair of pieces, Rileys' Reveries and Rileys' Revels (written for his wedding) made their points succinctly and without fuss; No 2, a rhythmically alert scherzo, is a real winner.

Riley ended the evening with his own thoroughly enjoyable Capriccio; both music and performance were full of bubbling energy. As well as sly allusions to Mendelssohn's Wedding March (it was also played at his wedding, he told us), the spirit of Lefébure-Wély's two hilariously vulgar Sorties seemed to hover benignly over it, and the trio section glanced in the direction of Walton's Orb and Sceptre -- which is more or less where we came in.

Copyright © 7 August 2006 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK




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