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Ashley Grote opens Derby Cathedral's series of summer organ recitals, reviewed by Mike Wheeler


In his mid twenties, and an assistant organist at Westminster Abbey, Ashley Grote is a rising star in the British organ world. He opened Derby Cathedral's summer recital series with a programme (Derby Cathedral, Derby, UK, 4 July 2007) that divided neatly into two: a baroque, or baroque-influenced, first half, and a romantic/modern second.

Parry's Fantasia and Fugue in G is shaped on baroque lines. Ashley Grote launched boldly into the Fantasia, and maintained a strong rhythmic current in the Fugue, with registrations that combined combined richness and clarity. Bach's Trio super Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr', BWV664, followed -- again, beautifully chosen registrations that produced a bright, sparkly sound, but the rhythmic steadiness that marked the Parry was occasionally missing. In Buxtehude's D minor Praeludium, BuxWV140, stop changes effectively marked out the different sections without drawing attention to themselves. The outer sections of Mozart's F minor Fantasia, K608, sounded suitably imposing, while the central passage had some delightfully intimate moments.

Messiaen's early (1930) Diptyque provides a fascinating overview of the composer's emerging harmonic and melodic language. Ashley Grote contrasted perfectly the dark restlessness of the first section -- bringing out some unexpectedly Franckian overtones, particularly at the start -- and the vast slowness of the meditative second, to which he brought intense concentration.

The one serious disappointment of the evening was Elgar's Chanson de Matin, in the transcription by Herbert Brewer, drained of its charm by Ashley Grote's brisk tempo. But Ad Wamme's minimalist-influenced Miroir was engagingly chirpy, rhythmically alert and sonically bright and clean as a whistle. After that, the finale of Vierne's 6th Symphony came as a considerable culture-shock. A big, gaudy splashy piece, it got a performance to match.

Copyright © 11 July 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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