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Belgian organist Johan Hermans launched his summer recital (Derby Cathedral, UK, 1 August 2007) with a bold, vigorous account of Guilmant's Grand choeur la Haendel (not the well-known march based on 'Lift up your heads', from Messiah, but a different piece altogether).

It was a Guilmant pupil, Alexandre Cellier, who transcribed Debussy's Clair de Lune for organ, given a performance which was a little heavy on the colour and the heady perfume. Rather more restraint in this respect would have given us a clearer sense of the delicacy of the playing.

Indeed, it was this tendency to over-registration that marred the evening as a whole, particularly in the bigger pieces. A larger building would have lapped it up with no trouble, but for one the size of Derby Cathedral it needed scaling back a few (even several) notches.

The reading of Franck's Choral No 3 vividly explored the contrast between the music's twin poles of turbulence and serenity, while the many contrasting sections of Buxtehude's Magnificat primi toni were intelligently laid out with, on this occasion, some apt registration.

The gentle, plainsong-based meditation of Langlais' Prélude au Kyrie (Orbis Factor) was an ideal upbeat to J S Bach's E flat Prelude and Fugue, BWV 552 (known in the UK as 'St Anne' from the similarity of the fugue subject to William Croft's well-known hymn tune). This was marked by plenty of energy in the Prelude, and a steady, unhurried account of the Fugue.

But what's this? A Philip Glass piece in which something actually happens? Mad rush may be full of his usual mannerisms, but compared with the dreary, featureless wastes of some of his other music, it was positively hyperactive. Even so, I still felt like going and taking the arpeggios and two-note ostinato figures off him, the way you might take a squeaky toy off a noisy and irritating child.

Symphonic fantasy, Op 13, a teenage composition by Flor Peeters, should have been the ideal big finish. Johan Hermans launched into it with all reeds blazing (again, rather too many of them). But the Cathedral organ had other ideas. Part way through, the pedal department threw a major wobbly and refused to continue. Some mechanical investigations revealed no obvious solution, so there was no alternative but to abandon the performance. Hermans gamely produced a short piece for manuals only to end with -- a pity he didn't tell us what it was.

Copyright © 4 August 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK

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MALCOLM ARCHER'S SUMMER ORGAN RECITAL

PETER GOULD AND THE SWINGLE SINGERS

ASHLEY GROTE AT THE DERBY CATHEDRAL ORGAN

TOM CORFIELD'S 2005 DERBY SUMMER RECITAL

DERBY CATHEDRAL

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