Saturday 28 April 2012

Westminster Cathedral Grand Organ festival

This year's Grand Organ Festival is now underway at Westminster Cathedral, a total of 8 free organ recitals on Wednesday evenings. The first one was last Wednesday, so if you wanted to hear Winfried Bönig from Cologne Cathedral in a programme mainly devoted to Bach, then you are too late. But there are delights to come.

On 23 May, Martin Baker (organist at Westminster Cathedral) plays Widor's 8th Symphony; we don't hear the complete symphonies enough, too often organist simply include single movements. Then on 20 June veteran organist Simon Preston pairs Messiaen's L'Ascenscion with Liszt's Fantasia and fugue Ad nos, ad salutarem undam (in fact based on a chorale from one of Meyerbeer's operas).  Paul Jacobs (from the Juilliard School has a fascinating programme with Elgar's first Sonata, Nadia Boulanger's Trois Pieces plus music by Wayne Oquin and Demessieux (both names new to me). Boulanger stopped composing after her sister died and it is good to be reminded what an interesting composer she was.

William Whitehead (Lincoln's Inn) finishes his recital on 29 August with his own transcription of Parry's 5th Symphony, which should be fascinating to hear. He starts with an arrangement of Elgar's Imperial March in between we have Judith Bingham's Everlasting Crown, and pieces from Whitehead's own Orgelbuchlein Project where he has been commissioning composers to fill in the missing pieces from Bach's Orgelbuchlein. Bach planned 164 pieces and wrote out the titles, but only actually completed 46. At Westminster Whitehead will be playing three of Bach's works alongside those of Dick Koomans and Jacques van Oortmerssen.

19 September sees Joseph Cullen (Leeds) giving us another complete symphony, this time Vierne's 2nd Symphony in E minor, along with music by McMillan, de Grigny and Puccini! (Cullen's own transcription of the Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut). Peter Stevens (also from Westminster Cathedra) presents a well balanced recital on 17 October with music by Bach, Buxtehude, Franck, Fricker, Messiaen and Durufle.

The series completes on 5 December when Dame Gillian Weir gives her final pubic performance.

Recitals all take place at 7.30pm at Westminster Cathedral and last 75 minutes. They are free, with a retiring collection, so represent an inexpensive opportunity to hear high quality music making on one of the world's great organs.

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