The Organ

Halifax Parish Church - Christopher Newton

Halifax Parish Church
16th August

I always look forward to a recital by Christopher Newton. As before, I was not disappointed, for his innate musicianship and fine technique were on this occasion combined with the superb 1929 Harrison and Harrison at Halifax Parish Church in a fascinating programme of less well known British/Irish and French music.

The evening began with a stirring performance of Alfred Hollins' Concert Overture in C minor. This music was very much a product of its age, though Hollins was clearly no mean composer: the fugal section was perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the work – it never really seemed to 'get going', though through no fault of the performer, and the organ was shown off to great advantage, whether soft or loud! There followed the Benedictus from Stanford's Sonata Britannica. In some ways, I would have preferred to hear the whole work, for it is very much written on the grand scale and the movement chosen perhaps makes better sense in the context of the larger structure. Again, however, Christopher extracted just about everything possible from both the music and the instrument: use of the Swell division was particularly impressive, I thought.

Then for something lighter: I had not heard John Gardner's Jig before, but found it entrancing. It is one of Five Dances for Organ and well constructed it is too, with its moto perpetuo feeling – brilliantly played by Christopher, with some delicious use of flutes and reeds. A further contrast came with an arrangement of Fauré's Pavane, sensitively interpreted by the performer, with some subtle and very effective registration. Staying (for the rest of the evening) with French music, four pieces from Dandrieu's Premier Livre d'Orgue showed how remarkably versatile the Harrison is: I was not sure about the use of the Tuba for the Duo, but was convinced after only a few bars! It was interesting to note how similar Dubois' Offertoire (Messe de Mariage) was to the Fauré: one written for orchestra – the other for organ, though the Pavane has far more intensity.

The recital ended with Alain's Deux Danses a Agni Yavishta – with strong oriental influences and shades of Litanies: these pieces were brilliantly played. And then two parts of Dallier's Cinq Évocations: the first a gentle lyrical piece (Stella Matutina) the second a rip-roaring toccata (Electa ut Sol), a great way to end a fine recital. Thanks to Dr Newton for exploring the repertoire so brilliantly and congratulations to Philip Tordoff for maintaining this weekly series during the summer months.