The Organ

Anne Page at Adlington

Anne Page at Adlington
November 14th

The setting for this particular recital was quite stunning - a grand country home on a cold winter's night. Set in the heart of the Cheshire countryside, Adlington Hall is one of the most beautiful homes in England, with a lineage dating back almost seven centuries. It is presently owned by Camilla Legh.

A roaring fire welcomed the audience, and the doors were kept tightly closed to 'keep the organ warm', as it is indeed an instrument of which good care needs to be taken. Dating back to around 1690, it is famously reputed to have been played by Handel, who certainly stayed at the house on several occasions. It was later restored in 1959 by Noel Mander. Renowned for his scholarly and sympathetic approach, Mander was at the forefront of the movement to restore classic British organs during the 1950s and 1960s. This recital was a celebration of the launch of a new CD recording of the organ at Adlington made as a tribute to his memory.

The murals surrounding the organ were also interesting: to the right is depicted St Cecilia (the patron saint of music), playing a harp, and to the left is a lady playing the lute. It is thought this lady was inspired by Arabella Hunt, the lutenist for Queen Anne. These murals date back to around 1705, although they are unsigned. Other murals in the room included portraits of Helen of Troy and Venus. It therefore seemed quite fitting to me that our organist for the evening was also a lady - Anne Page, who is known in the UK and abroad as a musician who combines virtuosity with versatility, and has presented many world and UK performances.

Anne began her recital with early English music from composers William Boyce and William Byrd. The organ sang these bright and cheerful tunes, and Byrd's fast scales were a pleasure to listen to. The instrument sounded clear and bright from the start and the choice of music was very light hearted. The organist then moved on to 'For the Organ' (Matthew Locke), 'Voluntary in G major' (Purcell) and 'Voluntary for Double Organ' (Purcell), chosen as examples of compositions contemporary with the instrument itself. The complicated movements in 'For the Organ' were made to sound effortless by the organist. Next came the Double Voluntary by John Blow, which utilised 2 manuals. The contrasting soft and loud sounds really showed off the clarity and range of the organ.

Towards the middle of the recital we moved across the channel to enjoy a series of French dances, 'Pavenne' and 'Gaillarde' by Pierre Attaignant and the later 'Basse de Trompette' by Louis Marchand. I found the French music more interesting to listen to than what had gone before; the bassoon on the 'choir' manual was utilised, and the trumpet sound came into play in 'Basse de Trompette', which was lovely to hear, and reminded me how versatile an organ really is.

The recital concluded with music from Georgian London, composed by John Stanley and then Handel. I'm afraid I wasn't inspired by Stanley's 'Concerto Op. 2 no. 5 in A minor'; I preferred the French music, but finishing with Handel seemed very fitting given the instrument's claim to fame. 'Sing unto God' was a wonderful, stirring piece of music and very well performed. To be in such a historic hall was a magical setting for this recital, and this concluding piece of music completed the experience for me. I would highly recommend the CD, and a visit to Adlington Hall.