Margaret Phillips at St. Martin with St. Peter, London Road, Worcester
13th November 2004
The celebrity organ recital series at St. Martin's, Worcester continued in November with an evening concert given by the distinguished concert organist and teacher Margaret Phillips. The first half of the programme was dedicated to the music of J.S. Bach, and commenced with two preludes from the eighteen chorales. Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott BWV 651 was given a rousing reading, with sparkling manual figuration underpinned by a cantus firmus on a bright and powerful pedal reed. Contrast was offered in the form of an emotionally charged Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele BWV 654, which explored the instrument's softer diapason textures and featured a beautiful cornet solo. A lively performance of Trio Sonata No. 6 in G BWV 530 followed, with carefully balanced registration and clarity throughout, particularly in the final Allegro. The first half concluded with the Passacaglia in C minor BWV 582, which Phillips prefaced with a performance of the short Passacaille en Trio by Andre Raison, from which Bach takes his theme; I for one had never heard this miniature before, which made an interesting introduction to the Bach. The Passacaglia had a great sense of drive throughout, exploring colours with restraint and style, and building to a grandiose and fitting conclusion to the first half of the programme; Phillips' attention to detail of phrasing, articulation and registration, combined with her stylish and polished playing reinforcing her position as a leading interpreter of Bach's music.
The second half by contrast turned to Britain and France and the Romantic era, beginning with W.T. Best's Air and Variations. The variations ranged in character from quiet intimate passages, through to virtuosically executed pedal solos, to an exhilarating finale, and explored the full tonal spectrum of the instrument, from the most delicate flutes and strings through to the tuba and the full organ. A 'lollipop' from Edmund Chipp followed in the form of his Intermezzo in G minor, before the Fantaisie in E flat by Saint-Saens, of which the first section of alternating chords between Great and Swell was particularly effective in the building. The programme concluded with Carillon Orleanais by Henri Nibelle, a French style toccata based on the carillon of Orlean Cathedral, which began quietly and built gradually until the piece ended in a blaze of glory on the tutti.
The audience showed an effusive appreciation, and an encore of Le Bolero du Devin Mozart by Guy Bovet rounded off the evening well. The instrument, built by Trevor G. Tipple of Worcester (2000) is arguably the finest in Worcestershire and was very much at home with all the music in this particularly memorable concert given by one of the country's leading recitalists.
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