The Organ

Royal Hospital Chelsea

Royal Hospital Chelsea
15th November

The final concert in the short series of events at the Royal Hospital Chelsea was held in Wren's austere but magnificent chapel. Completed in 1687, it is an ideal setting for baroque music though the organ is not quite what it seems. Within the Renatus Harris case lurks a more recent Hill, Norman and Beard. While the upper work has a baroque brightness the foundation stops are all overtly romantic. It was logical therefore that the programme presented by Ian Curror and Brass 10 ranged widely in time and seriousness.

A breezy Fanfare by Andrew Trent Davies led rapidly to Gabrieli's Sonata pian' e forte, with the brass ensemble split at the extreme ends of the long chapel for antiphonal effect. Three dances from Praetorius' Terpsichore followed with lush tones as well as strident ornamental motives.

The first organ solo was Bossi's Scherzo which allowed Ian Curror to demonstrate the twinkling upper voices and rapid articulation of the recently refurbished instrument.

All of the above fitted the acoustic with aplomb as did the following arrangements of three motets by Bruckner, even if they tended to somewhat outstay their welcome.

Then came a challenge; the finale from Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony. If nothing else it demonstrated the glory of the composers orchestration and use of tome colour. Stripped of this, the musical line proved repetitive and lacked the dynamic changes the score requires. Added to which the organ was simply not big enough to overwhelm us as it should. An interesting idea, but not one I would want to encounter again. In the second half we had the premiere of a new piece by Joseph Horovitz written to commemorate the Royal Hospital receiving the freedom of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Before the rousing ending was turned over to Kurt Weill, Ian Curror returned to play Vierne's Carillon de Westminster, highlighting the romantic side of the instrument.