ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Twelve Organs of Edinburgh
PERFORMER: Timothy Byram-Wigfield, John Kitchen, Michael Harris, Peter Backhouse (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: PRCD 700
I am sure Timothy Byram-Wigfield, the former organist of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, has a point when he speaks of that city as possessing ‘arguably the finest collection of instruments [organs] in any city in the United Kingdom’ in his introduction to this set. The city’s historical and contemporary organs are, quite rightly, a collection of which to be proud. The 12 organs chosen are presented with conviction by four players in programmes that are musically diverse and refreshingly different; it was a pleasure to hear music by Handel, for example, and also the Hesse, Hovland and, through Lemare’s consummate skill as an arranger, the excerpt from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.
With such enterprising anthologies – often refreshing in themselves amid so many releases of complete works – one learns a lot and discovers new and, occasionally, unpredictable perspectives: Handel’s Il pastor fido Overture played with great skill by Kitchen on Parker’s ‘Enharmonic’ organ at St Cecilia’s Hall for reasons of historical correctness, for example; Sweelinck played on the Willis at St Stephen’s for the unexpected combination of instrument and repertoire (the sound of the opening trumpet stop is excellent, as are subsequent registrations); and, hearing the Bellevue organ, one is reminded of how accomplished its builder Lewis, still a relatively forgotten craftsman, actually was. Andrew McCrea