Collection: The King of Instruments – Live at St John’s, Smith Square

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Bach,Dupre,Mozart
LABELS: Eye of the Storm
WORKS: Toccata in F, BWV 540; Fantasia in F minor, K608; Intermezzo from Organ Sonata No. 8; Organ Sonata No. 3; Prélude, Fugue et Variations; Chorale No. 1 in E
PERFORMER: David King (organ)


The recently installed Klais organ at St John’s, Smith Square, provides the setting for the first ‘live’ disc of organ music to have come my way. David King’s programme is drawn from two recitals he gave at St John’s in 1995. However, the advantages of live recording are outweighed here by the disadvantages, including technical fallibility and occasional loss of control over the pulse of the music.

The swagger of the opening Toccata in F by Bach is marred by rushed quavers and an intermittent loss of clarity and style. In the same way, the Mozart Fantasia in F minor suffers badly from nerves, the serene middle section besieged by clipped phrasing and ungainly ornaments. These performances would be acceptable in the context of a live recital, but repeated listening becomes uncomfortable, and the closely miked recording casts the sound of the organ in an unfavourably discerning light.

It is good to hear the organs at King’s and St John’s Colleges, Cambridge, often heard in radio broadcasts, sideby side on one disc. Two erstwhile Cambridge organ scholars, James Martin and David Goode, give fine accounts of music well suited to these instruments. Martin includes a jubilant Prelude and Fugue in G by Bach and a taut account of part of Dupré’s Symphonie-Passion. Goode’s programme is similarly well performed, underpinned by an outstanding technique that comes to the fore in a performance of Dupré’s Prelude and Fugue in G minor.


The Dalstein-Haerpfer organ at Saint-Sébastien de Nancy packs a powerful punch and provides a sonority that reflects Vierne’s sound-world with great eloquence. Mathieu plays with flair and both symphonies are given committed performances. Recorded sound is bright and full.