In London Town
Works by Judith Bingham, Elgar, Ireland, Tallis, Walton et al
Benjamin Sheen (organ)
CRD CRD3541 77:44 mins
Benjamin Sheen takes the title of his recording from Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture, the centrepiece of his programme and a work played here (in an arrangement by the organist’s father) with musicianly flair. Both the music and this performance exploit all the possibilities of the magnificent Dobson organ at St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue in New York, completed as recently as 2018. But the subtitle, ‘British Organ Music’, stretches things a little since several of the works are arrangements of music not intended for organ, and it seems politically unaware: does a 2022 release really need to open with Walton’s March for A History of the English-Speaking Peoples– the composer at his most superficially flashy – and end with Elgar’s Imperial March?
The original organ pieces make a bitty impression, with the likes of Percy Whitlock and Herbert Howells brought up to date by Judith Bingham. All are very well played by Sheen, who worked at the New York church under the late John Scott, memorialised here by Andrew Carter in his moving Lacrimae. In another fitting memorial, though recorded before Simon Preston’s death, the selection also includes his Alleluyas, a clever riff on Messiaen and good to hear revived – alleluia to that!