The Organ of Rochdale Town Hall

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COMPOSERS: Carl Maria von Weber,George Frideric Handel,Giuseppe Verdi,JS Bach,Louis Spohr,Otto Nicolai,Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: The Organ of Rochdale Town Hall
WORKS: Organ transcriptions, Vol. 2: JS Bach’s Aria from Cantata, BWV80; Handel: Ptolemy Overture; Nicolai: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor Overture; Spohr: Jessonda Overture; Tchaikovsky: Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture; Verdi: Prelude to La traviata Act I; Weber: Oberon Overture
PERFORMER: Timothy Byram-Wigfield (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: Delphian DCD 34143

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Thanks to the example of such organists as David Briggs and his heroic excursions into Mahler, organ transcriptions of orchestral works have been enjoying something of a renaissance. A vogue even. Timothy Byram-Wigfield is another champion of the genre, and, as a follow-up to his disc of overture transcriptions from Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Gallery, he heads south to the 1913 JJ Binns instrument in Rochdale Town Hall where overtures predominate once more.

Looming over them all is Edwin Lemare’s formidable transcription of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, with its battle cry to the thumbs which must play the tune on one keyboard while the remaining fingers hazard chords on another. Byram-Wigfield takes it all in his unflappable stride, the opening carefully layered, the control scrupulous throughout, though almost to a fault when the sheer lucidity refuses to surrender to the heat of the moment.

The Prelude to Verdi’s La traviata might not, in this arrangement by Byram-Wigfield,  summon the frisson it invokes in the opera house, but it shows off the tangy string stops to fine effect. In Handel’s Ptolemy Overture, transcribed by Craig Sellar Lang, 18th-century inspired articulation meets early 20th-century sonorous heft.

Deftly characterised, well recorded and with lively liner notes by Byram-Wigfield himself, this is altogether a tantalising testament to the transcriber’s art.

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Paul Riley