Organ Works by JS Bach, Handel, Saint-Saëns et al
John Challenger (organ)
AJM AJM001 (Digital Only) 60:06 mins
A five-star cause – but, alas, about two-and-a-half stars worth of musical satisfaction. Salisbury Cathedral made the news early in the year when its organists started supplying soothing music for the thousands of people receiving their Covid-19 vaccinations there. Released to raise funds for the NHS, this album is for those who want a souvenir of their jab or to hear pieces they might have missed due to the efficiency of the programme – two or three short works may have soothed squeamish nerves, but this sequence of 16 gets wearying.
With all usual lollipops drawn from Bach, Handel, Albinoni, Elgar et al, this is like the soundtrack to a wedding where the bride is running an hour late. And while there is nothing wrong with organ transcriptions and arrangements, only a few pieces are original organ works: slow movements from Mendelssohn (Sonata No. 3) and Boëllmann (Suite Gothique) and chorale preludes by Brahms (‘Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungenw’) and Vaughan Williams (‘Rhosymedre’). Most are given well-behaved, slightly bland performances by Salisbury Cathedral’s assistant director of music, John Challenger, yet even Brahms’s miniature masterpiece is played with little feeling for its harmonic pull. Download to support the NHS, but don’t listen too often.