COMPOSERS: Preston; JS Bach; Franck; Mendelssohn; Grace; Baker
LABELS: King’s College
ALBUM TITLE: The King of Instruments: A Voice Reborn
WORKS: Works by Preston, JS Bach, Franck, Mendelssohn, Grace and Baker
PERFORMER: Stephen Cleobury (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: KGS 0020 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Over nine months during 2016, the Hill/Harrison & Harrison organ of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge underwent restoration – each of the 4,300 pipes cleaned inside and out, new soundboards and action installed and the four-manual console overhauled, incorporating its old key coverings. And to ensure a long life free from dust and grime, the chapel was also deep-cleaned.
Stephen Cleobury’s programme demonstrates the organ’s all-round capabilities, the surround-sound recording giving a richer flavour of the chapel’s resonant acoustics. Chorales from the Clavierübung III sit cheek-by-jowl with Mendelssohn’s Sonata No. 1, Franck’s Pièce héroïque and, to open, Simon Preston’s Langlais-esque 1965 Alleluyas. On the whole, the organ is a pretty flexible beast, best in the Mendelssohn and Franck where heavy diapasons and rounded reeds make all the difference, but less spectacular in Bach, its mixtures, pedals reeds and mutations a little ‘English’ and understated for this repertoire. US composer George Baker’s stately 2015 Procession Royale, dedicated to Cleobury and given its first recording here, gives the organ’s ceremonial side an airing. The booklet includes the full revised specification, an account of the restoration and some rather nice before, during and after photos.