Thomas Trotter: A Shropshire Idyll

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Boyce,Handel (arr. Trotter),Walton,Wesley and Nyman
LABELS: Regent
ALBUM TITLE: Thomas Trotter: A Shropshire Idyll
WORKS: Works by Handel (arr. Trotter), Boyce, Walton, Wesley and Nyman
PERFORMER: Thomas Trotter (organ)

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Even by the musty standards of too many organ films – truly creative examples show it doesn’t have to be the way – this is something of a curate’s egg. Its raison d’être is to mark the 250th anniversary of the renowned organ of St Laurence’s Church in Ludlow, based on a 1764 instrument by the famous Swiss builder John Snetzler, and the programme ranges widely across English musical history to evoke styles going back to the mid-18th century and earlier. The best thing about this enterprise is the brilliant musicianship of Thomas Trotter, who is captured playing the whole programme from memory (on film at least – the recital is also presented on a separately recorded CD).

In an effort to justify the DVD’s title, A Shropshire Idyll, each track is prefaced with stanzas from the poetry of AE Housman. None of the works on the programme has a Shropshire connection, yet the booklet includes an interesting note pointing up parallels between the two great Worcestershire-born contemporaries, Elgar and Housman. Trotter’s performance of the Elgar Sonata is tautly argued and excitingly paced. Though most of the camera shots are mundane, in the elegiac third movement the film dwells movingly on Housman’s grave at St Laurence’s.

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The rest of the programme, though bitty and not always musically rewarding, is buoyantly played. One unexpected highlight is Nyman’s Fourths, Mostly. It’s a hypnotic etude with a jazzily syncopated climax – no idyll, Shropshire or otherwise, it shows all Trotter’s virtuosity. John Allison