On the subject of Organ recitals, in the past ten years I suppose I have been to a few in this country and the UK!
Two spring to mind. Both by ex-cathedral organists - who shall be nameless. The first was in a concert hall with about 20 people in the audience. The player played fistfuls of wrong notes, made no attempt to talk about the music he was playing and the programme notes were less than useless! It was dreary. The choice of music was dreary and it did absolutely nothing to endear anyone to go back again. The second was in a Parish church. It was quite full. The recitalist, as with the previous player, played fistfuls of wrong notes but he endeared himself to his audience with a 'good yarn' before each piece and it was a thoroughly enjoyable affair.
And, on the subject of coughing! I remember sitting opposite Pau Casals when he was playing unaccompanied Bach. It was a wonderful experience and one that I will live with for a very long time. But at 'hairy' moments, if Casals ever had hairy moments, he would suck frenetically on his pipe!!
Yes Stanley, I'm sorry, but I have to agree with SL here!
But never having been one to let go once having got a rat between my teeth (a bit like Stanley in this respect I think, and I know he won't mind me having said so), how abouts a bit of the truth about at least some professional organists?
I'm of an age when I was lucky enough to be have been able to attend the weekly organ recitals at the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesdays at 5:55 (because I spent 7 years at King's just across the river in the 1960s/70s). So twixt then and now I've attended an awful lot of them, and not only in this country either. Here's just a sprinkling of the less impressive memories. I'm naming only those who can't sue me. It's far from a complete list.
Jacques van Oortmerssen: shuddered to a dead stop in the middle of 'the' toccata at the Royal Albert Hall. Slow hand clap at the end. So embarrassing but, as the unknown guy sitting on my right said, "I'll be asking for my money back".
Robert Joyce: casually let his foot produce an extended pedal drone, which is not in any edition I've seen, during the Pastorale of Guilmant's 1st sonata at Llandaff cathedral. Knowing glances between knowledgeable members of the audience.
A cathedral organist, not performing on his home instrument, who accidentally brought on full organ (or something approaching it) in a quiet movement of a Mendelssohn sonata. To be fair, it might have been his registrant who was performing near-lunatic acrobatics at the console. (And as an aside, how many other instruments need more than one player? Might this have anything to do with the low esteem in which the organ is held by many other musicians?).
I could go on - at length. However to counter all this, we need to remember that the perfect renditions we hear on recordings are largely synthetic and unrepresentative of reality. The average CD contains over 1000 edits. Some recordings are produced by snipping the best bits out of, and then replaying via the instrument itself, several MIDI recordings which many modern pipe organs facilitate. None of this is ever made clear to Joe Public who has to shell out hard earned cash to buy the result. Prior to the days when such things could be done, Walter Alcock at Salisbury Cathedral was said to cough discreetly when his blemishes appeared on his 78 rpm recordings when friends persuaded him to play them. We simply cannot demand this level of flawlessness in live performances and it is unreasonable to expect otherwise. But by the same token, I would respectfully ask that some of these self-styled paragons of virtue might therefore temper their criticisms of the amateur, without whom Christianity as we have come to know it in countless thousands of churches and chapels across this country would be the poorer. There is a parallel forum to this one where there is currently and regrettably not much activity, but quite often amateur organists (who typically style themselves 'reluctant pianists') ask for, and receive, a lot of assistance from kindly professionals without a hint of the cant which I am afraid sometimes surfaces here. Wouldn't it be nice if the reluctant pianists felt able to join our ranks?