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Rah Gala Organ Concert


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I know I was not impressed by the programme put together for last night's gala concert, but by the time I left the RAH at 10pm the rancour was forgotten, and a thoroughly good night was had by all judging from the comments i heard as we poured out onto Prince Consort Road. You certainly heard the organ, too much at times it may be said! From the moment the first rumble was heard from the 32' Contra Violone in the opening of "Also Sprach Zarathustra", the the nerve shattering final cord of the piece, i knew we were in for a good night. No holds barred - the organ (played by the lovely Mr Disley) simply swept the orchestra away, and hard as they might sayw and blow on their instruments, nothing could be heard but the mighty Willis/Harrison/Mander alalgam that is now our organ.


The Saint Saens quiet movement had some really lovely moments - especially near the end when the Orchestral strings and the pedal 32's blended beautifually with the orchestra ( some of these 32 notes really make the place shake!!).


It would have been nice for the finale, if there had been more of a build-up - say start with the Orchestral trumpets coupled to the great instead of going flat out with the trombas from the very beginning. Even so - theres seemed to be a bit more added all the time until the shattering final chords.


The organ entries into the Walton & Elgar bits was everything it should be and then went onto being a helluva lot more, again drowing the poor old orchestra completely (although in Steven Disley's hands for Cockaigne it was just right, whereas the dear Doctor just couldn't help himself as he snatched out for his tubas with gay abandon, and sat smugly with his arms folded with bottom D and everything going like the clappers for the end of Land Hope & Glory - brilliant!!).


The Mascagni Intermezzo was lovely - more than enough organ, but never too much. It was disappointing to have the Widor, one of only 2 genuine organ solo works, joined by the orchestra - the sound was a bit muddy, and again Steven Disley was more generous in not completely anahilating the orchestra - at least until the very end.


Ok - so it wasn't a proper organ reciltal, and the organ was unashamedly given rather more to say for itself in some of the works than it normally would have been allowed, but it was fun, people came (three-quarters full?) and obviously enjoyed it.




A year on from the re-opening of the organ - and it sounds even better than it did then. If you haven't been and heard it live - GO!! No amount of listening to CD's radio broadcasts or TV concerts can prepare you for the real thing. I sat in the Circle, front row block V, about 5 o'clock from the organ - so by no means on top of it, and the sound absolutely knocked you flat!!! It is well worth the trouble - even if you live on the moon!

Bill :

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I agree with most of what Bill has written.


However, I became more than a little annoyed at the over use of full organ. If the organ and orchestra are to perform together it should be as a partnership. Did the Saint Saens really need the tubas?


And, why oh why did we have to have the Widor performed as a duet for organ and orchestra.


The organ is sounding wonderful. Full organ is a breathtaking sound. But, I really don't wish to hear full organ over and over and over again in one concert. Whilst organists might and do enjoy watching (rather than hearing) the organ overwhelm the orchestra, other music lovers might well find this strange and unmusical.


My proposition would be that the organ be allowed to drown the orchestra on two occasions only during each concert.


Alan Taylor

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Even drowning out the orchestra twice in one concert is two times too many. Surely this is the fault of the conductor who must be prepared to advise the organist on whether the balance with the orchestra is correct.

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Even drowning out the orchestra twice in one concert is two times too many. Surely this is the fault of the conductor who must be prepared to advise the organist on whether the balance with the orchestra is correct.

No.........I agree with Alan - a good drowining (or drubbing) is good for orchestras now and then! Most of the time when I have heard Elgar/Walton etc the organ bit is either missing entirely or just not audible. I think conductors often don't like organs: Makes 'em feel inferior. " SMALL diapasons only" they will wail if some wretched organist goes above mp " and definitely absolutely NO full swell" they will cry.


Nice now and then to show 'em who'se boss.


Seriously, isn't the answer to provide fantastic concerts like Saturday's - when all and sundry can fall under the bewitching spell of the dragon slaying St George for a change - PLUS a decent programme for people who like organ MUSIC!!


After all - who decides what's artistic and what's not?


I am with those who like noise and clangour......but then again - I also value and appreciate organ music played as the composer intended. Isn't that the whole point? This glorious and fantastic organ was built to suit ALL tastes. Let it do its JOB!!!!!



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