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David Thornton

Inspirational Lps

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As one who got the organ bug early on, I wanted to run before I could walk; I guess many of you did also.

 

From about the age of 11 I started collecting organ recordings, a number of which were played to death during my teens. Performances were memorised in every nuance, scores purchased and the easier bits learned, the harder bits simplified if possible or just omitted. The music shop said I'd never play them, my organ teacher just stuck to the exam grade pieces, but I still presevered!

 

So, here are my top 5 inspirational LPs from my dim and distant youth:

  • Crown Imperial, from Westminster Abbey/Simon Preston
  • Great Cathedral Organ Series - York Minster/Francis Jackson
  • Great Cathedral Organ Series - Hereford/Melville Cook
  • 2 Bach LPs from Gross Munster, Zurich, played by Andre Marchal (performances well ahead of their time in the mid 60s)

I also loved many of the Rymuse EP series, in particular York and Liverpool.

I've still got them all, and quite a few more, but wouldn't dream of playing them now (I'm ashamed to say that I sold the turntable a few years ago).

 

So, what turned you on to the organ in your early years?

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As one who got the organ bug early on, I wanted to run before I could walk; I guess many of you did also.

 

From about the age of 11 I started collecting organ recordings, a number of which were played to death during my teens. Performances were memorised in every nuance, scores purchased and the easier bits learned, the harder bits simplified if possible or just omitted. The music shop said I'd never play them, my organ teacher just stuck to the exam grade pieces, but I still presevered!

 

So, here are my top 5 inspirational LPs from my dim and distant youth:

  • Crown Imperial, from Westminster Abbey/Simon Preston
  • Great Cathedral Organ Series - York Minster/Francis Jackson
  • Great Cathedral Organ Series - Hereford/Melville Cook
  • 2 Bach LPs from Gross Munster, Zurich, played by Andre Marchal (performances well ahead of their time in the mid 60s)

I also loved many of the Rymuse EP series, in particular York and Liverpool.

I've still got them all, and quite a few more, but wouldn't dream of playing them now (I'm ashamed to say that I sold the turntable a few years ago).

 

So, what turned you on to the organ in your early years?

 

I must have been about fourteen or so when my music teacher - Keith Rhodes - played us the Cocker Tuba Tune on the Francis Jackson, York Minster LP you mention.

 

That prompted me to go out and immediately buy it: my first organ LP (in fact my first LP full stop).

 

Other early organ LPs that had a profound effect were the four 'Organ Magnificent' albums by Gunther Brausinger. I suspect that many who have them/have heard them may regard them as a little trite, but I love them. I bought them individually as and when funds permitted! Incidentally, the only one of which I am not fairly sure of the instrument is the fourth one (the one with the Russian pieces). Can anyone enlighten me?

 

John

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Being pretty much self taught on the organ until I reached the sixth form, the LPs that shaped my teenage playing more than any others were the first 12 or so (after which I ran out of money) of Lionel Rogg's Bach recordings on the Grossmünster, Zürich. Both the organ and the playing were a revelation.

 

Running these a very close second came one of James Dalton playing Bach and Couperin on the (then brand new) Frobenius at The Queen's College, Oxford.

 

Then there was a wonderful LP of Michael Schneider playing Bach at Lüneburg that, if memory serves, I bought in Paris.

 

Somewhere in Germany I picked up an 9-inch LP of Fernando Germani at St Laurents, Alkmaar playing three Bach P&Fs: the "Wedge", the Great C minor and the 9/8 C major. Weighty performances of real depth on a tremendous organ.

 

Simon Preston's recording of Messiaen's La Nativité at Westminster Abbey inspired me so much I went away and learnt the whole thing.

 

The only LP from the Geat Cathedral Organ series I ever acquired was the one of Douglas Guest at Westminster Abbey. I thought it a bit uneven, but I was very fond of his two Howells tracks (Preludio Sine Nomine and Sarabande in modo elegiaco - my introduction to Howells in fact) and, above all else, his masterly performance of the Introduction and Passacaglia from Rheinberger's 8th.

 

I think that was my entire organ collection at the time.

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Rogg's Hindemith from Zurich in my case. Various Oryx records of old continental organs (now largely a Harmonia Mundi CD box). "The Organ in Sanity and Madness". "An Organ for an Organ Scholar". A little later, Catherine Ennis at Reading Town Hall.

 

Paul

 

(edit) I am reminded by another post to add Downes at the Festival Hall playing Sei Gegrusset and the Widor Toccata; and Heiller playing Bach Concerti - never had music sounded more inevitable.

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It's a funny thing, but the name Francis Jackson seems to always top so many lists of favourite recordings, and I must include myself as a devotee of recordings which now, are over forty years old.

 

Whatever Francis touched turned to gold, whether it was a magnificent C major "Weimar" on an EP, or his profoundly definitive recording of Healey Willan, which I doubt could ever be bettered by anyone.

 

It's interesting that the name Melville Cook also features, because this was the organist who, when I was all of 14, totally slayed me with his Reger at a live recital at Leeds PC. 14 is very young to become an instant convert to Reger's organ-music, but such was the power of Melville Cook's performing ability, I was totally overwhelmed by it, to the extent that I remained almost speechless for 24 hours afterwards.

 

A very similar thing happened with Roger Fisher and the Reubke Sonata, but even better, because I could obtain it on LP after hearing it played live at Chester. Easily one of the top half-dozen live and recorded performances I've ever witnessed.

 

I'm surprised that no-one has mentioned Michel Chapuis as a Bach-performer, because he brought real panache to outstanding scholarship, and usually took care to play the right instruments. An LP played by Chapuis on the F C Schnitger organ, Zwolle, is still a prized item in my collection.

 

The extensive set of recordings on old Netherlands instruments, by Flor Peeters, was also an instant revelation.

 

However, a recording on the "Edelweiss" label, of Fransesco Finotti playing Schumann, on the organ of the Tonehalle, Zurich, must qualify as the most extraordinary experience of all. Schumann's music is ever so nice; quite deep and often very intellectual. His organ music is a bit academic, but a delight nevertheless. Then I came to the track entitled "Fugue no.2 on BACH" and my whole perspective was turned upside down. It wasn't just the music, it was the incredible control of the performance, the absolutely stunning interpretation and the barn-burning ferocity of it.

 

I recall chatting about it to a very highly respected organist in America, and when I said, "I've never heard anything like it," all he could say was, "Neither have I."

 

It is such an extraordinary piece of organ-playing, I was determined to learn it for myself, and play it the way Finotti played it. Nice idea: bad idea!

 

It didn't take me a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, it took me SIX MONTHS of almost daily practise, to get my fingers around a very fast and very detached style of interpretation, and to develop very rapid and very precise finger substitution technique in the process. The music may look straightforward enough, but when played in a detached "Lebhaft" (fast), it becomes an incredible challenge to master this work. I must have been truly motivated and excited by this work, because when I did finally learn it and then play it in a recital, I can vividly recall the reaction of the audience. They just sat there in stunned silence afterwards, like they'd just been shot between the eyes!

 

My final choice would go to that marvellous LP on the Vista label, with Jane Parker-Smith playing "French Romantic" at Blackburn Cathedral. It is worth paying a mountain of money just to hear Dupre's "Spinning wheel" and the Durufle Toccata from Suite Op 5.

 

Organ-playing just doesn't come better than this.

 

MM

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It was The Kings of Instruments for me - for those who don't know this LP, it was a sampler taken from a range of organ recordings by EMI. Side 2 was the corker - Karg-Elert from Rawsthorne at Liverpool, Purcell Old 100th from Thalben-Ball at the Temple, Boellmann Toccata from Blenheim with Danby, the Cocker from FJ at YM and then a great perfrmance of the BWV 565 from Allan Wicks at Canterbury.

 

Another early purchase was the Herrick St Paul's recording from 1969 - Wills Fanfare, Mathias Processional (on the Trimpette Militaire), Bridge Adagio, Reger Te Deum, Liszt Adagio in D flat, Litanies and Choral Dorien with Transports de joie and Priere du Christ to finish off.

 

Martin

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I'm with Martin on this one, but it was the Vierne Carillon de Westminster that really fired me up to the extent that I made several cassette recordings of it so as not to wreck my disc! The piece still does fire me up, but I now prefer the Latry recording from ND de P. I just couldn't believe the York Minster tuba in the Cocker until I made the effort to go and hear it in the flesh at the age of 14, and can still remember the huge thrill when it came on. I can't imagine that there will ever be another recording of the piece to match it.

 

I had several LPs previously, all Bach, but it was the sampler that opened my ears to other composers, most of whom were new names to me. My love of Vierne started with that but it was nurtured by a recording of E. Power Biggs playing the Final from Symphony 1 on the organ of St. George's, New York and this remains my favourite movement from all 6 symphonies. I owe EPB for introducing me to Alain, Dupré, Franck, Gigout and Saint-Saens and for making me explore the Romantic French repertoire which I love even more today.

 

Incidentally, the cash (£16 10/6) needed to buy my Dansette stereo record player - you know, the one with a built in speaker for the right channel and another separate cabinet for the left plugged into the back of the player - came from my first "professional" engagement. This was playing the harmonium for Sunday morning services for 2 years in Stratford-upon-Avon Hospital Chapel!

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My interest in the organ goes back more than 50 years, and I probably learned most at that time from Lionel Rogg's complete bach recordings.

 

However, the one LP which inspired me more than any other was Piet Kee's 1954 recording at Alkmaar, with pieces by Buxtehude, var Noordt, Sweelinck, Reger, Couperin and Distler. I have judged all later recordings of the works of these composers by that recording, and the closer to Kee's style they are, the more right they sound. I'm very sad that he didn't record the complete works of Bach and Buxtehude, and I would very much like to know what he would have done with a complete Couperin organ mass, if he had recorded on a suitable instrument.

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It was The King of Instruments for me - for those who don't know this LP, it was a sampler taken from a range of organ recordings by EMI. Side 2 was the corker - Karg-Elert from Rawsthorne at Liverpool, Purcell Old 100th from Thalben-Ball at the Temple, Boellmann Toccata from Blenheim with Danby, the Cocker from FJ at YM and then a great perfrmance of the BWV 565 from Allan Wicks at Canterbury.

 

If anyone ever turns this into a suitable file or CD I'd be first on the list for a copy - back a bit it came up in discussion on this forum. There were also those 45s of Arthur Wills at Ely (my first Couperin - albeit on a H&H with revoiced reeds only then), Richard LLoyd at Hereford (Bonnet - Pastorale and Mathias - Processional - first Willis sound) etc. The first Hurford Bach set on tape made a great impression on me especially as we could also hear him live at our local cathedral up the road at St Albans.

 

AJJ

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Guest Stanley Monkhouse

The GCOS series did it for this (then) impressionable teenager. Liverpool was curiously disappointing to me, despite the wonderful Mozart. Whitlock’s Fanfare and Vierne’s lovely Berceuse were criticsed in a review (?MT) as being not the best of their composers’ output, so that coloured my view of critics which I’ve had little reason to change. The best IMHO were York, Gloucester, Hereford and Durham. York for all that others have said (and the Nares), Gloucester for everything especially GGG Ophicleide (in later years, I left the LP on the back seat of the car and it buckled in the sun. Thank the Lord for CDs), Hereford for Jongen and Duruflé, and Durham for the lot – especially the Arthur Milner. I liked the Westminster Abbey (charming, good Bach or so I thought, and of course the Rheinberger). But FJ stands out for me: EP 45s with his Fanfare and Impromptu, Guilmant and Widor, and best of all was Alpha ‘20th century British Organ music, esp the Statham Rhapsody and Jackson’s TCF. I still have this, and listen to it. Any chance of a CD? Finally, did anyone else think Allan Wicks and La Nativité at St Pauls was wonderful, or only me? Luscious sounds, and the Dome reeds in Dieu parmi nous – apocalyptic.

 

SM

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... FJ stands out for me: EP 45s with his Fanfare and Impromptu, Guilmant and Widor, and best of all was Alpha ‘20th century British Organ music, esp the Statham Rhapsody and Jackson’s TCF. I still have this, and listen to it. Any chance of a CD? Finally, did anyone else think Allan Wicks and La Nativité at St Pauls was wonderful, or only me? Luscious sounds, and the Dome reeds in Dieu parmi nous – apocalyptic.

 

========================

 

 

Once again, FJ; this is the outstanding name isn't it?

 

The FJ "Impromptu" is just wonderful and the whole Alpha "20th century" LP astonishing.

 

Am I the only one to really, really like the Fricker "Pastorale?" Why is it never played? For that matter, why does no-one ever play the "Diversion for Mixtures?"

 

Is it me, or is the organ-world less good these days? (Leading question....sorry).

 

MM

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Guest Stanley Monkhouse

You are not the only one who admires and plays the Fricker. It is just the thing for a hot summer day; cool, refreshing, a touch of bitters. I don't know whether the organ world is less good these days, but what I do know is that organs are less exciting than they were in the 60s and 70s. They may be better built, they may be more tasteful and stylistically of a piece (as I say, they may), but they seem less viscerally exciting. Oh for a bit of bad taste. SM

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Finally, did anyone else think Allan Wicks and La Nativité at St Pauls was wonderful, or only me? Luscious sounds, and the Dome reeds in Dieu parmi nous – apocalyptic.

 

SM

 

Gosh - do you mean Alan Wicks did a recording at St Paul's? What else was on it?

 

Martin

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Guest Stanley Monkhouse

Yup! Alpha Records ASM020. La Nativité - nothing else. I'm looking at it as I type, so I really exists! SM

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========================

Am I the only one to really, really like the Fricker "Pastorale?"

 

No, I like it too. I've got it on an EP from Coventry Cathedral played by David Lepine. I played it for an exam many years ago and still give it a dusting-down occasionally.

 

DT

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My early interest was fired by Nicholas Kynaston's "Great Organ Works" Lps, both recorded at the RAH in the early 1970's. Lots of loud stuff - Grand Choeur Dialogue (Gigout), Allegro from Symphonie No.6 (Widor), Carillon-Sortie (Mulet), but some delicate stuff too - Andante Cantabile from Symphonie No.4 (Widor) and Canon in B minor (Schumann). Other early Lps were Peter Hurford's "The Organ of St Albans Abbey" (Couperin, Daquin, Clerambault, Lebegue and Alain), The King of Instruments (referred to in earlier posts), Kenneth Gilbert playing two small Casavant organs in Canada (Buxtehude, Bohm, Walther), and Jane Parker-Smith playing at Westminster Cathedral - the Final from Widor 8 was a particular favourite, although not with the neighbours............. :mellow:

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The GCOS series did it for this (then) impressionable teenager. Liverpool was curiously disappointing to me, despite the wonderful Mozart. Whitlock’s Fanfare and Vierne’s lovely Berceuse were criticsed in a review (?MT) as being not the best of their composers’ output, so that coloured my view of critics which I’ve had little reason to change. The best IMHO were York, Gloucester, Hereford and Durham. York for all that others have said (and the Nares), Gloucester for everything especially GGG Ophicleide (in later years, I left the LP on the back seat of the car and it buckled in the sun. Thank the Lord for CDs), Hereford for Jongen and Duruflé, and Durham for the lot – especially the Arthur Milner. I liked the Westminster Abbey (charming, good Bach or so I thought, and of course the Rheinberger). But FJ stands out for me: EP 45s with his Fanfare and Impromptu, Guilmant and Widor, and best of all was Alpha ‘20th century British Organ music, esp the Statham Rhapsody and Jackson’s TCF. I still have this, and listen to it. Any chance of a CD? Finally, did anyone else think Allan Wicks and La Nativité at St Pauls was wonderful, or only me? Luscious sounds, and the Dome reeds in Dieu parmi nous – apocalyptic.

 

SM

 

Couldn't agree more. I too found Liverpool disappointing, and greatly enjoyed Gloucester. I never heard Durham or Westminster Abbey though.

 

However, I did enjoy Westminster Cathedral played by Kynaston, I never owned a copy but the 'Stocks Massey Music Library' in my home town of Burnley did. I borrowed this LP a lot, the only track I remember was Carillon de Westminster.

 

DT

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Yup! Alpha Records ASM020. La Nativité - nothing else. I'm looking at it as I type, so I really exists! SM

Or Saga 5339 - Volume 4 of the Saga Golden Treasury of Organ Music series. Unfortunately the surfaces on my copy were so poor that it was all but unlistenable and they certainly impaired appreciation of the performance which is why I have not heard it for years.

 

I'll also add my name to those who like the Fricker Pastorale whether played by David Lepine at Coventry, FJ at York or Melville Cook at Hereford.

 

The first Bach LP I ever acquired was Anton Heiller playing a Marcussen on the Phillips label and his performance of BWV731 on that would probably be one of my desert island choices - it would certainly be on the short list.

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It was The Kings of Instruments for me - for those who don't know this LP, it was a sampler taken from a range of organ recordings by EMI. Side 2 was the corker - Karg-Elert from Rawsthorne at Liverpool, Purcell Old 100th from Thalben-Ball at the Temple, Boellmann Toccata from Blenheim with Danby, the Cocker from FJ at YM and then a great perfrmance of the BWV 565 from Allan Wicks at Canterbury.

 

Yes, this was one of my favourite organ LPs when bought secondhand as a lad (that wasn't too long ago!). Funny, though, I found the interpretation of BWV 565 the most uninteresting thing on it for my taste.

 

No, I like it too. I've got it on an EP from Coventry Cathedral played by David Lepine. I played it for an exam many years ago and still give it a dusting-down occasionally.

 

Yes, and what lovely understated playing. I must dig this out again. Thanks for the reminder.

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My first organ LP was Carl Weinrich playing four works by JSB on a Scandinavian instrument - from memory it was 565, the little E minor, the A minor and the Passacaglia. I think we discussed this recording some time ago.

 

My second may well have been a miscellany of Messiaen pieces played at St Sernin by Jean-Claude Raynard. It included Transports de Joie, which quite blew me away - and still does.

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I'd already come across the organ at church (a rather fine 1903/1910 IIIP J.W.Walker) and my parents had played the Saint-Saens organ on LP (Charles Dutoit, Montreal Symphony Orchestra & Peter Hurford) and I was hooked for good after the opening of the 4th movement. They still regret their choice to this day.

 

When asked to bring our favourite music into school at the age of about 6 or 7, my class realised I was a bit different when I said my favourite piece of music was the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony... Somehow 80s pop music didn't cut it for me next to Bach's fantasia and fugue in g minor.

 

The first tape I ever bought (at about age 7) was Helmut Walcha playing Bach at Alkmaar. I'd got £10 or so from a generous but rather distant auntie or god parent for christmas and wanted more organ music. I now realise I made a very good choice in WH Smiths that day: I was immediately swept away by the Bach Toccata in F, the G minor Fugue and others. The Passacaglia grew on me. Other early tapes were Peter Hurford playing romantic music at Ratezburg (which I rated more highly than his Bach recordings with Walcha as my yardstick...) and Allan Wicks at Cantebury. It wasn't until I was about 13 or 14 I started to get Messaein and Transports de Joie... still a high-octane performance. Lionel Rogg with more Bach at Arlesheim followed...

 

... I remember photocopying some old bach scores at school and playing them at chapel in my final year of prep school... Toccata in F minus the difficult bits (but including the pedal solos, which I insisted playing properly, despite being about 4'8'' at the time) was an early favourtie - until after about 5 minutes, the Headmaster told me to stop playing and go to my lesson. Philistine!

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Perhaps the most significant LPs for me were Helmut Walcha's original Archiv recordings of JSB at Cappel and Lübeck and Marcel Dupré playing Widor 9 at St. Sulpice. The Walcha seems a bit severe and scholarly now, but I still refer back to it on occasions. The St Sulpice recording shows its age, but those pedal reeds still send shivers down my spine.

 

The LP that inspired me most was Fernando Germani playing Franck's first choral at All Soul's Langham Place. It was my first introduction to Franck and I loved it as soon as I heard it. Franck's music has remained part of my life ever since. The disc is long gone and I have never managed to find it again. That's probably a good thing as I might be disappointed if I heard it today - but I still have Germani's Selby Abbey Franck chorals as a consolation prize.

 

JC

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The first LP I bought was for my dad one xmas, it was Charles Benbow playing Bach at the german church in Paris the 5th Sonata (529) is wonderful, its been well used over the years. The other was a Nicolas Kynyston recording of, I think, Widor 8 and the Duccase Pastorale from Koln ???I am waiting patiently for it to be de-clicked etc. The 3rd one is Graham Barbers Whitlock Sonata (1st recording I think) at Coventry

Regards

Peter

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If anyone ever turns this into a suitable file or CD I'd be first on the list for a copy - back a bit it came up in discussion on this forum.

 

AJJ

 

I can't help with copying onto digital format but would be more than happy to make a cassette or 7" open reel copy if that's any use...

 

P

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Inspirational LP's...

 

Organ

 

Germani playing Bach at Alkmaar

Sanger playing Widor V at Clerkenwell

Herrick at St Paul's (mentioned previously)

Andre Isoir playing Vierne Bb min Toccata and Duruflé's P & F on ALAIN, Messiaen Transports de joie at St Sernin - just FANTASTIC!

 

Orchestral

 

Previn/RPO Vaughan Williams 'Wasps' overture

Loris Tjkeknavorian/LSO Rimsky-Korsakov's Scherezade

 

Choral

 

Royal Music from St Pauls (still available from Guild on CD now, I think)

 

Rose/Dearnley/Choir of St Paul's/Trumpeters of the Kneller Hall + timps

Parry's I was glad - eye-watering !

 

 

 

All residing in the attic with my turntable. Maybe I should fetch my ladder...

 

 

H

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