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Harold Darke Plays Bach, Franck And English Music

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The legendary British organist Harold Darke made few recordings, but

this selection complements the Amphion CD release. This selection is

made up of the two Delta LPs which he made (at age 77!) ca. 1965,

shortly before his retirement from St. Michael's Cornhill, where he

had been organist for fifty years. Instead of the Elgar organ sonata

from the Delta LP, I have incl. the live perf. from a Mirrosonic LP,

made during the International Congress of Organists in London, 1957.

It is not as accurate as the Delta version (mine has too many

scratches), but represents Darke 'live'. Also included

is a very rare Pilgrim LP of the Harwood Sonata. He made another disc of Bach for Pilgrim

and if any members have this one, I would like to hear from them (JLP 139).

Needless to say, all these are long out-of-print and the record companies do

not exist anymore. These recordings should be heard by all who are interested in

the organ and organ music: they are masterly and are too important to remain unheard.

The links expire in seven days.

 

Elgar Organ Sonata

2 August, 1957

 

Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Fantasia in G Major

Partita on 'Sei gegrüsset Jesu gütig'

Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C Major

 

Vaughan Williams Prelude on Rhosymedre

Howells Rhapsody No. 1

Darke Chorale Preludes on St. Peter, Darwell's 148th, A theme of Tallis

Franck Piece Heroique

Darke A Meditation on Brother James' Air

Bach 'St. Anne' Fugue BWV 552

Harwood Sonata in C Sharp Minor, op. 5

 

All recorded at St. Michael's, Cornhill

 

https://download.yousendit.com/Y2o5QndESEJsUit4dnc9PQ

https://download.yousendit.com/Y2o5QndGeWE4NVUwTVE9PQ

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Superb stuff, the Bach is a revelation - extraordinary clarity and use of timbres etc. But is this really St Michael's Cornhill? The acoustic sounds far roomier than I would have expected (I would have thought it would sound more like St M-i-t-F).

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Franck Piece Heroique

Talking of revelations, I had never realised before, but I now know exactly where Sidney Campbell learnt this piece (he studied with Darke and Ernest Bullock). I can hear so much of SSC in this performance, even though both men very much stamped their own individuality on the piece.

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(Re: Franck Pièce Héroïque)

Talking of revelations, I had never realised before, but I now know exactly where Sidney Campbell learnt this piece (he studied with Darke and Ernest Bullock). I can hear so much of SSC in this performance, even though both men very much stamped their own individuality on the piece.

I found this a fascinating and surprising performance. Dark and sombre, evoking much more the price of heroism than its triumph; the few moments of optimism trampled by marching armies. I would love to know what was in Harold Darke's mind when he first worked on this piece.

JC

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Thank you for these. Very interesting listens, esp as someone who has only heard people talk about Darkes' playing, and never heard it

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I found this a fascinating and surprising performance. Dark and sombre, evoking much more the price of heroism than its triumph; the few moments of optimism trampled by marching armies. I would love to know what was in Harold Darke's mind when he first worked on this piece.

JC

If I may say so, John, I think that is a very perceptive summary. I never actually learnt this piece with Campbell, or even discussed it with him, but I heard him play it so many times that I assimilated his interptretation, so I think I probably saw the piece in much the same way as he did. At any rate, I have always understood it as an heroic struggle against almost overwhelming odds, culminating in a triumphant victory.

 

Incidentally, thanks to the links above it is actually possible to compare Darke's and Campbell's interpretations, since Campbell recorded the piece on a Ryemuse LP that has recently been reissued on a compilation CD of old Ryemuse recordings - although, sadly, for a number of reasons I cannot really bring myself to recommend it except for historical interest (notwithstanding his fine interpretations).

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Thank you for these. Very interesting listens, esp as someone who has only heard people talk about Darkes' playing, and never heard it

 

 

My former piano teacher and church choirmaster was taught by Darke and was his Assistant at SMCH for some years. Darke later came and played in concerts with us when I was a chorister and also dedicated music to us - anthems etc. I vaguely remember a concert where we sang various chorales and he played some appropriate chorale preludes following. He was quite old then but still a very fine player. I used to think that he looked a bit like the organist in the Hoffnung cartoon at that time - in the nicest possible sense of course!

 

A

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Many, many thanks for these. For years I have been curious about how Darke would have registered Brother James' Air. Thank you for going to the trouble to get these for us.

Churchmouse

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My pleasure and thank you for your comments! I'm pleased that Darke's playing still finds appreciation today. I wish I had the missing LP which would complete the collection - a Bach LP on Pilgrim JLP 139. There he plays the Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, Prelude and Fugue in G BWV 541, Prelude and Fugue B Minor, the Gigue Fugue and some Chorale Preludes.

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My pleasure and thank you for your comments! I'm pleased that Darke's playing still finds appreciation today. I wish I had the missing LP which would complete the collection - a Bach LP on Pilgrim JLP 139. There he plays the Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, Prelude and Fugue in G BWV 541, Prelude and Fugue B Minor, the Gigue Fugue and some Chorale Preludes.

 

Might be worth searching in here - but I don't know what you have to do if you find they have it!

 

PS I had some organ lessons with Frederick Carter in Vancouver. He was extremely proud to say that he had had lessons with Darke, whom he thought to be the leading British organist of the time. Sadly I do not remember that anything was passed on to me, except a few casual suggestions as to where I could solo returns of Bach fugue subjects, which I have now forgotten.......

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I found this a fascinating and surprising performance. Dark and sombre, evoking much more the price of heroism than its triumph; the few moments of optimism trampled by marching armies. I would love to know what was in Harold Darke's mind when he first worked on this piece.

JC

Agreed. I would love to know what was in Franck's mind when he composed it.

 

Thank you maestro_vienna for uploading these. I, too, enjoyed listening to them very much.

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Indeed - thank you for these, they were interesting to listen to. Some highly musical playing and some wonderful sounds.

 

My previous boss was taught by Harold Darke and always speaks of him with great affection. On a couple of occasions in concerts or services, I happened to play the JSB C minor Prelude and Fugue (BWV 546), treating it romantically, for want of a better term, and he remarked afterwards that this was basically how Darke himself treated this work, in so far as the registration and overall style were concerned.

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I am new to this forum having read many of the postings for a long time now. I was a pupil of Harold Darke and his assistant for 7 years, following on from Roger Fisher, until Harold's retirement in 1966. I had the privilege of turning pages for him for many years at his Monday recitals and learned a huge amount just watching him. I also assisted him in one of the early Festival Hall recitals that he gave. The critics were unkind to him about his Bach interpretations on that occasion. This upset him considerably and I remember him saying that he was not going in any way to change his manner of playing Bach for those "young whippersnapper critics". As a teacher he was superb and, above all else, he was a stickler for correct fingering and taught me how to use the swell pedal, particularly when adding/subtracting stops.

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I am new to this forum having read many of the postings for a long time now. I was a pupil of Harold Darke and his assistant for 7 years, following on from Roger Fisher, until Harold's retirement in 1966. I had the privilege of turning pages for him for many years at his Monday recitals and learned a huge amount just watching him. I also assisted him in one of the early Festival Hall recitals that he gave. The critics were unkind to him about his Bach interpretations on that occasion. This upset him considerably and I remember him saying that he was not going in any way to change his manner of playing Bach for those "young whippersnapper critics". As a teacher he was superb and, above all else, he was a stickler for correct fingering and taught me how to use the swell pedal, particularly when adding/subtracting stops.

 

 

Welcome on board!!

A

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There are further recordings of Darke on Amphion CD PHI 210, recordings made at the International Congress of Organists in 1957 in London (from which the Elgar Sonata recording is taken). This CD is worth acquiring: he plays his own Fantasy as well as Parry's Fantasia and Fugue in G and Howells' Fugue, Chorale and Epilogue (from Six Pieces). Ralph Downes, John Dykes Bower and Francis Jackson are also represented and there is a speech by Willam McKie.

Amphion also issued recordings of Darke from the 1920s. The National Sound Archive even has a recording of Darke at the Festival Hall, so one can hear whether he really did make that organ sound like his own at St. Michael's! Alas, the NSA doesn't have the Pilgrim Bach LP in its collection. If it hadn't been for Darke's Bach recordings, there would be practically no examples of the English School of Bach-Playing on record.

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Thanks for posting these recordings -- proof that the organ can be a musical instrument when placed in the proper hands! I found the Bach even more revealing than the romantic works, simply because the musical line was made so clear, whatever arguments could be raised about the propriety of the instrument or the stylistic approach.

 

Wasn't there a thread recently about the restoration of this instrument, with some people expressing surprise at the very thought of spending money to bring an organ back to its 1926 state? If so, these recordings make a clear case for restoration, and show that the English organ from this period, when taken on its own terms, can be as coherent and exciting as anything from other eras.

 

Benjamin Waterhouse

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