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Alistair Timmis

John Scott Whiteley 'Farewell' Recital

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Dear all,

 

Following on from previous discussion relating to the departure of the Organist of York Minster, John Scott Whiteley, I thought it would be of interest to members to note this Saturday as the date of his final recital as the Organist (advertised by the Minster as 'farewell concert'), which also closes the ever popular York Minster summer recital series.

 

The programme is as follows:

 

Allegro (from Symphonie VI, Op.42)

Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937)

 

Passacaglia, Op.17 (2009)

John Scott Whiteley (b.1950)

 

Etude (Canon) in E Major, Op.56

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

 

Sonata Eroica, Op.94

&

Papillons noirs (13 Preludes pour piano, Op.69 No.11, arr. J.S. Whiteley)

Joseph Jongen (1873-1953)

 

Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, BWV 548, "The Wedge"

J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

 

 

At this recital, presumably at the end, I am informed that the Dean of York, the Very Rev'd Keith Jones, will formally present John with the title Organist Emeritus, in recognition of his long and distinguished service since being appointed to York Minster by Dr Francis Jackson in 1975.

 

For those who wish to hear the doyen of the York Minster organ at what I am certain will be an emotional and still very thrilling recital, then this is not to be missed. Admission is £8, and the recital begins at 19:00 prompt.

 

Best Wishes.

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Dear all,

 

Following on from previous discussion relating to the departure of the Organist of York Minster, John Scott Whiteley, I thought it would be of interest to members to note this Saturday as the date of his final recital as the Organist (advertised by the Minster as 'farewell concert'), which also closes the ever popular York Minster summer recital series.

 

The programme is as follows:

 

Allegro (from Symphonie VI, Op.42)

Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937)

 

Passacaglia, Op.17 (2009)

John Scott Whiteley (b.1950)

 

Etude (Canon) in E Major, Op.56

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

 

Sonata Eroica, Op.94

&

Papillons noirs (13 Preludes pour piano, Op.69 No.11, arr. J.S. Whiteley)

Joseph Jongen (1873-1953)

 

Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, BWV 548, "The Wedge"

J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

 

 

At this recital, presumably at the end, I am informed that the Dean of York, the Very Rev'd Keith Jones, will formally present John with the title Organist Emeritus, in recognition of his long and distinguished service since being appointed to York Minster by Dr Francis Jackson in 1975.

 

For those who wish to hear the doyen of the York Minster organ at what I am certain will be an emotional and still very thrilling recital, then this is not to be missed. Admission is £8, and the recital begins at 19:00 prompt.

 

Best Wishes.

 

I'm sure this will be a well-attended farewell and a well deserved recognition of 35 years service. He played his own Passacaglia at Ripon a few weeks ago, a most intriguing and original piece, well worth hearing especially with JW's own descriptive programme note to hand.

 

JS

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I'm sure this will be a well-attended farewell and a well deserved recognition of 35 years service. He played his own Passacaglia at Ripon a few weeks ago, a most intriguing and original piece, well worth hearing especially with JW's own descriptive programme note to hand.

 

JS

 

 

I also heard it at Ripon - wasn't it splendid? The detailed programme notes John provided were very useful I agree, and gave the piece much depth and feeling. I still have them so will take them along incase they aren't provided at the Minster.

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I've just got back from York Minster, and what a delight John's recital was, as always.

 

I just had to make the journey, if only to mark John's 35 years at York and his retirement, and in spite of the relatively cold and damp weather, there must have 200+ in an audience which filled the choir-stalls and almost all the additional seating east of them.

 

I wouldn't presume to criticise the recital in any shape or form, except to say that it was both interesting and very well performed indeed. Naturally, it was good to hear John play the Bach "Wedge," but in that huge acoustic, a lot of the detail was lost, as always.

 

His own Passcaglia with variations is certainly original and fascinating, and I suspect that it is one of those works which requires repeated hearing to fully appreciate it. A less cavernous acousic would reveal a lot, I feel sure, and I look forward to a further hearing of it at some time in the future.

 

The Etude in canonic form, Op.56 in E major by Schumann was a delight, and I have to confess to never hearing it previously. John mentioned that it was a very tricky work, and asked people to wish him luck when he got around to playing it. It sounded fairly perfect to me.

 

JSW's own organ arrangement of the Jongen "Papillons noir" (No.11 of the 13 Preludes for piano, Op.69) was an unexpected treat, and perhaps demonstrated that Jongen was not just a "one trick pony" as the Americans would say.

 

For me, the absolute highlight was, as I anticipated, the "Sonata Eroica" by Jongen (Op.94). John not only knows this work, he has made a lifelong study of Jongen's output, but more than that, he loves it. That much showed, and even if the Minster obscured the detail to some extent, everyone knew that it was a magnificent performance.

 

For me, the one disappointment was the opening piece; the Allegro from the 6th Symphony of Widor. My disappointment had nothing to do with the excellent performance, but more to do with the acoustic and the fact that I last heard this at the Bavokerk, Haarlem, where I was particularly struck by the excellence of the counterpoint: something I'd never really noticed previously. All that just vanished in a cloud of sound at York, which is a pity, because this is possibly the best bit of organ-music Widor ever wrote.

 

All in all, a wonderful evening of organ-music, and a very welcome opportunity to say hello to John again, and wish him all the best for the future.

 

MM

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It was certainly a treat - perhaps the fastest hour I have ever known to pass!

 

The Bach Wedge was great fun - I liked the little disclaimer he put on it before hand, along the lines of it not being a fully authentic performance, fit for 21st Century Bach! I wondered what that would mean when the time came, but thoroughly enjoyed the result. We have greatly enjoyed a couple of other big Bach works this year at York, and this was a fitting end.

 

The Passacaglia was superb - it was the third time I have heard it, and every time it grows on me more. I agree that repeated hearing is perhaps of advantage, I was unsure but appreciative the first time, very impressed the second, and loved it the third. The final chord of 'perfection' is just that. I do hope you had a good study of the programme notes - it takes a bit of practice to follow them through the work, but the key thing is what you can deduce from the notes about the mood of the piece, which is clearly filled to the brim with emotional highs and lows.

 

You could not be more right in saying that the absolute highlight was the Sonata Eroica. This is an amazing piece of music, and the performance of it tonight can hardly justify any words. You mention the Allegro from the 6th Widor symphony, this is one of my top five favourite pieces of all time. I think John did it immense justice, as did the organ - the Bombarde got some serious exercise, as did the Tuba Mirabilis at those opening chords (yes, I could detect it in the Quire!). It has some fine counterpoint in it I agree - although you need to listen particularly carefully at York to make out some of the finer parts.

 

It was a fabulous evening, and one cannot thank John enough, not least for tonight, but for 35 years of it. We should also pay credit to John additionally for organising what has been a superb recital series throughout, every single one played by leading and inspirational organists.

 

Regards,

Tosher

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I've always enjoyed John's sense of humour and irony, and there was a wonderul throw away line when he recounted meeting Messaien twice.

 

Eagerly anticipating some gem of greatness, John said, "The first time I met Messaien, he said .......Hello......The second time I met Messaien, he talked about the colours of rhythm, which blew me away."

 

His comedy timing was immaculate.

 

MM

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For me, the one disappointment was the opening piece; the Allegro from the 6th Symphony of Widor. My disappointment had nothing to do with the excellent performance, but more to do with the acoustic and the fact that I last heard this at the Bavokerk, Haarlem, where I was particularly struck by the excellence of the counterpoint: something I'd never really noticed previously. All that just vanished in a cloud of sound at York, which is a pity, because this is possibly the best bit of organ-music Widor ever wrote.

 

I'm surprised you say this, as by the sounds of it you were sat in the quire and I've always found the organ very clear when sitting east of it as it speaks so well into the quire. The clarity is lost once you get into the nave...?

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I'm surprised you say this, as by the sounds of it you were sat in the quire and I've always found the organ very clear when sitting east of it as it speaks so well into the quire. The clarity is lost once you get into the nave...?

 

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

 

You shouldn't be surprised, because I was so far east, I was almost handing out wafers!

 

You don't have to stray far away from the choir-stalls for the clarity to disappear, and all I got was an earful of Bombarde most of the time.

 

The startling clarity of the Bavokerk orgel really drew my attention to the superb contrapuntal writing of this Widor movement, and it was a stunningly well-registered performance, with the registrands registering away like their life depended on it. It's the sort of clarity which is only possible in a very "clean" acoustic, with an organ designed entirely as a piece situated at the west-end; that being the most amazing thing about that instrument.

 

The fault was entirely mine of course, because I was anticipating something which probably doesn't even exist at York.

 

This what happens when you hear something remarkable, and then try to use it as a yardstick for all future performances. It's not fair on the performer, who is dealing with a very different set of aural criteria.

 

MM

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