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Thomas Trotter’s Berlin Recital


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Dear members,


I just came home from this morning’s recital at the Berlin Philharmonie. Thomas Trotter performed alongside Marie-Pierre Langlamet, distinguished solo harpist with the Berlin Philharmonic. The programme was


Bach: Prelude and fugue in A minor BWV 543

Soler: Concerto No. 6 for two organs in D from “Seis conciertos” (1774)

Marcel Grandjany (1891–1975): Aria in Classic Style op. 19 for harp and organ

Handel: Concerto in B op. 4 no. 6 HWV 294

Reubke: The 94th Psalm


The Philharmonie organ is a large instrument by Karl Schuke of Berlin. It was extensively rebuilt in 2012 and now has a well-known artist-in-residence*.


Trotter played a most elegant Bach, employing (as far as I could hear it correctly) the full Great chorus in the prelude, with the pedal part based on the 32’ open most of the time. Nevertheless his articulation remained very clear all the time in all parts, often conjuring the sonic image of an Italian concerto grosso. The Great mixtures give an energetic sound, not tingling but full and intense (they are on par with the Great reeds which sound a bit neutral). Trotter started the fugue on Great 8-4-2 principals, changed to the Positiv flute chorus 8-4-3-2 for the longer manualiter section and returned left-hand-first to the Great, now with mixtures added, when the pedal comes back in. For the ending, reeds and 32’ were added – very satisfiying, and with a dance-like pace throughout.


The Soler concerto is a piece in early classical style in two movements, a bipartite concerto and a minuet, both composed as pleasant dialogues between equals. Getting used to the combination took some seconds, but then everything worked wonderfully, with Marie-Pierre Langlamet playing very clearly and with the utmost attention to dynamics and articulation. Now and then, Trotter used of the Vox humana and Oboe to the best effect. Maybe this music would work even finer with a good, not-too-small chamber organ – having heard it today, I can only recommend it to everyone who is looking for more unusual combinations. I know harpists who would be grateful if they had more to do than playing arpeggios in the orchestra (which mainly is what they do).


The Grandjany Aria is an arrangement by the composer. As played by both artists, with a most poetic harp part and Trotter working the boxes, it conveyed truly Elgarian moods – think “Ombra mai fù” and “Sospiri” mixed together. The audience loved it.


For the Handel concerto, that famously is written alternatively for organ or harp and orchestra, Marie-Pierre Langlamet took the lead as soloist, with Trotter accompanying with the utmost exactness. Completely ravished, he watched Langlamet performing the grand solo cadence, composed by Grandjany. Again, the combination worked like a charm, and both artists seemed to enjoy themselves very much.


The Reubke sonata, as played by Trotter, was an overwhelmingly dramatic experience from beginning to end. With wonderfully dense as well as lively legato playing, he never let go of the tension. The Grave developed into a terrible march, the Allegro con fuoco became a true battlefield. The Adagio avoided all static playing and kept a fluent, singing pace; both the fugues started out a bit sober, only to gain in power and drama. In the end, rulers were shattered and realms truly lay in ruins.


The audience of perhaps some 500 or 600 people was enthusiastic, me included. As an encore, Trotter played Moritz Moszkowsky’s Serenade – most probably as an homage to Berlin’s genius loci.


The organ is neo-classical at its very heart; even with much 16-foot tone, it never sounds very heavy, and to me the swell boxes did not seem to be terribly effective. Trotter played the organ to its many strengths: clarity of the ensembles, warmth of the foundations, some elegant colour reeds, and a dramatic tutti.


Best wishes




*… who is not especially fond of it – an attitude that was vindicated during his last recital there, which was sabotaged by a stubborn cypher that could not be dealt with immediately. CC finished his recital on the Philharmonie’s Steinway, playing the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, some more Bach and Chopin. I wasn’t there, but was assured it was just fine.

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So good to read this review - thank you Friedrich. The Grandjany certainly sounds delightful - I have just downloaded it. As I said somewhere on the forum the other day, it would be so good if members could write a few notes like this on recitals they have been to. I think of all those Sunday afternoons events in St Paul's, and the Henry Fairs Orgelbuchlein recitals on the new crypt organ and it would be great to hear something of them down here in the Dorset sticks. I know, I know, I should get out more!!

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