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Royal Albert Hall Organ


Jeremy Jones
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I have today seen on a CD Mail Order website that a new recording of the Royal Albert Hall organ, as restored by Manders, is to be released by Priory Records next month featuring Dame Gillian Weir. The programme is:

 

Liszt: Fantasia and Fugue on 'Ad nos ad salutarem undam' S259

Liszt: Francis Asola walking on the water

Howells: Rhapsody in C minor

Parry: Fantasia and Fugue 'The Wanderer'

Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No.1

Elgar: Nimrod from "Enigma Variations"

Lanquetuit: Toccata

 

Incidentally, on same website I saw that Priory will also be releasing next month a mid-price 2CD set of Dame Gillian Weir playing the Manders restored 1861 William Hill Organ in the Ulster Hall, Belfast. The programme for that (very typical of DGW) is:

 

Meyerbeer: Coronation March

Mendelssohn: Variations on 'Vater unser'

Eben: Sunday Music

Bridge: Adagio in E Minor

Valente: Lo Ballo dell Intorcia

Frescobaldi: Toccata for the Elevation

Zipoli: Offertorio in C

Stanley: Voluntary in G minor

Bach: Concerto in D minor after Vivaldi BWV596

Messiaen: Joie et Clarte

Franck: Choral No.2

Mulet: Rosace

Couperin: Dialogue sur la Voix Humaine

Couperin: Benedictus

Couperin: Dialogue sur les Grands Jeux

Dupre: Cortege et Litanie

Dupre: Allegro Deciso (Evocation)

 

Time to start saving those pennies, I think!

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Alistair is quite right, Gillian Weir has not recorded the full version of Elgar's Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1, but plays an abridged edition. I do not see the point, other than to pay lip service to the work. I'd have preferred a complete P&C and no Nimrod. The organ does sound fabulous, though, and real tribute to Manders excellent craftsmanship.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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  • 1 month later...

I too am blown away by the Gillian Wier recording on the RAH organ. Whilst I have always loved it, the organ was rarely played (or perhaps in a condition to be played) in a way that really demonstrated its vast resources. This CD is unashamedly aiming to fill that gap - i heard Dame Gillian on Classic (I think) talking about it. The way she delivers a really gradual buildup is quite fantastic - especially the St Paul on the Waves job. And you really get to hear some of the speciality stops. The French Horns come out in Ad Nos, while the blazing Orchestral Trumpets get an airing in St Paul and Nimrod. It would have been nice to have in the commentary a bit pointing out some of the stops used on the CD. I love Paul Hale's article - but of course I have read it in other mags till the print has faded - so a bit of a waste of space for me I s'pose. The Gala Concert on 4th June is a bit disappointing. It seems like a carbon copy of one of last year's airings. Why when we have such a wonderful organ repertoire which this organ can deliver on, can we not have something a bit more - well - interesting? I can't see a huge amount going on at the proms this year either - tho I shall be there for Sea Symphony & Gerontius and hope the organ ads some thunder (no timid organists please). Come on Royal Albert Hall - let's have something like the RFH has done over the last couple of years - always well attended - and whether you like the organ or not - it was always a good night out (I like the bar at the RFH too!!).

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Why when we have such a wonderful organ repertoire which this organ can deliver on, can we not have something a bit more - well - interesting?  I can't see a huge amount going on at the proms this year either - let's have something like the RFH has done over the last couple of years.

I totally agree! The Organ Spectacular at the RAH next month is a re-hash of what was done last year, and there is nothing in the Proms this year to quicken the pulse, certainly nothing like the glory days of Simon Preston rattling the RAH's windows in the Reubke Organ Sonata, for example. One does begin to ask, in the face of such total lack of comittment on the hall's authorities, what was the point in restoring the organ? You only have to look at the series of organ concerts at the Festival Hall and Birmingham's Symphony Hall to see that an imaginatively put together series, well marketed, can draw big audiences.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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I totally agree! The Organ Spectacular at the RAH next month is a re-hash of what was done last year, and there is nothing in the Proms this year to quicken the pulse, certainly nothing like the glory days of Simon Preston rattling the RAH's windows in the Reubke Organ Sonata, for example. One does begin to ask, in the face of such total lack of comittment on the hall's authorities, what was the point in restoring the organ? You only have to look at the series of organ concerts at the Festival Hall and Birmingham's Symphony Hall to see that an imaginatively put together series, well marketed, can draw big audiences.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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Hey-ho ! They probably need a year or two to get themselves organised bless 'em! Needs a few of us Brummies to get things going (won't be too long till Birmingham has TWO famous organs back in full working nick!!!). It is a worry though - with so little on offer you can't help wondering about the cost of the refurbishment and whether it was worth it (well of course it was - you only have to hear the thing to be blown away). Whatever people say about Alexandra palace - they are TRYING to have the organ (or the bit that is playable) heard in very trying circumstances. Come on RAH - what does it take - do we have to petition Raymond Gubbay (seems like he owns the palce these days)? Help us out we've been waiting so patiently.....for sooooooo looooong.............

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Guest Geoff McMahon

There is a possibility of an organ recital at the Royal Albert Hall on the 26th of October I gather. Let's hope it comes to something and I will be sure to announce it here if it does. A number of us have been trying to get this to happen for some while.

 

John Pike Mander

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Guest Barry Oakley
There is a possibility of an organ recital at the Royal Albert Hall on the 26th of October I gather. Let's hope it comes to something and I will be sure to announce it here if it does. A number of us have been trying to get this to happen for some while.

 

John Pike Mander

 

It almost seems as though the historic restoration of the RAH organ was, sadly, nothing more than a 9-day wonder; a bit like having a roof repaired which can then be forgotten for the next 50 years. I was amazed to find that the BBC have largely by-passed the organ in this year's Proms, and have written to them to express my views on what I regard as an ominous omission. I also took the opportunity to again remind them that unless one is an insomniac, organ music on Radio 3 is non existant.

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Guest Geoff McMahon
The Capital City is falling down, at least as far as its Concert Organs are concerned.

 

Would that it were only as far as organs are concerned. The capital city is failing us as far as *concert venues* are concerned. We have no really good concert hall here and we are revamping a poor one rather than starting from scratch which is what we should be doing. It says something about our nation when we demolish Wembley (as in football) and spend vastly more than we need to to build a new one (compare with what they did in Wales) but we are not prepared to demolish the RFH and start again. The whole South Bank complex is a complete disaster, but will they grasp the horns and do something about it? The H&H/Downes organ could sound so much better in its right environment and imagine we in London could have a concert hall like Birmingham or Manchester. Athens can build a concert hall and an opera centre with EC money (both with organs by the way) and London can't even manage a decent concert hall.

 

A civilisation is measured by its arts and always has been. I fear our civilisation is being measured. But it is so easy to sit back and bemoan the way things seem to be going. It requires a little more effort to try and do something about it, but that is what we have to do. I like to think I am doing my own modest bit. Don't give up and have the courage of your convictions. Get out and support what is going on.

 

John Pike Mander

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If its open hunting season on the South Bank Centre, can I join in please?

 

There are two things wrong with the SBC? Firstly, it looks like a dog's breakfast (literally) and is not much fun getting to or from. You either have to step over the homeless en route from Waterloo Station or step over the homeless at Embankment Station and then walk across Hungerford Bridge and step over some more homeless people.

 

Walking across Hungerford Bridge on the 2 or 3 days each year when it's a warm and balmy evening, taking in the panoramic view of St Paul's and the Gherkin as the light refract's beautifully through the layers of smog, can be an enchanting experience. At all other times, you are exposed to the elements, including the howling wind that comes up the river from Westminster, sometimes accompanied by horizontal rain. In fact the SBCs only saving grace is the Harrison/Downes organ, which would sound a whole lot better in a more sympathetic acoustic.

 

No, what's needed for London is a new concert hall somewhere accessible. On my way to work every day I pass what is currently a big hole at the bottom of the Edgware Road by Marble Arch where an entire block has been flattened. This is the ideal size and location for a new concert hall, with superb public transport links to hand. No doubt another boring block of flats or offices is planned to be built here, but one can dream, I suppose.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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I wonder if any poster has tried the latest London concert hall. Namely The Cadogan just off Sloane Square?

 

This was once a Christian Science Church, complete with a Walker organ. After closure it was bought by the owner of Harrods, who wished to turn it into his house. However, the local authority turned down permission for a heliport and the building is now a concert hall. I believe the organ has been removed.

 

Alan Taylor

London

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All the Organ venues as listed in my discussion were noted within the context of the general London Concert organ scene and ...are in my opinion valid.

 

Without wishing to show any disrespect to the Moderator of this Forum if any instruments are not allowed to be mentioned with respect to other threads in this Forum within the context of the topic under discussion then I see little point in raising such issues in the first place.

 

As the Moderator you should bear this qualification in mind, otherwise contributors to this Forum will desert it. And I for one will be one of them.

 

This forum is moderated with the lightest of touches. No one said that any specific instrument could not be mentioned. No one is even thinking of censuring robust and interesting discussion by people who love and/or are knowledgeable about organs. However, it is not unreasonable to request that the intemperate and counterproductive language in parts of the Ally Pally thread does not migrate in comments to your post.

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Guest Barry Oakley
This forum is moderated with the lightest of touches.  No one said that any specific instrument could not be mentioned.  No one is even thinking of censuring robust and interesting discussion by people who love and/or are knowledgeable about organs.  However, it is not unreasonable to request that the intemperate and counterproductive language in parts of the Ally Pally thread does not migrate in comments to your post.

 

I think that in all fairness to Mark Wimpress in his mention of Ally Pally, at least he has not resorted to personal slangings which have no place on this forum.

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  • 3 weeks later...
So perhaps we can sum up the London Concert organ scene as follows:

 

 

5) St John Smith Square where the Klais has been hopelessly and unsympathetically voiced and balanced to the building - the Great for one thing is hopelessly over scaled and its only saving grace is the Positiv division (and that's it as far as this organ is concerned). But at least it has an organ. Sorry, still not quite clever enough.

 

 

I think the most useful feature of the Klais at St John's Smith Sq is the 'off' switch.

 

And I prefer Westminster Cathedral's grand Willis III to St Paul's Cathedral, but that's just my personal opinion.

 

But, on a more serious note, as a capital city, London is found wanting when it comes to the provision of concert halls. John Mander is right on the mark here. Of course, had it not have been for the Luftwaffe, we would still have the Queen's Hall in London, said to be an accoustic marvel and one of the finest condert hall accoustics in Europe.

 

It is a shame that one of the London orchestras does not have a principal conductor and artistic director with the charisma of Simon Rattle. It was during his tenure at Birmingham that he banged enough drums and political heads together to get Symphony Hall built. And Symphony Hall, along with the ICC, forms an integral part of the redevelopment and rehabilitation of Birmingham.

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