New Writing for Organ

Fantasia on Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern
JoliffeThe Garden of Gethsemane
La Nativité de Seigneur – Les anges
Fantasia in C
Three Etudes for Organ
Livre d’Orgue – Récit de Tierce en taille
Prelude on Vexilla Regis
A Hanbury Sketchbook (movements 2 & 3)

David Goode (organ)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 1 December, 2004
Venue: St Botolph’s, Aldgate, London, EC3

Once inside this intimate church, one seems a world away from busy London (save for when sirens cut through into the inner sanctum!), and for the hour-length of this early-evening recital, one could feel transported by both the surrounds and the lovely sounds made by the church’s 17th-century organ. The instrument is due for a refurbishment; and while a few gremlins in the mechanism suggest this to be a good idea, the warm and mellow timbres the organ produces will hopefully not be sacrificed.

David Goode’s recital, promoted by SPNM, was, on paper, an enticing mix of the new and the old. Generally, the ‘old’ won through, and only two of the ‘new’ could be said to have grabbed the attention. For a programme, we were offered (admittedly free, which the recital also was) a two-sided card that listed the composers and works but had no biographies or notes on the music, let alone informing if any were first performances.

The pieces by Buxtehude (inventive and flourishing), de Grigny (the most suited to church performance) and Byrd (chirruping along nicely to an ornamented festive conclusion) all proved delightful, and not least for being ‘in tune’ with the organ itself.

Of the contemporary scores, those by Timothy Ball and Mel McIntyre proved the most engaging. The former’s Flourish was dramatic, questing and varied, with a tongue-in-cheek pay-off. One chord suggested Bach’s D minor Toccata and Fugue, which maybe was the focus of the work, a point of arrival and departure. McIntyre’s Etudes were pithily enjoyable, especially the breezy No.2 and, aside from Ball’s work, the only time that one of the living composers seemed able to side-step what seemed to be, otherwise, a problem of developing an idea. The other recent pieces each had their moments, but either didn’t quite add up or go beyond first base. Ball, Thomas McLelland-Young (his piece was intense) and Sonja Grossner (the first movement was a likeable slow waltz) were in attendance.

Fine performances of each work by David Goode, and the Messiaen had a decorous vitality that was ear-catching. The church itself, and its organ, is a real find. A spiritual and musical oasis!

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