Fantasy in F minor for mechanical organ, K608
The Gadfly Credo; The Cathedral Service
Fugue on a Russian Christmas Song
Chorale Prelude on ‘Vater unser im Himmelreich’
Chorale Prelude on ‘Dies sind die heil’gen zehn Gebot’, BWV678
Fantasia and Fugue on ‘Ad nos, ad salutarem undam’
David Goode (organ)
Reviewed by: Rob Pennock
Reviewed: 6 August, 2006
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London
The Royal Albert Hall organ has had its problems, suffering from split octaves, a shortage of wind, leaky and noisy bellows and deterioration of the original Willis soundboards. Renovation work has been undertaken at various times, with varying degrees of success, the last work being completed in 2004. Certainly the organ is massive with 9997 pipes and 147 stops and, as this recital demonstrated, it is now in very good tonal condition. The clarity of the sound is exceptional and the orchestral effects outstanding; the woodwind choirs, carillons and distant echo-fanfares were startlingly realistic and the massed sound was always clear and precise. However in fff passages greater weight and elementary volume would have been welcome – the conclusion of the great Liszt work suffered through this, where the piling up of chords was not as stupendous as I have heard on smaller organs.
This late-afternoon Proms concert also disappointed in other ways. The programme-book had absolutely nothing to say about the specification of the organ and the renovation work undertaken – although 50 of its pages were taken up by advertising. Then there is the Royal Albert Hall itself hall itself. Organ recitals are strange affairs; often the player can hardly be seen because of the citing of the organ loft. At the RAH the loft is clearly visible, but even when sat at the front of the Stalls David Goode seemed minute, so heaven knows what he must have looked like from the Gallery!
Nor, apart from the Bach and Liszt, was the music particularly distinguished. Mozart’s piece for mechanical organ is pleasing but little more. The Shostakovich was moody, but hardly original, and the Glière boasts an uninteresting fugue on an uninteresting theme. The Glazunov – as with so much of his work – promises much and delivers little and the Böhm is Bach written by a lesser mortal. David Goode’s performances were also variable. The Mozart had lightness and clarity, but needed more dynamic variation. ‘Credo’ from Shostakovich’s score for “The Gadfly” is a real piece of ‘Doctor Phibes’ pseudo-religiosity, and while the opening hollow bass chords were impressive, the basic tempo was too slow, an adagio rather than an andante.
Glière’s Fugue lacked shape and attack and there was little sense of the dance. In Glazunov’s Fantasy Goode allowed the tension to drop and his tempos were, again, too slow. Indeed, throughout the recital, Goode seemed to want to make every slow section sound very slow. The Böhm was pleasant with exquisitely delicate ornamentation and the Bach relaxed yet quietly resolute, with the composer’s hushed timeless spirituality beautifully conveyed.
Finally Liszt’s Fantasia and Fugue on a theme from Meyerbeer’s “Le Prophète”, ‘Ad nos ad salutarem undam’, where for all the power of Goode’s performance the slow section almost ground to a halt, coming close to being a series of sounds and impressions rather part of a developmental process. The massive final pages were elemental but, as previously stated, they needed even more power. A short piece by William Harris (1883-1973) was offered as an encore.