Great European Organs, No. 80January 25, 2013By James R. See All My Reviews"At number eighty, the great 'Father' Willis organ of Hereford Cathedral has finally earned a place in this long-running and much-loved series from Priory Records, previous absence from which was noticeable to say the least! Always clear, concise and accurate, the programme notes are no disappointment, with a nice shot of the beautifully decorated south quire case, and the recording quality is, as always, excellent. The Cathedral's assistant organist, Peter Dyke, is at the console (and what a stunning piece of craftsmanship the Willis console is, with its many coupler rocking tabs placed over the solo manual; the entire instrument having been lovingly restored by Harrison & Harrison 4 years before this recording.) The programme focuses exclusively on romantic English music, and kicks off with George Dyson's book one Variations on Old Psalm Tunes (Orlando Gibbon's: Forth in thy name; Pry's Psalter: O Lord turn not away; Thomas Campion: By the waters of Babylon; and 1635 Scottish Psalter: God moves in a mysterious way) and these four variations are performed by Dyke in exactly the same fashion as everything else on this disc: with superb technical skill and an incredible level of musicianship oozing from practically every note. Dyson's first set of variations is followed by the second rather more meaty, substantial book (Ravenscroft's Psalter: O God my strength; Este's Psalms: O for a heart to praise; 1635 Scottish Psalter: O God of truth; and Orlando Gibbons: Song 22.) The skillful treatment by Dyson of these historic melodies stands in stark contrast to much of the contemporaneous chorale prelude output, and these 8 superb variations deserve an equal place alongside both CHH Parry's and Vaughan Williams' much-admired hymn tune preludes. Harold Darke's Chorale Prelude on a Theme by Tallis fits well, stylistically, into the programme (although it is a great shame that only one of these 3 preludes is included here, as it would've been particularly good to hear no. 2 - the fantasia on Darwall's 148th - performed by this skilled artist, and on this incredible, romantic instrument.) None the less, this transitions us from the original organ repertoire through to Dyke's Enigma Variations transcription, via his A Wedding Prelude, which has already graced one royal wedding (in Windsor Castle's Free Chapel) and, who knows, may yet serve in another! The absolute jewel in this Priory crown is, however, the transcription of the 14 Enigma Variations, which demonstrate practically every conceivable tonal colour on this wonderful, romantic warhorse of a Cathedral organ, the sound of which is synonymous with the very finest of the English Cathedral musical tradition. Like much Elgar, it fits beautifully onto the organ, and this transcription is highly sensitive, imaginative, and faithful, and the playing is simply stunning by one who clearly understands and cherishes this magnificent organ. I cannot find a better transcription of these variations, and Dyke's skill in the art, coupled with his stellar playing, is comparable to that of the previously-unchallenged mastery of David Briggs (whose Mahler Fifth transcription from Gloucester Cathedral should grace every self-respecting organists' bookcase.) Listening to Dyke's performance of his own transcription, one could easily be forgiven for thinking these variations had originally been written, by the master, for the pipe organ, and should you buy only one CD this year, there must be fewer contenders for that purchase than this top drawer disc."Report Abuse
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