The late Patric Standford may have written these short pieces deliberately to provoke our feedback. If so, his success is reflected in the rich range of readers' comments appearing at the foot of most of the pages.
Former chorister and organ scholar at Derby Cathedral, Sachin Gunga, now Sub-Organist at Portsmouth Cathedral, returned to his old haunt for this recital - Derby Cathedral, Derby, UK, 31 July 2019 - beginning with J S Bach's Fugue in E flat, known as 'St Anne', BWV 552. His measured, stately reading allowed it to develop its own momentum.
In Arthur Wills' transcription of 'Venus, the Bringer of Peace', from Holst's The Planets, he successfully translated the orchestral colours of the original into organ terms, and they were handled with a gentle, ethereal touch.
George Dyson's twelve Variations on Old Psalm-Tunes ring the changes on the tunes in question in chorale prelude style. Gunga played the first four, navigating their changes of mood, from sturdy to meditative, with aplomb. Then came David Bednall's Iubilium, a white-knuckle ride over a landscape of irregular rhythms, delivered with terrific firecracker energy. Any organists out there who feel their repertoire lacks a really wild, rampaging, in-your-face scherzo - this is the piece you've been looking for.
During his time at Derby, Gunga told us, the organ's Swell Oboe stop became his favourite, so he decided to showcase it in Edward Bairstow's Evening Song, a gentle, sunlight-through-cathedral-windows sort of piece, with a recurring motif oddly reminiscent (ironically) of Gershwin's 'A Foggy Day'.
Franck's Choral No 2 begins like a passacaglia, with a recurring theme and a structure like a set of variations. Gunga ensured continuity between the sections with a firm grip on the ebb and flow of expressive intensity, and bringing out an echo of the composer's D minor Symphony at the end. Franck's influence could be felt in Fantasy Variations on St Clement by one-time organist of Paisley Abbey, Purcell Mansfield. The variations include a slightly creepy scherzo, and end in a riot of colour, all vividly projected.
In contrast came Judith Weir's quietly meditative The Tree of Peace, in which Gunga brought out a certain celtic-fringe sensibility. It was an effective upbeat to Marcel Dupré's Prelude and Fugue in B. Gunga maintained the momentum through the Prelude's technicoloured splash, and the intricate workings of the Fugue, to an exuberant ending.
Copyright © 22 August 2019