Resounding Aftershocks - Martin Setchell. © 2019 Pipeline Press

CD Spotlight

Impressive and Delightful

GEOFF PEARCE listens to Martin Setchell
playing the Christchurch Town Hall
Rieger organ in New Zealand

'... a wide range of organ music that I am sure will delight lovers of fine organ playing.'


I am familiar with both the organ and organist featured here, having been resident in Christchurch NZ for quite a significant portion of my life. The city faced a devastating earthquake in 2011 and the Town Hall was extensively damaged. Thank goodness the organ itself only suffered minor damage. As the building was eventually restored and opened again recently, so too was the magnificent Rieger organ. (It was only fourteen years old at the time of the earthquake.)

This disc commemorates the organ's return to its former glory, and features Martin Setchell, a UK-born organist of international stature, who has been resident in Christchurch for more than forty years now, is the Town Hall Organist and is one of Christchurch's most revered and respected musicians.

Most works here are by nineteenth and twentieth century composers, many of them fine organists in their own right. From the outset, with the aptly named Celebration by Mons Leidvin Takle (born 1942), one is drawn to the powerful but clean sound of this organ, and the superb playing of a master. The performances on this disc are clean and the selection of stops and registration is imaginative and completely suitable to the music. This is particularly evident in J S Bach's Prelude in G, BWV 541. The fugue was not played. It is very easy for such a work to sound stodgy, but it certainly does not on this recording.

Listen — J S Bach: Prelude in G, BWV 541
(track 2, 0:02-0:50) © 2019 Pipeline Press :

The work I fell in love with, and which I have heard in many different guises, is A Chloris by Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947). This delightful little piece suits this artist and organ admirably, gives a moment of quiet repose and shows the clarity that this fine organ can deliver and the almost human vocal quality of the melodic line.

Listen — Reynaldo Hahn: A Chloris
(track 4, 1:28-2:17) © 2019 Pipeline Press :

The only track that did not appeal to me was perhaps the Toccata in D by Marcel Lanquetuit (1894-1985). This was not the fault of the organ or the organist, but I was somewhat reminded of a quote by Stravinsky, who was not a great lover of the organ, calling it 'the monster that never breathes'. This is certainly a virtuoso piece and is somewhat reminiscent of the Widor Toccata in F which closes the disc, and which I prefer.

Listen — Marcel Lanquetuit: Toccata in D
(track 11, 4:04-4:47) © 2019 Pipeline Press :

The Lanquetuit was preceded and followed by two lighter and shorter pieces: Cats at play by Denis Bedard (born 1950) and the delightful Caribbean Dance by Madeleine Dring (1923-1977).

Listen — Madeleine Dring: Caribbean Dance
(track 12, 2:00-2:54) © 2019 Pipeline Press :

No disc of this nature would be complete without Widor's most popular work - the mighty Toccata in F. I have heard many performances of this work end up in a rather murky mess. Martin Setchell, however, provides a clear and dramatic account of this work that would make even the most jaded critic sit up. Pleasingly, at no point is it over-egged.

Listen — Charles-Marie Widor: Toccata in F
(track 14, 0:45-1:27) © 2019 Pipeline Press :

This is a truly impressive and delightful disc with a wide range of organ music that I am sure will delight lovers of fine organ playing.

Copyright © 7 October 2019 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia




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