We had a Tuba Tune in Thomas Hawkes' recital the week before; this week - Derby Cathedral, Derby, UK, 16 October 2020 – we started with another, by Reginald Porter-Brown. Simon Russell, Organist at St Mary's Church, Nantwich, Cheshire, gave the outer sections plenty of swagger, and brought out suggestions of Elgarian nervy energy in the middle. The attractive limpidity he brought to the contrapuntal textures of J S Bach's Fantasia in C minor, BWV 562, was an ideal contrast.
The four movements of Suite du Premier Ton, by Canadian composer Denis Bédard, aim, Russell told us, to evoke the French baroque world of, say, François Couperin. Following the stately 'Plein Jeu', 'Dialogue' is a perky little scherzo, in which Russell had fun exploring some of the Cathedral instrument's more out-of-the-way corners. 'Récit' provided a meditative interlude before the concluding 'Grand Jeu'. After its imposing start, this settled into a vigorous fugue which not only recalled the Bach Fantasia, but also kept breaking into what sounded like a Renaissance basse-danse, with Russell giving it plenty of rhythmic drive.
Intermezzo in F, by Ian Higginson, a personal friend of Russell, was another quiet, reflective interlude, whose mood was intensified, verging on the melancholy, in Flor Peeters' Aria, transcribed from the slow movement of his Trumpet Sonata, Op 51.
Franck's Choral No 1 in E was the imposing finale, though the opening inhabits a similar world to the one we'd just left. Russell held the work's sectional structure together convincingly, and kept the second half's grand gestures on just a tight enough lead to nicely grade the build-up to the burst of light marking the work's climax.
Copyright © 22 October 2020