A Delightful Surprise

MIKE WHEELER reports from the first of Derby Cathedral's summer organ recitals


Derby Cathedral's summer organ recitals are back after last year's hiatus which, among other things, caused plans to mark the 150th anniversary of Louis Vierne's birth to be put on hold. So to celebrate his 151st birthday, each of this year's recitalists is including one of his organ symphonies. The Cathedral's Assistant Director of Music, Edward Turner, started the ball rolling with the Sixth and last – Derby Cathedral, Derby, UK, 21 July 2021.

Vierne 151 - Derby Cathedral Organ Recitals 2021

He opened with a familiar J S Bach stand-by, BWV 572, known variously as Fantasia in G, and Pièce d'Orgue. After a bright, bubbly opening, the solid middle section was rather slower than I was expecting, but though the rippling arpeggios of the final section could have been allowed to dance more, they were nicely luminous.

As well as the Vierne Symphony, there was a nod to him in the shape of 'Très lent et douloureux', the second of the three movements making up Evocation de Louis Vierne by the French pianist, organist and composer Eugène Reuschel (1900-1988). After the gently meditative opening, Turner allowed it to open up as it became more active, and there was a soft glow to the ending. In Herbert Brewer's Elegy, occupying a similar expressive space, Turner had an engaging way of allowing solo lines to emerge from their background.

He then talked us through the Vierne, playing the two themes on which it is based. The corkscrew lines of the opening became steadily more animated, with crisply articulated staccato figures, and sustained intensity in the stormy chromatic passages. 'Aria', the slow second movement, could almost be by Messiaen in places, as it appeared to just hang in the air. The inner recess that then suddenly opened up was a delightful surprise.

Edward Turner
Edward Turner

Thanks to the live video we were able to watch Turner's deft hopping between manuals in the slithery danse macabre that forms the third movement, whose abrupt ending came as a jolt. The fourth movement had echoes of Franck as it grew in intensity. Turner's control of the build-up seemed to suggest something creepy just out of sight. Another jolt kick-started the finale, in which there was a tendency to over-register, but also plenty of driving energy.

Copyright © 31 July 2021 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK








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