Maximum Reger

Maximum Reger – The Last Giant
Fugue State Films. FSFDVD011. 6 DVD. c15h

Maximum Reger


Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian (Max) Reger (1873 -1916) is generally best known, if, perhaps, not always best liked, by organists. He is a bit of a love-or-hate composer, his extended and frequently dense organ pieces can be as hard to play as they, arguably, can be to listen to. As a breed, organists tend to concentrate on a composer’s organ music (with the possible exception of Bach) rather than exploring their music for other forces. Reger is one such, along with, for example, the contemporary, but longer-lived French composer Tournemire. If Reger is known at all to non-organists, it is probably through his chamber music. This extraordinary Fugue State Films box set of 6 DVDs, including a three-part documentary ‘The Last Giant’, aims to redress the balance of bringing Reger’s non-organ music and complex life story to organists, and the music of Reger in toto to non-organists who are not familiar with his music. For filmmaker and organist Will Fraser, of Fugue State Films, it is clearly a labour of love. Continue reading

Bach: Organ Chorales

JS Bach
Organ Chorales of the Leipzig manuscript/Schübler Chorales
Vincent van Laar
Aliud ACDBN 103-2. 2CDs 60’32+52’34

There are many recordings of these pieces, so a new one needs to be judged by what it can offer that others cannot. One question is about the nature of performing in recital and for a recording. It is generally accepted that performers can be much freer in their interpretation when playing live than in recording. An interpretational flourish in a recital is a take-it-or-leave event, which may well not repay repeated listening. So recordings tend to be ‘safer’ interpretations. Some recordings are, in effect, ‘live’, in that they are either taken from a live recital, or are performed as if live, without editing or re-takes. On this recording, Vincent van Laar generally plays in the ‘safe’ zone, but there are a few occasions when he steps into a more personal mode. And it is these moments that make this recording worth considering.  Continue reading

Music in a Cold Climate

Music in a Cold Climate: Sounds of Hansa Europe
In Echo, Gawain Glenton (director)
Delphian DCD34206. 67’32

In Echo is a new period instrument group, directed by the cornettist Gawain Glenton. Their core instrumental line-up of cornetto, violin, sackbut (doubling violin), bass viol and keyboards has been expanded for this their debut recording by an additional violin/viola, bass viol and, in one piece, a violone. Their programme retraces the route of musicians active in the Hanseatic League (Hansa) during its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries. The league was a trading partnership encompassing several countries, from Tallinn to London via the Germanic free cities of Lübeck, Hamburg, and Bremen and similar ports in Holland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The CD programme notes mention that the represented composers “each looked beyond their own shores and toward a sense of shared European culture and understanding” – a timely reminder today of the importance of freedom of travel for musicians. For this recording, In Echo also commissioned a new composition to complement the early pieces – Andrew Keeling’s Northern Soul. Continue reading

The Orgelbüchlein Project

The Orgelbüchlein Project
A 21st-century completion of Bach’s Orgelbüchlein
Compiled and edited by William Whitehead
Volume 4: Christian Life and Conduct (Chorales 87–113)

152 pages  • ISMN 979-0-57701-498-2  • Softbound
Edition Peters EP73145


The Orgelbüchlein Project is one of the most exciting and ambitious musical projects of recent years. Bach’s Orgelbüchlein was intended to be a set of 164 chorale preludes covering the whole liturgical year. It was started during Bach’s time in Weimar (1708-17) with a few additions after he arrived in Leipzig. In a tiny manuscript book, Bach wrote the titles of all 164 Lutheran chorales at the top of the pages, but only managed to complete settings of 46 of them. Most titles were allocated a single page, with some given more space. When he came to write out the chorale preludes, he occasionally ran out of space and packed in a few more bars at the bottom of the pages in the more compact (but old-fashioned) German tablature letter notation. The title page of the autograph copy (pictured below) notes Bach’s intention for the collection that “a beginning organist receives given instruction on performing a chorale in a multitude of ways while achieving mastery in the study of the pedal, since the chorales contained herein the pedal is treated entirely obbligato . . . that my fellow man may hone his skill.” The Orgelbüchlein Project is an international project, founded and curated by organist William Whitehead, to complete the Orgelbüchlein by commissioning composers to write settings for the 118 missing chorale preludes.

Continue reading

Bach and Friends

Bach and Friends
Louis-Noël Bestion de Camboulas
Ambronay AMY048. 79’54

Music by Böhm, Buxtehude, J. C. F. Fischer, Georg Muffat, Pachelbel, and Scheidemann

Ambronay Editions continue their support for younger musicians with a first recording by the organist, harpsichordist and musical director Louis-Noël Bestion de Camboulas. I have previously reviewed him (here) as the director of the group Ensemble Les Surprises. This programme contrasts music for harpsichord and organ, genres quite often interchangeable in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Many manuscripts of the period include pieces suitable for one or other instruments, or both. The absence of an independent pedal does not always imply performance on a stringed keyboard instrument. That said, the pieces on this recording are generally well suited to the chosen instrument, although the title of Bach and Friends is a little off-kilter. Few could be seriously considered as personal friends of Bach. But all influenced him in one way or another, even if, like Scheidemann, they died well before Bach was born. Continue reading

Renaissance: Groningen Lutherse Kerk

Renaissance: Groningen Lutherse Kerk
Tymen Jan Bronda, organ
Colophon LBE 2017. 76’59

Music by Frescobaldi, Scheidemann Buxtehude, Bõhm, Weckmann, and Bach.

The 2017 Groningen Schnitger Festival (reviewed here) focussed on the opening of the new organ in the Lutherse Kerk, a reconstruction of the Schnitger organ that was built for the church in 1699, with extensions to Schnitger’s plans in 1717. Schnitger gifted the organ to the Lutheran community in recognition of the time he and his German workforce spent in the church while working in Groningen on the now internationally famous organs in the Martinikerk and Aa-Kerk. Since 2001 the Lutherse Kerk reintroduced the tradition of Bach cantatas into the services, leading to the foundation of the period instrument Luthers Bach Ensemble and plans for an organ suitable for use with Bach cantatas. The Groningen born but Swiss-based organ builder Bernhardt Edskes was commissioned to build the new organ, based on the 1717 incarnation of the original Schnitger organ. This CD by church organist Tymen Jan Bronda is the first to be made of the new Schnitger organ.  Continue reading

Melchior Schildt

Melchior Schildt (1592-1667)
Complete Organ Works  (Ed. Klaus Beckmann)
128 pages  • ISMN: 979-0-001-13431-6 • Softbound
Edition Schott 
ED 9585

2017 is the anniversary of Melchior Schildt’s death, so it is an appropriate time to look at his, sadly, very limited, surviving organ music. He was born in 1592 in Hanover to a family of musicians stretching back more than 125 years. He studied with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck from 1609 (probably until 1612). In 1626 he was appointed court organist to the Danish king, and in 1629 returned to Hannover to replace his father as organist at the Marktkirche, where he stayed until his death.

He seems to have been ‘a bit of a character’, with several records of intemperate behaviour, one being a violent attack on the organ builder Fritzsche. Although his second marriage provided him with financial security, the relationship was troubled to the extent that Schildt’s will required their son to be removed from his mother’s care. His troubled relationship with the music profession can be seen in his further instructions for his son, forbidding him to learn any musical instrument of any kind “because those who do are held back in their university studies, and also adopt a wild and dissolute life”. Continue reading

Melchior Schildt (d1667)

Andrew Benson-Wilson
plays the complete surviving organ works of
Melchior Schildt (1592-1667)

The Queen’s College Chapel, Oxford
Wednesday 29 November, 1:10

Queen's organ photo.jpg

Melchior Schildt (1592-1667) was a pupil of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. After a spell as court organist to the King of Denmark in Copenhagen, he succeeded his father as organist of the Hanover Marktkirche, where he remained. This recital includes his Magnificat Primi Modi, and a beautiful intabultation on the funeral motet Herzlich lieb hab’ ich dich.

Melchior Schildt came from a family of Hanover musicians. After spending time in Wolfenbüttel and Copenhagen, he returned to Hanover, succeeding his father as organist of the Marktkirche where he remained until his death. He seems to have been quite a character. While in Wolfenbüttel, he attacked the organ builder Gottfried Fritzsche in the organ loft, nearly strangling him before Fritzsche grabbed one of his heftier organ-building tools to fend him off. The relationship with his second wife was strained, to the extent that, on his death, he arranged for his son to be removed from his mother’s care and given to a guardian. Perhaps in reflection of his own experiences, he further stipulated that his son must not learn any musical instrument for fear that he would adopt a ‘wild and dissolute’ life. He was said to have performed in a dramatic style, playing in such a way as to ‘make listeners ‘laugh or weep’.

Information on the Frobenius organ here.
Admission free – retiring collection. 

Organ Reframed: Six New Works

Organ Reframed: Six New Works
London Contemporary Orchestra, James McVinnie

Union Chapel, Islington. 13 October 2017


Organ recitals, at least of the traditional English sort, tend to attract relatively small, rather aged, and predominantly male audiences. They usually feature music written between the time of Bach and the early 20th century. Occasionally forays into more contemporary (or contemporary sounding) music – even Messiaen, most of whose organ music was composed more than 70 years ago, can frighten off audiences. But the weekend Organ Reframed festival at the spectacular Union Chapel in Islington demonstrated that both organ and contemporary music can have a huge following, if presented in an imaginative way. Continue reading

Jacob Praetorius and Heinrich Scheidemann

Grosvenor Chapel
South Audley Street, Mayfair, London
Tuesday 17 October, 1:10

Andrew Benson-Wilson
Jacob Praetorius and Heinrich Scheidemann


Andrew Benson-Wilson’s exploration of the 17th century North German organ repertoire continues with a recital of music by two influential pupils of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, the famous ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam’. Jacob Praetorius (1586-1651) and Heinrich Scheidemann (c1595-1663) both went on to prestigious posts in Hamburg churches. Praetorius taught Weckmann and Scheidemann taught Reinken and, possibly, Buxtehude.

Jacob Praetorius (1586-1651)
Praeambulum in F
Von Allen Menachem abgewandt

Heinrich Scheidemann (c1596-1663)
Praeludium in F
Magnificat Sexti Toni
Alleluja Laudem dicite Deo nostro

Continue reading

Jane Austen’s music

Pamber Priory
Pamber End, nr Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG26 5QD
Sunday 24 September 2017, 3pm

Pamber front.jpg

Jane Austen’s music

Music from Jane Austen’s own music manuscripts,
played on the 1784 Richard Seede chamber organ by

Andrew Benson-Wilson

All proceeds go to the RadCan charity, in support of the Basingstoke Radiotherapy Unit (registered charity 1140906). Tickets £12 (children £6) to include post-concert refreshments, available from Jo Kelly on 01256 328702

Further information – Pamber Priory Poster 2017.

Pamber organ.jpg

Recital on the Wetheringsett Tudor organ

Recital on the ‘Wetheringsett’ organ, c1525
St Swithun’s, Church Street, Worcester WR1 2RH
Friday 23 June, 2017. 1.10
Andrew Benson-Wilson

the Wetheringsett organ which is a medieval replica coming on local to Halifax Minster from SuffolkThe ‘Wetheringsett’ organ is a reconstruction of a Tudor organ based on the soundboard of an organ that was found during alterations to a farmhouse in the village of that name in Suffolk. Until it was hidden away within the walls of the farmhouse, is seems to have been used as a dairy door. The many holes in the wood were initially thought to indicate some sort of protection from the evil eye, until a local organ builder recognised it as the soundboard of an organ – the bit hidden away inside the instruments where the feet of the pipes sit, and through which the air is channelled from the windchest to the pipes. Analysis of the number and size of the holes can give a pretty accurate account of the size, range and number of stops of the organ. Tree-ring dating suggests that the wood dates from around 1525, leading to suggestions that this could be the organ known to have been purchased by a large parish church in Debenham in that year.

Under the aegis of the Early English Organ Project this organ, along with a smaller instrument based on another soundboard found in Wingfield Church, Suffolk, was reconstructed by organ builders Goetze & Gwynne in 2002. Under the management of the Royal College of Organists, the Wetheringsett organ is now resident in the church of St Swithun’s in the centre of Worcester, a delightful Georgian church with box pews and a later 18th century organ.

For this recital, I will be playing English music from before, during, and just after the 1520s, with pieces from c1360 to one of Thomas Tallis’s two extraordinarily monumental Felix Namques, dating from around 1560. In contrast I will play a Voluntary by Samuel Wesley on the 1795 Grey organ, published just a few years after the date of the organ.

Robertsbridge Codex, c1360
Adesto / Firmissime / Alleluya Benedictus
John Dunstaple (Buxheimer Orgelbuch, c1460)
Sub Tuam Protectionem
Anon, c1530 (Roy 56)
Felix Namque (in 5/4)
Anon / Thomas Preston (d1563)
Uppon la mi re
Hugh Aston (c1485-1556)
A hornepype
Samuel Wesley (1766-1837)
Voluntary in B flat. Op 6/9 8’
Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585)
Felix Namque I (1562)

Admission is free, with a retiring collection.

Organs in Dialogue

Organs in Dialogue
Javier Artigas & João Vaz
1779 & 1864 organs of Clérigos Church, Oporto, Portugal
Arkhé Music 2016002. 64’07

Music by Boaventuba, Portugal, Ferbenac, Gill, Lidón, Bondaczuk.

During the 18th century, Iberian churches often adopted the earlier Italian plan of having two organs, each in (usually) identical architectural cases positioned on balconies and speaking towards each other across the choir. The practice has its roots in St Mark’s Venice in the 16th century. Clérigos Church in Oporto is one such example, its two organs dating from 1779 with major restorations in 1864. Rather like French organs, organ building in the Iberian peninsula reached a technical peak in the 18th century at a time when the music written for the organ was experiencing something of a decline. This CD reflects both those aspects; of organ building and composition. Continue reading

José Luis González Uriol in Lisbon

José Luis González Uriol in Lisbon
1765 Fontanes de Maqueira organ, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon
Arkhé Music. 72’23

Music by Cabezón, Trabaci, Bruna, Kerll, Sola, Cabanilles, Nassarre, Zipoli, Lidón.

José Luis González Uriol is one of the most influential Iberian organists and teachers, and this recording is a homage to him, and also to the organ in the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, built by João Fontanes de Maqueira in 1765, and restored in 1994 as part of Lisbon’s European City of Culture celebrations. Unusually for organs, it had survived virtually unaltered since it was built, and retains 98% of its original pipework. The recording was made on 17 October 1994, just after the opening of the restored organ in a recital by González Uriol. A combination of factors, including the death of the recording producer Joaquim Simões de Hora (who was also heavily involved in the restoration project), meant that the recording has never been released until now. Continue reading

Parthenia Nova

Parthenia Nova
Richards, Fowkes & Co Opus 18 organ: St George’s Hanover Square
Simon Thomas Jacobs
Fugue State Records FSRCD009. 77’40

Parthenia Nova

The 2012 opening of the new organ in St George’s Hanover Square was an important event in the London organ world. The church itself has a strong musical identity, not least by being Handel’s own parish church when he lived a couple of streets away. It was the first organ in London by any American organ builder, in this case Richards, Fowkes & Co. Despite some concessions to present day Church of England use, it is at heart a relatively uncompromising take on the 16th and 17th century organs on North Europe, the specialism of the organ builders. It is housed in a case spread across the west end of the church gallery. The central portion of the case is an historically important 18th century one, although nothing remains of the organ that it originally contained. Continue reading

Joan Cabanilles: Organ pieces

Joan Cabanilles: Keyboard Music Vol 1
Timothy Roberts (organ)
1724 organ of the Basilica of Sant Jaume, Vila-real (Castellón/Valencia)
Toccata Classics TOCC 0391. 64’48

Tocata 1 de primero tono, Passacalles 2 de primero tono, Tocata 4 de quinto tonoTiento 12 de falsas, de cuarto tono, Tiento 31 partido de mano derecha, de primero tonoTiento 82 lleno, por Bequadrado de quinto tono, Tiento 9 partido de mano derecha, de secondo tonoTocata 2 de mano izquierda, de quinto tono, Tiento 63 de contras, de cuarto tonoTiento 55 de primero tono, Tiento 14 partido de dos tiples, de cuarto tono.

Joan (more usually spelt as Juan) Cabanilles (1644–1712) is a curious composer. His compositions fully absorb the late Renaissance counterpoint of the earlier, and better known, Spanish organ composer Francisco Correa de Araujo (1584–1654) but apply to that foundation layers of often virtuosic Baroque figuration that can range in style from the simplistic to the frankly perverse. He was born in Valencia, and seems to have remained there throughout his life, engaged in little more than the usual activities of a priestly musician in a cathedral city. He was organist of the cathedral, but doesn’t seem to have ever become the cathedral’s musical director. Although he composed a vast amount of organ music, it was not published in his lifetime and none of his original manuscripts survive. His music only exists in copies, of varying degress of accuracy, most now housed in the Biblioteca de Catalunya in Barcelona. The Biblioteca began a problematical complete edition in 1927, which remains incomplete to this day.  Continue reading

A Giant Reborn: the restored 1735 Richard Bridge organ of Christ Church, Spitalfields

A Giant Reborn
The restored 1735 Richard Bridge organ of Christ Church, Spitalfields, London
Gerard Brooks
Fugue State Records FSRCD010. 2CDs. 77’02+66’35

Music by Prelleur, Handel, Greene, Stanley, Bull, Barrett, Purcell, Croft, Heron, Boyce, Walond, Arne, Nares, Reading, James, Keeble

Spitalfields CD.jpgThe completion of the restoration of the famous 1735 Richard Bridge organ in Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, Spitalfields was one of the most important musical events in London during 2015. My review of John Scott’s opening recital, and details of the organ, can be seen here. Tragically it was one of the last recitals that John Scott gave before his death . Equally tragically, the master organ builder William Drake, the finest restorer of historic organs in the UK, died the year before the organ’s completion, so never heard what must now stand as his memorial.

Christ Church, Spitalfields was built between 1714 and 1729 as part of the ’Fifty New Churches’ Act of Parliament of 1711. It is one of the six East London churches WP_20150605_18_45_24_Prodesigned by the famed Baroque architect Nicholas Hawksmoor. The organ was built in 1735 by Richard Bridge, who became one of the leading organ builders of the day. Spitalfields seems to have been only his second commission, perhaps explaining the comparatively low price of £600 for such a substantial instrument. For the following 100 years or so, it was the largest organ in the country. It suffered the inevitable changes over the years, but retained enough of its original pipework to form the basis for a historically based reconstruction, returning it broadly to its original specification and construction. It was dismantled in 1998 while the church was being restored and was then restored to its 1735 specification, with very few concessions. Its completion in 2015 makes this by far the most important pre-1800 organ in the UK.

This is the first recording of the restored organ. As well as being a comprehensive account of the instrument’s forces, it is also a fascinating reflection of the organ music in 18th century England, covering most of the principal composers, many of which are little known outside of their organ compositions. Rather like Continue reading

St Giles-in-the-Fields: Samuel Wesley (b1766)

St Giles-in-the-Fields 60 St Giles High Street. London, WC2H 8LG
Friday 29 July 2016: 1pm.
Andrew Benson-Wilson plays organ music by
Samuel Wesley (1766- 1837)

Samuel Wesley was born in Bristol 250 years ago. He was the son of Charles Wesley the hymn-writer and nephew of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. He was a 2014-07-04-1716.jpgchild prodigy, writing his first oratorio, Ruth, aged 6. When he was 8, the composer Dr William Boyce referred to him as the ‘English Mozart’. His family moved to London when he was about 12, living in Marylebone. He led a colourful life, some of his apparent eccentricities possibly being caused by a serious head injury when he was about 21. An organ virtuoso, Samuel Wesley was the leading pioneer of the Bach revival in England. Bach seems to have been a strong influence on his Opus 6 Organ Voluntaries, published between about 1807 and 1820, and the focus of this recital.

The wonderful William Drake reconstruction of the Dallam/Smith/England/Lincon/Gray & Davison organ, contains some of the oldest pipework in London. It is very well-suited to Wesley’s music as, in its current form, it represents the English organ in the early years of the 19th century, with strong reminders of the earlier 17th and 18th English organ style.

Organ information:
Free admission, retiring collection.
The church is just behind Centre Point/Tottenham Road Court station.




Frescobaldi: Fiori Musicali

Frescobaldi: Fiori Musicali
ed. Andrea Macinanti & Francesco Tasini
124pp, 235×315 mm, ISMN: 979-0-2153-0642-4
Ut Orpheus Edizioni ES39.

Frescobaldi’s Fiori Musicali was published in 1635. He was at the height of his musical powers, having just returned to Rome (after six years with the Medici’s in Florence) to work for the Barberini Pope and Cardinals, and continued his post as organist of St Peter’s in Rome, a post he had held throughout his many travels. Although many pieces in Frescobaldi’s earlier books of Toccatas (1615/16 and 1627) were clearly intended for organ and would have presumably have been playing in a liturgical setting, Fiori Musicali is his only organ book specifically geared towards use in the Mass. It was his last publication of new music, although he did re-issue some earlier volumes. It quickly became one of his most popular publications, and was used as an exemplar of polyphonic writing well into the 19th century. Bach also studied it and copied it out. Continue reading

Scheidt: Keyboard music transmitted in manuscript form

Samuel Scheidt: Keyboard music transmitted in manuscript form
ed. Peter Dirksen
120pp, 230×305 mm, ISMN: 979-0-004-18395-3
Edition Breitkopf EB8831.

Following the three volumes of Scheidt’s Tabulatura Nova (reviewed here), the most recent of the Breitkopf Scheidt edition, recently published, covers the keyboard music found in manuscript sources. The importance of his three volume Tabulatura Nova has meant that the music not included in those volumes is usually overlooked, Continue reading

Scheidt: Tabulatura Nova III

Samuel Scheidt: Tabulatura Nova III
ed. Harald Vogel
192pp, 230×305 mm, ISMN: 979-0-004-18122-5
Edition Breitkopf EB8567.

Breitkopf & Härtel have completed their important four volume series of the organ and keyboard works of Samuel Scheidt. Volumes I & II of Scheidt’s monumental 1624 Tabulatura Nova were published as EB 8565 and EB 8566 (containing works SSWV 102-126 & 127-138 respectively), both edited by Harald Vogel, as is the third volume, EB 8567 reviewed here. This contains works SSWV 139-158, the nine Magnificat settings together with a Kyrie and Hymn settings and Continue reading

Dulwich: College of God’s Gift 400th Anniversary Recital

The Chapel of Christ of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift
Gallery Road, Dulwich, SE21 7AD

Sunday 10 July 2016, 7.45

The College of God’s Gift 400th Anniversary Recital

Circa 1616

Andrew Benson-Wilson will give a special organ recital to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the dedication of the the Chapel of Christs of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift in Dulwich. Andrew will play music from the years around 1616 on the famous 1760 George England organ.

Benjamin Cosyn – ‘Voluntary’ (c1620)
Orlando Gibbons – Fantazia in Foure Parts (c1611)
John Lugge – Voluntarie.3.pts. Continue reading

JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volume 8

JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volume 8
Organ Chorales of the Leipzig Manuscript
Ed. Jean-Claude Zehnder
Breitkopf & Härtel 2015
Edition Breitkopf EB8808
184pp + CD

Editions of Bach’s organ works are something of a minefield, even when there are clear autograph scores available. In many cases that is not the case, so the role of the editor and the availability and accuracy of available sources becomes an important consideration. Of all the publishers to be involved in Bach, Breitkopf & Härtel are perhaps the most appropriate. Founded in Leipzig in 1719  four years before Bach took up his post there, they were the first to publish the complete works of Bach, between 1851 and 1900 for the Bach-Gesellschaft. Unfortunately, at the moment, I only have access to one volume of their latest complete Bach Organ Works, so cannot comment on the 10 volume set as a whole.

The chorales from the Leipzig Manuscript are known by a variety of names, one of which is the ‘Eighteen Chorales’. This is misleading, not least because there are arguably either 15, 17 or 18 chorales in the collection. The first 13 Continue reading

John Scott Commemoration

John Scott Commemoration
St Paul’s Cathedral. 6 May 2016

The untimely death in August 2015 of the eminent organist and choral director John Scott was a shock to many. Organist and Director of Music of St Paul’s Cathedral from 1990 to 2004, and then at St Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue, New York, John’s reputation as solo organist and choir director seemed to be on a perpetual rise. His memory remains strong in St Paul’s Cathedral, as was evident from the packed Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving to mark his life, held in place of the usual Evensong on Friday 6 May.

Unusually for English cathedral services, the commemoration was prefaced by 35 minutes of organ music, played by two of John’s former Sub-Organists Continue reading

Weckmann recital: programme notes

The Queen’s College Chapel, Oxford.  27 April 2016
WP_20151124_12_09_44_Pro.jpgMatthias Weckmann

Andrew Benson-Wilson

Praeambulum Primi toni a 5
Ach wir armen Sünder (3v)
Canzon V
Magnificat Secundi Toni (4v)
Toccata ex D
Gelobet seystu, Jesu Christ (4v)

Matthias Weckmann is one of the most influential 17th century organist composers of the North German – a compositional school that started with Hieronymus Praetorius and the pupils of Sweelinck and culminated in Buxtehude and, by influence, Bach. Weckmann’s contribution was to bring elements of the Italian style to North Germany. Unlike most of his contemporaries who were born in or near Hamburg and studied in Amsterdam, Weckmann was born in Thuringia. He studied in the Dresden Court under Heinrich Schütz, a pupil of Giovanni Gabrieli, and in Hamburg with Jacob Praetorius, a Sweelinck pupil. After periods in Denmark and Dresden (where he befriended Froberger, also born in 1616), Weckmann settled in Hamburg in 1655, becoming organist of the Jacobikirche and setting up the Collegium Musicum. He is buried beneath the Jacobikirche organ.

The Praeambulum Primi toni a 5 is a fine example of the mid-17th century North German style of free composition that led Continue reading

Matthias Weckmann (1616-1674)


Andrew Benson-Wilson plays music by
Matthias Weckmann (1616-1674)
on the famous Frobenius organ in the Chapel of The Queen’s College, Oxford. 

27 April 2016, 13:10.

A recital of organ music by the Hamburg master organist/composer, Matthias Weckmann, born 400 years ago this year. A pupil of Schütz who, in turn, was a pupil of Giovanni Gabrieli, Weckmann studied and worked in Dresden and Denmark. A friend of the influential Froberger, Weckmann settled in Hamburg in 1655 as organist of the Jakobikirche. He died in 1674 and is buried beneath the Jakobikirche organ.

Praeambulum Primi toni a 5
Ach wir armen Sünder (3v)
Canzon V
Magnificat Secundi Toni (4v)
Toccata ex D
Gelobet seystu, Jesu Christ (4v)

Programme note here.

Admission free – retiring collection.  Organ information here.
See also

Overture Transcriptions for organ

Overture Transcriptions II
The Organ of Rochdale Town Hall
Timothy Byram-Wigfield
Delphian DCD34143. 67’27

Overtures by: Nicolai, Spohr, Bach, Handel, Verdi, Weber, Tchaikovsky;
Transcribed by: Lemare, Best, Grace, Lang, Peace, Byram-Wigfield.

The story of the British Town Hall organ is a bit of a sideline of European organ history, but it is one worth exploring. The use of organs to promote civic pride and usurp their neighbours was not new in organ history – in 17th century Netherlands, for example, the main church organs were owned by the town, not the church, and a similar competitiveness is evident. The initial inspiration in Britain seems to have come from the increasingly large choral societies, their own roots going back to the enormous late 18th century Handel Commemoration Concerts. Such large vocal forces rehearsed and performed in the sumptuous Victorian Town Halls, notably in the emerging industrial powerhouses of the Midlands and North, but also in more southerly places like Reading. Some of the largest British organs are housed in such places, and Continue reading

Christ’s Chapel, Dulwich: organ recital

Ourania Gassiou, organ
Christ’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift. 13 March 2016

Music by CPE Bach, Böhm, Froberger, Fischer, Gottlieb Muffat, Sweelinck, JS Bach.

WP_20160313_19_33_10_Pro.jpgChrist’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift in Dulwich was consecrated 400 years ago, in 1616. The chapel and adjoining almshouses were the first of the charity foundations set up by the wealthy actor, Edward Alleyn, owner of the manor of Dulwich.  Shortly afterwards, the foundation’s status as a educational college was confirmed, leading to the present day Dulwich College.

At about the same WP_20160313_19_35_32_Pro.jpgtime the Chapel’s first organ was installed. In 1760 it was replaced by a new organ by George England which, despite the usual additions and alterations over the years, still survives with a considerable amount of mid- 18th century pipework and a fine Gothick case. In 2009 it was restored back to its 1760 state (with modest additions) by the UK’s leading specialist on historic organs, William Drake. The original pitch (A430) and modified fifth-comma meantone temperament was restored.  It is now one of the most important historic instruments in the UK.

The Chapel arranges a regular monthly series of 45 minute Sunday evening organ recitals, the latest of which was given by the prizewinning Greek organist, Ourania Gassiou, Continue reading

St. Lambrechter Orgelsommer 2015

St. Lambrechter Orgelsommer 2015
Manfred Novak, Pieter van Dijk, Peter Planyavsky organ
Ad Artem Musicae AAM 002-2015. 78’23

As well as the CD demonstrating the 2003 Westenfelder organ in the Abbey of Sankt Lambrecht, Austria (reviewed here), Ad Artem Musicae has also issued a CD of live recordings from four of the concerts in the 2015 St. Lambrechter Orgelsommer. Each concert features some contemporary music, and three of the four also have pieces for, or with, another instrument or a choir. The first and last recitals feature the Abbey organist, Manfred Novak. In the first he combines with Wolfgand Fleischhacker, playing saxophone and clarinet. In the final sequence of pieces, he is joined by Hansgeorg Schmeiser playing flute.

The opening piece is the Fugue from the Praeludium and Fuge in C (BWV547). This is one of the few Bach Prelude and Fugue pairs that were clearly intended to be performed together (most are found separately in the sources, and were put together, sometimes rather arbitrately, by much later editors), so the fugue played Continue reading