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

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

Katharinenkirche Hamburg

Katharinenkirche Hamburg
Sietze de Vries, organ
Fugue State Records/JSB Records FSRCD007. 79’37

Jacob Praetorius, Reincken, Bach and improvisation

The recent reconstruction of the famous Hamburg Katherininkirche organ was major landmark in the organ world. Its nickname of the ‘Bach organ’ (or ‘ an organ for Bach’) is misleading, and relates to the visit of Bach in 1720. But it could equally, and with far more accuracy, be described as the ‘Scheidemann’ or ‘Reincken’ organ (Katherininkirche organists for nearly 100 years from 1629-1722), both of whom had far more influence on its development, and whose music it better represents. Its roots go back to about 1400, and it had reached an advanced state by 1605 when Continue reading

Bach at Martinikerk, Groningen

Bach at Martinikerk, Groningen
Wim van Beek, organ
Fugue State Records/Helior FSRCD003. 2 CDs. 51’12+57’41

Bach: Clavierubung III

This is a recording made in 2006 of the famous organ in the Martinikerk, Groningen, one of the famous North German Baroque organs. Its roots lay in the mid-15th century 1450 with a rebuilding around 1482 by Johan ten Damme. The Gothic organ was rebuilt in Renaissance style in 1542 and further enlarged in 1628, 1690, 1691/2 (by Arp Schnitger), by Frans Caspar Schnitger and Hinsz in 1729/30 and 1740. After many poor re-buildings in the early 20th century, it was finally restored back to a 1740 state in 1984 by Jürgen Ahrend, retaining most of its early pipework, some dating back to 1542. It is seen by many as an ideal ‘Bach organ’, although more recent thinking has recognised that the very different Saxon and Thuringian organs are closer to the sound world of the mature Bach. But he was certainly influenced by these more northern instruments, particularly in his youth. Continue reading