Wednesdays at 5.55

Wednesdays at 5.55
Organ Recitals at the Royal Festival Hall
W Harry Hoyle
Clontarf Press 2018
Hardback. 230 pages, 235x156mm, ISBN 978-1-999685706

Wednesdays at 5.55.png
For many organ music lovers, the phrase Wednesdays at 5.55 will have a particular resonance. Between 1954 and 1989, London’s Royal Festival Hall held early evening organ recitals on the influential and controversial Harrison & Harrison organ, inaugurated in 1954. During those years there were a total of 545 organ recitals given by nearly 200 international organists attracting at its peak audiences of around 1500. This record of these recitals, and the music and performers involved, is very clearly a labour of love for the author, W Harry Hoyle. The publicity blurb sums up the book well – “Drawing on the Southbank Centre archive, private paper collections and the memories of many performers, in this comprehensive and engaging book he tells the story of how the series was planned, which organists performed, the repertoire they played and how the recitals were received by the press and by the public. He also reviews the social changes that led to the ending of ‘Wednesdays at 5.55’ and the search for the best way to present the highlights of the organ repertoire on this unique instrument“. And that is exactly what it does, in an absorbing and informative read. Continue reading

RFH International Organ Series: Renée Anne Louprette

Renée Anne Louprette, organ
Royal Festival Hall, 19 September 2018

JS Bach: Prelude and Fugue in G
Marin Marais: Suite from Alcyone (arr. Louprette)
Jehan Alain: Variations sur un thème de Clément Jannequin
Ad Wammes: Mytò
Nadia Boulanger: Improvisation from 3 Pièces
Duruflé: Suite, Op.5

The Royal Festival Hall’s ‘International Organ Series‘, most of which is made up of UK, rather than international organists, made up for that fact by replacing an indisposed UK performer with Renée Anne Louprette, an American organist who spent some of her student days in London. She has held posts in several important New York churches, alongside academic posts, and is now University Organist and Coordinator of the Organ Department at the Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Jersey.

Her largely French programme opened with Bach’s flamboyant Prelude and Fugue in G (BWV 541), a distinctly non-French piece. From the very first few notes, it was clear that Renée Anne Louprette is an outstanding Bach interpreter. Her sense of touch, rhetoric and the way she sensitively articulated the opening flourish and the repeated notes in both Prelude and Fugue showed a real (and sadly rather rare) understanding of Baroque concepts such as the hierarchy of the bar. Her choice of registration was spot-on. Continue reading

Enescu: Oedipe

Georga Enescu: Oedipe
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski
Choir of the George Enescu Philharmonic, Romanian Radio Children’s Choir
Royal Festival Hall, 23 September 2017

A pupil of Faure and a teacher of Yehudi Menuhin, the Romanian composer and violinist George Enescu occupied a key, but usually overlooked, position in the musical world of the first half of the last century, a time of musical experimentation that he, by and large, avoided. Oedipe was his only opera and has been largely forgotten since its first performance in 1936 in Paris. It took him around 2o years to write. According to Menuhin, he kept the score by his bed so that he could jot down ideas easily.

IMG_20170908_131716512.jpg

Unusually amongst the many tellings of the Oedipus myth, Enescu covers the whole of Oedipus’s life, from birth to apparent death. Edmond Fleg’s libretto (much reduced from his original version, which would have entailed an opera spanning two evenings) draws on Oedipus Rex for Act 3 and uses part of the plot of Oedipus at Colonus for Act 4.  Continue reading

Hitchcock: The Lodger + organ

Hitchcock: The Lodger
with live improvised organ accompaniment by David Briggs
Royal Festival Hall. 24 June 2017

The history of improvisation on the organ is almost as old as the history of the organ itself. From medieval times to the present day, the ability to compose at will has been an essential part of an organists skills, whether adding a simple counter melody to a plainchant to improvising a complete symphony. Although the tradition is not as strong in the UK as it is in, for example, France, recent decades have seen a UK revival in the art of composing at sight. On this occasion, it was a specific branch of improvising that was on display, that of accompanying a silent film. There are many organists, past and present, who specialise in the cinema organ genre, but this performance was given by a classical organist, David Briggs, formerly organist at three cathedrals, and now best known for his organ transcriptions of symphonies by Mahler et al, as well as for his film accompaniments.  Continue reading