The Organ


David Halls plays the Father Willis organ of Salisbury Cathedral

The father Willis organ at Salisbury Cathedral is a perfect example of the English Romantic Organ at its best and surely must be one of the very few that sounds today as when built in 1877 and David Halls, the Organist and Assistant director of Music at the Cathedral explores its many facets of tonal colours on this fine disc.

Elgar's Imperial March provides a splendid opening track and is followed by Herbert Howells Rhapsody, Op.17, No 3, in C# minor, a highly chromatic work, turbulent, and dedicated to Edward Bairstow, written in York during an air-raid in 1918.

Delius's On hearing the first Cuckoo in Spring of 1911 is the epitome his fine styling, musing on a Norwegian folk tune. Here Eric Fenby's arrangement translates most comfortably on to the superb Father Willis strings.

Marcel Dupr, a pupil of Guilmant and Widor, was organist at Saint Sulpice in 1934 when he wrote Symphonie Passion, Op 23, of which Le Monde dans attente du Sauveur (The World awaiting the Saviour) forms the opening movement and shows off the Willis Diapasons in the irregular rhythm which is a feature of much of the musical material, the other being the plainsong Jesu redemptor omnium, which forms a spectacular climax.

John Gardner's Jig from Five Dances, Op 179, is a delight, as too Bach's Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 537, the atmospheric and rhapsodic fantasia is followed by the tightest of fugues, performed here in romantic style suiting the Willis so well. It is admirably suited also to music of so many styles and next shows its versatility in 'lighter' music - Sousa's Liberty Bell 'comes off' extremely well.

Toccata, Chorale and Fugue, Op 16, by Francis Jackson and dedicated to Healy Willan is not one of that composer's favourite pieces, but here is given a fine performance with its undoubtedly French influences so reminiscent of Franck.

Percy Whitlock, for many years organist at St Stephen's and the Pavilion, Bournemouth, wrote several large-scale works including a Symphony for Organ and Orchestra, of which this whimsical Scherzetto forms the third movement.

The Salisbury Sound concludes with the Finale of Widor's Symphonie, Op 42, No.6. This has a majestic diatonic theme, which occurs several times and is offset by romantic interludes with the coda rushing into a resounding finish on full organ with the Willis Tubas making a final and very unauthentic appearance.

An excellent disc and a welcome addition to those featuring the organs of British cathedrals. RFB