David Briggs at the organ of Blackburn Cathedral
Douglas Carrington wrote with great enthusiasm about David Briggs' opening recital on the rebuilt organ of Blackburn Cathedral and now those of us who have not been able to hear it live have a chance to judge for ourselves through this recording which was made last June. David Briggs confines himself to French music which admirably suits both the instrument and the acoustic. The two opening pieces by Cochereau are close to David's heart and are here given beautifully clean and articulate readings - a reflective Entrée Grand Orgue leading to a jolly Scherzo Symphonique.
Franck's Third Choral may be more familiar but the warmth of the registration within the glowing acoustic and the sense of organic growth within the work is compelling. The longest item is an improvisation which David admits was laid down at the end of the recording session when he was flying on adrenalin. You would hardly know it apart from the excitement he creates. The opening movement is thematically and texturally close to the weighty early twentieth-century French tradition of symphonic writing, but gives way to a fluid and delicate Scherzo for flutes and mutations. We know of David's interest in Mahler from his own transcriptions, and here his Adagio draws heavily on the late romantic world of Mahler and Wagner. Think Tristan meets Mahler Three! Apart from the beauty of the unfolding harmonies it is a fine demonstration of the Blackburn strings.
The Finale leaps forward to the more demanding - and exciting - harmonic world of late twentieth century French composition, with the influence of Cochereau and Yves Deverney. Where some performer / composers might hesitate to put their own works alongside that of more familiar (not to say dead!) composers, David Briggs' new symphony fits perfectly into the tradition upon which he is drawing and is a fine addition to it.
The CD also includes works by Langlais and Demessieux, concluding with an extrovert and uplifting reading of Dupré's Allegro Deciso.