The Organ

John Kitchen plays the organ of the Usher Hall

John Kitchen plays the organ of the Usher Hall
Music by Hollins, Elgar, Handel, JS Bach, Liszt, Geoffrey Atkinson, Holst, Walton
Delphian DCD 34022

This is a most impressive reissue, which will be eagerly sought out by organ lovers who did not catch it first time around, for it is a collection of the first recordings of the newly refurbished Norman & Beard concert organ in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. The instrument was built in 1914, and, as the booklet notes accompanying this record state, after gradually falling into disuse by the early 1990s, efforts ‘to have this noble civic instrument brought back into use were eventually rewarded when it was resolved to entrust Harrison & Harrison with a comprehensive restoration of the instrument’. The consultant was David Sanger, and, as we can hear on this outstanding release, the results are impressive indeed, with some fascinating sounds, including a kinura-like orchestral oboe and an orchestral trumpet (not a big reed sound), both of which are heard to brilliant effect in Walton’s Orb and Sceptre – a tremendously thrilling performance form John Kitchen (if only conductors of the original orchestral version would take this wonderful march at this speed!) and a recording which has to be counted as one of the finest captured on disc of what a large-scale instrument really sounds like in a suitable but not over-reverberant acoustic. The wide-ranging recital opens with the Triumphal March by Alfred Hollins, which – as a piece of music – could almost be thought of as the great-grandfather of John Williams’s Star Wars – the later famous film music being anticipated on more than one occasion here. Kitchen gives an equally imposing account of Liszt’s Weinen, Klagen, being wholly mindful of the unique structure of the still-amazing masterpiece. It sounds superb on this instrument.

Robert Matthew-Walker