Current Issue

May 2018 - July 2018 (Number 384)

Issue 384 includes features on: as well as lots of news from the UK and abroad, reviews of choral and organ CDs, books, concerts, new organ music, new installations, letters, and more.

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Cover of Organ magazine current issue


Evolution of Cavaillé-Coll’s symphonic organ

Michal Szostak

 Organ_of_Saint-Denis_Paris_184 - Adrien de la Fage

In the history of musical culture, romantic organs created in France in the 19th century are commonly called symphonic instruments. For French Baroque organs, called Classical organs – which to this day occupy a significant card in the history of organ building – symphonic instruments constituted an opposition pattern of construction, educated in the spirit of the aesthetics of the Romantic era. These instruments, being predominantly the works of one artist, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811-1899), combine a repetitive structure of elements whose mutual relations influenced their individual tone. This structure of elements paved the way for many 19th-century organ composers and improvisers, and then created perspectives on 20th-century music. The legacy of French composers-improvisers associated with this particular type of organbuilding is a direct reflection of the features of these instruments.

The literature on Aristide Cavaillé-Coll’s organist and organist is very rich. France has well-preserved archives, and the 19th century has already been a time of comprehensive use of permanent methods of recording both text and image (initially figures and then photographs). In addition, Cavaillé-Coll left many written materials – notes, scientific articles and other publications including illustrations; many non-existent instruments were sketched or photographed. First of all, many instruments have survived to this day, which are tangible proof of the features and skills of their author. The uniqueness of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll’s instruments and their influence on many phenomena of organ art caused and cause the development of many scientific studies.


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Peter Dickinson’s Organ Music

Peter Dickinson

Jennifer Bate

For many years Peter Dickinson has had a distinguished career as composer, pianist and writer and has been an accomplished organist. However, he has described his approach to the organ as “far from the English cathedral tradition” and his musical language incorporates many elements hitherto reserved for more secular spaces. His years studying and working in New York left a lasting impression and jazz, blues and ragtime permeate many scores that followed. Although he would freely admit to an admiration for a range of composers including Satie, Lennox Berkeley, Charles Ives and John Cage, early on he totally absorbed all outside influences and developed his own completely original style in all its diversity.

During the early 1970s, I devoured scores by contemporary composers. Among the concertos that I learned was a new Organ Concerto by Peter Dickinson, composed in 1971, which was premiered at the Three Choirs Festival by Simon Preston, to whom it is dedicated.



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Stanford’s War: Organ Music And The Irish Question, 1916-1918

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford

R. J. Stove

Concerning Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s great loves as instrumentalist, there abided three things: the piano, the violin, and the organ; and the greatest of these was the organ. The organ alone Stanford continued to play +even at the peak of his career, when his teaching, conducting, and composing workloads made it untenable for him to persist with public appearances upon the other two instruments. To the organ he confided many of his most intimate musical thoughts, and it is impossible to comprehend his doings during the Great War without reference to those thoughts.

‘The Irish,’ Dr Johnson cruelly assured Boswell in 1775, ‘are a fair people; they never speak well of one another.’ Walter Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, in 1930 (1066 and All That), employed more sardonic but no less hostile language: ‘[Gladstone] spent his declining years trying to answer the Irish Question; unfortunately, whenever he was getting warm, the Irish changed the question.’



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Barnes 2018: Growth of a Festival

barnes festival

Alan Gibbs

In the first Barnes Music Festival there were ten events; in the sixth this year there have been thirty: musical, artistic and social events involving some 900 performers of all ages. There could be no clearer indication of the affection in which it is now held and of its establishment in the local calendar. Thanks to the continuing energies led by Chairman Andrew Summers and assisted by a new Artistic Director, James Day, and a whole host of musicians, professional and amateur, aided and abetted by a team of volunteers, it has in no way rested on its first laurels, promising as they were. From the sixty events, I report on those particularly appropriate to readers of The Organ.

The new Artistic Director is, like Simon, also at Tiffins, in his case Director of the famous Boys’ Choir which we were to hear in action in The Creation (‘Our song shall be the praise of God’) by Haydn, followed the very next day with Handel’s Messiah (‘peace on earth’) in which he conducted the Fulham Camerata, familiar from previous festivals.




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A Samuel Renn House-Organ from 1823-24

Samuel Renn Organ

A report by James Palmer

Dr Michael Sayer, a leading authority on organs by Samuel Renn, has stated “It may be the only surviving house-organ by this maker” – in this report, we outline the circumstances which have led to this unique instrument becoming available.

The surviving organs of the English organ-builder Samuel Renn (1786-1845) are very few in number, with most of them situated in the north of England. He worked in Lancashire and also for a time in London before joining forces with John Boston in 1822 in Stockport and later in Manchester.

By a combination of circumstances, not necessarily unique in themselves, what Dr Michael Sayer, the leading authority on Renn organs and author of a book on the subject, has identified as a Renn house organ from the first half of the nineteenth-century, is now available as a result of a relocation by the current owner, who, as he says ‘rescued it from being burnt when things were being vandalised in Windermere.


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Gerald Barry’s New Organ Concerto

Gerald Barry

Christopher Morley

It comes to something when the sounds that most stay with me after the world premiere of Gerald Barry's Organ Concerto on March 7 should be a battery of ticking metronomes and antiphonal cymbals clashing in conversation.

Soloist Thomas Trotter brought heroics to his stop-start contribution in what is actually not an integrated concerto as I understand the term, but is in fact a quirky orchestral fantasia with organ obbligato. There is a huge cadenza early on in this 20-minute piece, stunningly delivered, then outbursts of organist jiggery-pokery while the orchestra takes us down to Stygian depths and then up into a stratosphere only eardrum-risking violins can attain.




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