Birmingham Town Hall
February 11th (5 stars)
It was like hands meeting across the centuries at Birmingham Town Hall on Monday, when Thomas Trotter, well on the way towards completing three decades as city organist, celebrated Mendelssohn’s 200th birthday with a lunchtime programme devoted entirely to that beloved composer who was so much involved with the early history of the Town Hall and its magnificent instrument.
Though not quite as packed as when Mendelssohn’s appearances used to fill the auditorium to overflowing, there was an excellent house, and it is easy to understand why.
As well as being a brilliant executant on this mightiest of instruments (and he knows the capabilities of this one so well), Trotter also has a pleasant, easy manner in addressing the audience, inviting us to share in the delights of this or that registration, and pointing out clear structural landmarks in the piece he is about to play. So there is a strong educational input here, too.
He opened with the Prelude and Fugue in C minor, a clear offshoot of Mendelssohn’s devoted rehabilitation of the neglected Johann Sebastian Bach, with warm, well-rounded organ tones. The charming Andante in D with Variations, pastoral and pensive, changed the mood, followed by the mighty, tremendous Sonata in F minor. This is a piece of high drama and dynamic and textural contrast, and Trotter’s reading was exemplary.
Finally came three transcriptions of orchestral works, resourcefully done by Victorian arrangers long after Mendelssohn’s untimely death (he could still so easily have been top man in Leipzig when Elgar visited there — what a thought): two Midsummer Night’s Dream excerpts and the War March of the Priests (from Athalie). Splendid stuff delivered on an exhilarating knife-edge of danger.
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