REVIEW: Society puts on a stimulating show

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Review of Buxton Musical Society Concert, St John’s Church, May 5

The links that Michael Williams has established with Durham were eminently fulfilled when the Cathedral Organist, James Lancelot, gave a thrilling performance of Elgar’s Organ Sonata, Opus 28.

Although Elgar was an organist this was the last major work that he composed for the instrument, possibly because his wife, Alice, was already ambitiously planning the international stature that Elgar was shortly to achieve with the Enigma variations and Gerontius.

The Organ Sonata, dating from 1895, is a major work of symphonic style requiring prodigious musicianship on the part of the soloist. Fortunately James and the massive St John’s organ together produced a memorable combination. Particularly impressive was James’ handling of the contrasting dynamics that Elgar demands in the first and fourth movements.

Usually with organ recitals the organist is only seen in the distance finding his way to the console. So it was very agreeable that James was given an opportunity at the start of the concert to explain to the audience about the work and about the problems that the performer has to overcome.

Having lured such a fine organist to Buxton it was a bright idea to ask him to accompany the Society’s choir in the Requiem, Opus 9, by Maurice Duruflé in the version composed for organ accompaniment. Although he lived to a great age and composed for most of his life Duruflé published only 11 works and even those he was not totally sure about with the result that he never liked his Suite for Organ and he withdrew his opus 1 altogether. Moreover, most of his work consisted of liturgical settings so he is not particularly well known to concert goers.

The Requiem, composed in 1947 is a somewhat subdued piece very much in the style of the much better known Fauré. Even so there were sublime solos from Francis Brindley (soprano) together with Naomi Turner’s impeccably balanced ‘cello obligato and from Andrew Parker (baritone).

All in all a clever piece of programming which resulted in a thoroughly stimulating concert.

Peter Low

The next concert of the Musical Society will be on Sunday June 19 at St John’s Church at 7.30pm, and will include Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 19, K459 and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony.