Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
This varied and enjoyable recital from the Cathedral of St Asaph in North Wales centres on organist John Hosking and of course features the cathedral's organ, originally built by William Hill in 1834 and which has been moved, enlarged and overhauled more than once, with the latest rebuild, by Wood of Huddersfield, being finished in 1998. Listeners with a particular interest in organs might do better to go to Regent Records' 2013 release 'Variation AMRYWIAD' where Mr Hosking gives a full recital. However, as a taster, this CD from Willowhayne Records in their 'Experience' series allows us to hear the instrument in all its glory with Johann Sebastian Bach's "Prelude and Fugue in C Major (BWV457)" and Marcel Dupre's "Toccata (Symphony No. 2, Op. 26)" standing out for your reviewer. In addition to pieces for solo organ we hear soprano Olivia Hunt, violinist Xander Croft and harpist Bethan Griffiths in various combinations. The 'St Asaph Experience' includes two world premiere recordings of the music of John Hosking, a lovely "Ave Maria" and an interesting setting of a song written in Welsh by Hywel Griffiths but here sung in a translation by Eurwen Hulmston, "In The Halls Of Our Patronage". If you want to hear more compositions by John Hosking, I recommend the 2016 release, again on Regent Records, 'All Angels Cry Aloud', performed by The Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge under Sarah MacDonald. "In The Halls Of Our Patronage" features the talented harpist Bethan Griffiths who also shines in her solo contribution, Guillaume Connesson's "Toccata For Solo Harp". Other highlights include Lili Boulanger's beautiful "Pie Jesu" for soprano, organ and harp and Sigfrid Karg-Elert's imposing Symphonic Chorale "Nun Ruhen Alle Wälder" ("All Of The Woods Are Now At Rest") where it is the turn of violinist Xander Croft to shine along with the organ and, once again, Olivia Hunt singing very well indeed. There is much to enjoy in the 78 minutes of this programme, held together by John Hosking's accomplished work on the organ and with notable contributions from the other three talented musicians. The adage about leaving the audience wanting more is true in this case so I will close with one more recommendation of another Willowhayne release, this one from 2019: 'Musick To Heare' by Olivia Hunt and John Hosking.
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