John Kitchen - John Kitchen Plays The Organ Of The Usher Hall

Published Sunday 31st May 2009
John Kitchen - John Kitchen Plays The Organ Of The Usher Hall
John Kitchen - John Kitchen Plays The Organ Of The Usher Hall

STYLE: Classical
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Delphian DCD34022

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

The Usher Hall organ was originally built by Norman And Beard in 1914 and comprehensively restored by Harrison And Harrison in 2003. This is the first recording since the restoration and John Kitchen, senior lecturer in music and university organist in the University of Edinburgh as well as city organist, is the right man to show us what it can do. As he rightly points out in his interesting booklet notes, Bach could not have imagined hearing his Prelude and Fugue in E Flat (the 'St Anne') played on such an imposing instrument. Does it matter? Any Bach purists reading this review will almost certainly have a more authentic recording somewhere in their collection and may well enjoy hearing Bach's Baroque masterpieces played on such a different instrument. The same applies to the set of Handel Marches, from 'Deidamia', 'Alcina', 'Rinaldo' and 'Scipio'. Since Victorian times audiences have become used to hearing Handel played by massed orchestras and choirs with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. Here Kitchen presents them in flamboyant style rather than in a more subdued period performance and really brings them to life. The organ comes into its own in the "Triumphal March" of Alfred Hollins, Elgar's "Nimrod" and Holst's "Jupiter" and the recital concludes with the daring juxtaposition of Walton's "Popular Song" and "Orb And Sceptre". So, in all, we have an enjoyable 78 minutes that is strong on melody and played with great panache and, on these terms, the CD deserves 10 out of 10. However at Cross Rhythms we also look for a spiritual dimension which is not really present. True, we get Liszt's moving variations "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" written after the death of his daughter and also a contemporary "Little Liturgical Suite based on Scottish folk melodies" by Aberdeen-based composer Geoffrey Atkinson but, overall, this release cannot really be classified as explicitly Christian; it is a well played and thoroughly enjoyable secular release.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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