Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
When a series reaches its 20th volume it must be because it is doing something right. The aim is to preserve a record of the organ in the given cathedral - in this case Exeter - mainly through the music but supplemented by notes and pictures in the informative CD booklet. The Exeter Cathedral organ stands on the medieval screen between the quire and the nave. The first instrument was built by John Loosemore in 1665 in a particularly fine organ case. In 1891 a new organ, using some of the older pipework, was built by Henry Willis, and this was in turn rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison in 1931. In January 2013 an extensive refurbishment began, once more undertaken by Harrison & Harrison and if you want the current spec, I refer you to the CD booklet. On this recording, the first since the major rebuild and restoration that was completed in 2014, we hear the Assistant Director of Music at Exeter Cathedral, Timothy Parsons, who took up his post in September 2016 having previously served at Winchester Cathedral. We are in safe hands - and feet - as Mr Parsons plays very well indeed, allowing the listener to focus on the music. As is usual in this series the programme has been designed to showcase the featured instrument and, where possible, to use local associations. Thus we get a "Voluntary in A minor" by Matthew Locke (1621-1677) who was an Exonian by birth and was a chorister at the Cathedral under Edward Gibbons, brother of Orlando, and a "Larghetto in F sharp minor" by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876) who was for a time organist at Exeter. There are two contemporary works, Mark Blatchly's "Andante Sostenuto for TJYP" written for Timothy J. Y. Parsons, and Nico Muhly's "The Revd Mustard his Installation Prelude" - written for the installation service of the composer's friend the Reverend James Mustard as Rector of St Mary the Virgin, East Barnet. Revd Mustard has since taken the position of Precentor of Exeter Cathedral, so we have another local connexion. The bulk of the programme gives a variety of popular virtuoso showpieces by Felix Mendelssohn ("Sonata no 3 in A"), Louis Vierne ("Carillon de Westminster"), Edward Elgar ("Imperial March"), Johannes Brahms ("Three Chorale Preludes"), Olivier Messiaen ("Joie et claret des corps Glorieux"), and Maurice Durufle ("Prelude et Fugue sur le nom d'Alain"). Seasoned collectors of organ music may have much of this programme in their collection but having all of them in one place all played very well on an important instrument should mean that we are prepared to overlook some duplication.
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