R e v i e w s
Alexander Eadon, Walker organ of St Saviour's Church, Eastbourne
WILLOWYHAYNE RECORDS WHR060
The Walker organ sounds splendid, and the combination of fine playing and well contrasted programme makes for such enjoyable listening.
Robert Jones [Composer of Birthday Suit(e) featured on this recording]
I enjoyed the repertoire on this CD, especially the lighter pieces, and it most definitely made for a pleasurable listening experience. Eadon’s registrations excellently capture the spirit of each work especially in the delightful quieter compositions where there are some lovely stop combinations. It is the first of a projected series of ‘Experience’ releases showcasing organs in the seaside town of Eastbourne. Eadon begins his journey at St Saviour’s Church, in recognition of the 150th anniversary of its consecration. It is apt to play Healey Willan’s Six Chorale Preludes as he was associated with St Saviour’s before he moved to Toronto. Nixon’s Pasticcio is a delight, as is Robert Jones’ take on the tune Happy Birthday; both will make you smile as Eadon uses the organ to great effect. Willowhayne has recorded the organ well and to conclude Paul Collins joins in the fun for the Sousa which brings a wonderful CD to a close.
Alexander Eadon is no stranger to the CD catalogues having produced, among others, recordings on the Priory label at Oundle School where he was previously Choirmaster, and an earlier Willowhayne “Experience” disc from Arundel Cathedral. He is certainly a fine player who has chosen a suitably varied programme to show off both his own skills as an organist and the thoroughly English qualities of the 1926 Walker organ.
As for the programme, two mainstays of the repertory – Franck’s A minor Chorale and Mendelssohn’s Sonata No.2 – sound just right, are given lively and solid performances, and show off the true nature of this instrument most effectively. Perhaps the most successful performances here are of Goss-Custard’s delightfully insouciant Chelsea Fayre and William Harris’s Preludes. Significantly both these works belong very much to the era of this instrument, and so we should not be surprised that they come off so well, but full praise to Eadon who plays them with pleasing sensitivity and an astute feel for the style.
Alexander Eadon, Hill organ of Arundel Cathedral
WILLOWYHAYNE RECORDS WHR043
This impressive CD from Willowhayne Records captures both the sound and music of the fine restored organ and of this youthful and interesting musical performance. With the reservation (see below) this CD is highly recommended. Willowhayne is clearly a company to be noted. The recording is exceptionally fine.
The CD opens with Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. It is an exciting and dramatic reading; a powerful interpretation at a good pace.
Mendelssohn’s ‘real’ Wedding March follows. This is the Third Sonata, the opening of which was written as a Wedding March for his sister, Fanny. Mr Eadon captures both grandeur and excitement, whilst ensuring that the fugue is clearly delineated.
A deeply felt interpretation of Howell’s D flat major Rhapsody discloses the many colours of this organ, though the lack of a sixteen foot Swell reed is all too obvious throughout the CD.
Two pieces by Vierne (from Twenty Four Pieces in Free Style – Carillon and Berceuse) show both organ and player well. The neat phrasing and driving rhythm is compelling, even in the Berceuse which has more sense of forward motion than many performances.
Edwin Lemare’s very difficult arrangement of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll is spectacular in its capture of the orchestral original on a notoriously insensitive medium. Mr Eadon shows here what a consummate musician he is, with mastery and understanding of both instrument and music. This is by far the best piece on the CD.
Guild members will be interested to hear the short Wedding Fanfare written by Robert Leach as a bridal march for his wife Marilyn, on the occasion of their marriage on 29/6/1974. It is a good piece. Perhaps Robert will allow it to be published in Laudate. Mr Eadon plays it with conviction and panache.
For once, thankfully, Widor’s ever-famous Toccata is preceded by the magnificent Adagio that creates so much atmosphere before the excitement, ending, as it does, in the dominant key. Mr Eadon’s playing of the Toccata is technically assured, measured, musical and impeccably rhythmic, bringing to mind Widor’s own recording. Mr Eadon’s rendition ranks alongside the iconic performance by Barry Rose.
ADVENT TO EPIPHANY
Alexander Eadon, Frobenius organ of Oundle School Chapel
PRIORY PRCD 1164
This very well constructed programme presents some exciting and musical performances of organ music for the extended season. There is nothing over familiar here but throughout there are many references to well known seasonal melodies. Opening with an arrangement of Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, Op 6 No 8 there are also three settings by JS Bach of Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland. The earliest composer is Titelouze and more recent works include Mark Blatchly’s Three versets on Away in a manger and Garth Edmundson’s Toccata-Prelude IV: Vom Himmel hoch which brings this excellent recital to a dramatic close.
Choir & Organ
Taking us through the seasonal organ pieces from Advent to Epiphany, Alexander Eadon's recital from Oundle School Chapel showcases the fine qualities of the Frobenius organ as well as his own imaginative musicianship. Eadon makes some less obvious choices alongside the usual suspects from Buxtehude and Bach; especially enjoyable is Garth Edmundson's festive Toccata-Prelude on Vom Himmel hoch.
The Frobenius organ at Oundle is well known to countless organists in its pivotal role in the Oundle for Organists programme over the past 30 years. This disc was recorded to celebrate the instrument’s 30th anniversary, and to once again commit the sounds of this wonderful instrument to disc – the first time in many years. Alexander Eadon, until recently Choirmaster at Oundle School, has selected a programme that demonstrates the instrument’s versatility while at the same time exhibiting some of the many different responses to the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany seasons by composers across more than 400 years. The programme is an attractive mixture of familiar and unfamiliar works, several based on well-known seasonal melodies. The instrument’s clear, bright tones inevitably lead to a preponderance of 18th- and 20th- century repertoire, and the range of solo and ensemble timbres in the works by Buxtehude and Bach is a particular delight. The more recent repertoire serves as a most effective foil; Peeters’ neo-classical variations and Edmundson’s sparkling Toccata are especially effective. Eadon’s playing demonstrates sophisticated interpretative skill and keen attention to articulation and texture, so crucial in performing this repertoire on an instrument such as this.
Tempi are judiciously selected, notably in BWV 659, where the walking bass never becomes ponderous, and in the Edmundson, where the balance between the energetic toccata figurations and the grandeur of the homophonic statements of the chorale is finely struck. This is an attractive programme, played with verve, on a rightly celebrated instrument.
This new CD from Priory features the fine Frobenius organ in Oundle School Chapel. The liner-notes suggest that in spite of the instrument’s justified fame, there has been no commercial recording since 1985. This was ‘The New Frobenius Organ at Oundle School’ with the organist James Parsons (Priory PR168). It featured Bach, Maxwell Davies, Howells and Saint-Saëns. The present CD celebrates the instrument’s 30th anniversary, in an attempt to redress the balance.
The programme presents music appropriate to the Christmas season from Advent to Epiphany and is designed to display the organ’s versatility: the music ranges from the 15th to the 20th centuries.
The CD opens with the attractive Concerto Grosso, op.6, no.4 by Arcangelo Corelli which is better known as the Christmas Concerto. It is believed to have been composed for Christmas Eve 1690 for his new patron, the Duke of Modena. Normally heard in its string and continuo version, this six movement concerto transcribes extremely well for organ.
The haunting Magnificat Sexti Toni by the French composer Jean Titelouze is accompanied by the chant of the canticle, beautifully sung by Daisy Tebbutt. Clearly, this instrument is at its best playing Bach and Buxtehude. So the latter composer’s Chorale Fantasia on ‘Wie Schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ is used to display the ‘Germanic flavour’ for which the organ is justly famous. The variation structure of the work allows for some very interesting registrations. Alexander Eadon then performs three consecutive settings by Bach of the chorale prelude, ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’. It is certainly stimulating to hear them played ‘back to back’ in this manner.
Just to prove that romantic music can be effectively played on this instrument, the recital includes Alexandre Guilmant’s ‘Introduction et Variations sur un Ancien Noël Polonais’. It is not a work I warm to, and one feels that Guilmant has not quite realised the intimate mood of the ‘Infant Holy, Infant Lowly’ text in this somewhat loud and lively piece.
Flor Peeters’ ‘Heer Jezus heeft een hofken’ (King Jesus hath a garden) is a lovely reflective little theme and variations. The theme makes use of the romantic salicional and flute stops. The second variation is wayward, with interesting use of polytonality and the finale is brash, but satisfying. In contrast, the short ‘Veni, Emanuel’ by Gerhard Krapf is written for manuals only and is surprisingly beguiling. Helmut Walcha, the great Bach organist, contributes an attractively simple chorale prelude on ‘Den die Hirten Lobten sehre’ (He whom the shepherds praised).
Paul Manz’s ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ is a will-o’-the-wisp piece that showcases the Rohr 8̍ flute on the Great and the pedal coupled to the Positive 4̍ flute.
The most modern piece on this disc is Mark Blatchly’s Three Versets on ‘Away in a Manger’ which was published in 1995. The composer uses imaginative harmonies and accompaniments to point up this well-loved carol.
The CD ends with Paul Edmundson’s Toccata-Prelude IV on ‘Vom Himmel hoch’ which is the finale from his Christmas Suite no.2. This American composer provides a great warhorse which I guess would sound impressive on any instrument, large or small, baroque or romantic.
The liner notes give the all-important organ specification of organ, which has three manuals and pedals: Great, Positive and Swell. The instrument has tracker action for the keys and mechanical action for the stops. One useful feature of the sleeve-notes are the details of the registration used for each piece.
Altogether an enjoyable CD which succeeds in being both a seasonal and inclusive exploration of one of the more interesting neo-classical organs in the country.