horizontal line

If David Halls allows himself some licence in this baker’s dozen compendium of music by composers associated with Salisbury and its magnificent 13th-century cathedral, he can be forgiven for presenting a well chosen and varied programme that spans the centuries from Bach (whose Toccata & Fugue in F is the most tenuous shoo-in here) to Flor Peeters, and for showing off its inimitable 1877 ‘Father’ Willis organ in fine fashion.

Bach makes a second appearance with the chorale prelude Wachet auf, a favourite fixture of the cathedral’s Advent Darkness into Light service. But, frequent visitor Handel’s perennially popular Largo aside, it is music of the 19th and 20th centuries that predominates.

Halls’s programme makes fulsome use of the historic 4-manual instrument’s astonishing array of colour and character – its glorious 8ft solo tuba shining out in his own Salisbury Fanfare and in ex-chorister Geoffrey Bush’s effusive 1981 royal wedding Trumpet March. Time and again his performances serve to remind one of the many qualities of this most nimble and nuanced of organists.

Bonus features – running a whisker short of an hour – are exemplary. A 10-minute guide to the organ’s crowded stop and push-button array – ‘like the flight deck of an airliner’ – proves an excellent introduction to the what, why and how of the console, just as his potted introduction to the programme itself whets the appetite. A 23-minute ‘tour’ of the organ and a short introduction to the cathedral’s attractive and articulate 1986 Peter Collins box organ are no less enlightening, with Halls’s commentary as engagingly companionable throughout as it is knowledgeable.

Especially fascinating is the split-screen commentary on Halls’s ‘freely adapted’ reworking of the piano reduction of Eric Coates’s Dance in the Twilight, with camera angles separately focusing on feet and hands in action.

With gorgeous interior and exterior shots of the cathedral and its environs – beautifully filmed by Richard Knight – and a bonus CD of the recital, this is another altogether attractive feather in Priory’s cap.

MICHAEL QUINN Read the full review on Agora Classica

   Read full review   

To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.

Read more classical music reviews online here:

Choir & Organ, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing