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There have been organs of various origins, sizes and abilities in Exeter Cathedral since the end of the 13th century, the earliest mention of such dating as far back as 1286. The present machine is housed in a casing built by John Loosemore in 1665 and enlarged by ‘Father’ Willis more than 300 years later in 1891. Later modernisation and renovation (most recently the addition of a new section complete with its own blower switch) has maintained the organ in pristine condition and kept alive an organ tradition that is arguably without compare elsewhere in the UK.

All these facts and considerably more are to be found in one of the finest DVDs to come my way in quite some time. The cathedral’s music director Andrew Millington has assembled a wide-ranging programme to showcase the instrument’s impressive range, its muscularity, sensitivity and dexterity, with Bach’s monumental E minor Prelude & Fugue alongside the Prelude from Charpentier’s Te Deum at one end of the historical spectrum, and at the other Percy Whitlock’s stirring March Dignity and Impudence, Noel Rawsthorne’s deliciously tongue-in-cheek Hornpipe Humoresque, and the jaunty, jazzy inflections of Blues-Toccata by Mons Leidvin Takle.

Millington makes every piece sound as if it had been written specifically for Exeter, differentiating stylistic, timbral and tonal considerations with consummate ease. He plays host, too, in a fine set of extra features: a 37-minute history and tour of the Grand Organ’s development; a separate profile of the cathedral’s 2007 Tickell chamber organ; a discussion of the recital programme; and a fascinating commentary on Howells’s C sharp Rhapsody that greatly benefits from split-screen views of hands and feet in action. Beautifully filmed by Richard Knight, and with a bonus CD of the recital, this is a splendid release, informative, entertaining, and

MICHAEL QUINN Read the full review on Agora Classica

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