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In 1986, Priory issued Gerard Brooks’s Oxford Town Hall recording on LP, and Geoffrey Webber’s Magdalen College recording on cassette – together they fill a CD in this worthwhile reissue. Oxford Town Hall’s IV/35 ‘Grand Concert Organ’ was designed by Sir John Stainer and built by ‘Father’ Willis in 1897; overhauled by Peter Wood in 1983, it remains tonally unchanged. Brooks’s fastidious and fluid technique in Lemare arrangements of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and Meistersinger Prelude, Rossini’s William Tell, Dvořák’s Carnival Overture and Tchaikovsky’s extended Fugue from the Suite for Orchestra op.43 makes the most of the organ’s tonal and mechanical limitations, and the hall’s unforgiving acoustics. By contrast, Webber’s programme of Sweelinck, de Heredia, Tomkins, Purcell, Pachelbel (the F minor Ciacona) and Bach (the Fugue on the Magnificat) offers an idiomatic showcase for the first recording on the II/22 Mander organ installed at Magdalen that very year. But the boxy analogue sound (with some high- frequency shrillness in the Magdalen recording) makes this overall more of an historic snapshot CD than a first choice for the music.

GRAEME KAY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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