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Regent Records have taken the plunge with their first organ DVD, and it’s an auspicious debut – the Midlands-based firm has recorded City Organist Thomas Trotter in a programme of virtuoso organ showpieces from Birmingham Town Hall, with its historic 1834 William Hill organ fresh from its 2007 restoration by Mander Organs.

Trotter’s programme consists of secular showpieces very much in the realm of civic entertainment and the grand orchestral transcription. Beginning with Hollins’s Concert Overture no.1 in C minor, he offers Wagner’s Meistersinger Overture and Ride of the Valkyries, transcribed by the great Edwardian virtuoso Edwin Lemare, and his own arrangement of Eric Coates’s ‘Youth of Britain’ March; Ketèlbey’s Bells across the Meadows and Leroy Anderson’s The Typewriter wittily show off the organ’s percussion accessories, in arrangements respectively by Gatty Sellars and Trotter himself. His immediate predecessor as City Organist is acknowledged with a Thalben-Ball favourite: Michael Festing’s Largo, Allegro and Two Variations, and GT-B’s Paganini Variations – a show-off piece to end all show-off pieces, deceptively scored for pedals only and enough to make all but the most accomplished organist blanch. But the best is saved till last: a spectacular arrangement, by Trotter and Edwin Evans, of Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812’ Overture unleashes the full range and power of the organ in a dazzling display of keyboard and pedal technique.

Production values are high on this combined DVD and CD package. Trotter’s playing is faultless, simply riveting to watch and clearly displaying a highly developed piano technique which he has strangely never exploited professionally. Other than graceful pans across the hall and the organ’s decorated pipework plus a few exterior shots, DVD director Holly Elson offers minimal distraction from Trotter’s playing, making highly effective use of a jib-mounted camera to maintain a fluent and interesting visual narrative. In DVD extras, Trotter demonstrates the organ and talks with his customary disarming candour about his musical background and the job of City Organist. Highly recommended.

GRAEME KAY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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