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The twelfth volume in the increasingly essential ‘Grand Organ of…’ series is also Priory’s third release in cutting-edge Blu-ray. Everything here points to the superior high-definition quality of a format that offers well-delineated sound, pictures of crisp, involving clarity and room for intelligent and illuminating bonus features.

As organist and master of the choristers in Durham since 1985, James Lancelot performs the dual roles of soloist and host with becoming grace, delivering performances of obvious quality on an instrument now well under his fingers and feet. He also presents five short films with welcoming warmth.

The adroitly chosen programme (ranging from England to Austria and France, Liechtenstein and Lebanon) sits comfortably on the well-resourced IV/98 instrument originally built by ‘Father’ Willis in 1876 and extensively added to by Harrison & Harrison in 1905 and 1970. A vivacious romantic organ, it transforms Rheinberger’s F minor Seventh Sonata into a wondrously lustrous and luminous experience in Lancelot’s delicately deliberate performance, and responds with relishably robust vigour to the alternating polyphony and rhapsodic stylus phantasticus of Bach’s G minor Fantasia & Fugue BWV 542.

Elsewhere, Lancelot’s own bracing enlargement of Stanley’s Trumpet Voluntary, the fervent, relentlessly rhythmic Alain Litanies, a deftly contrasted Franck Pièce héroïque (also featured in a bonus item with Lancelot’s spoken analysis over split-screen shots of hands and feet in action), Haydn’s playful Three Pieces for Musical Clocks, and Henri Mulet’s extrovert toccata Carillon-Sortie add to the impression of a fine, full-voiced organ and a wholly simpatico soloist.

Other bonus items include Lancelot’s insightful introduction to the programme, a fascinating glimpse of the II/5 Harrison & Harrison organ commissioned by Lancelot for the cathedral organist’s house, and a poignant commentary on The Miner’s Hymn for an industry closely associated with Durham.

Paul Crichton’s beautifully recorded sound (in both stereo and 5.1 Surround) and Richard Knight’s attractive filming enhance the pleasure of Lancelot’s pristine playing.

MICHAEL QUINN Read the full review on Agora Classica


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