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Proof that 13 may not be an unlucky number after all comes in the form of this three-disc, tri-format offering from Priory. Generously including Blu-ray, DVD and CD, the 13th volume of its Grand Organ series turns the focus on Coventry Cathedral’s IV/88 Harrison & Harrison in fine style.

Designed for the cathedral’s consecration in 1962, the organ is a remarkable, robust and well equipped instrument clearly influenced by baroque voicing. It is characterised by a host of distinctive stops and effects, not least a diapason chorus on all its five divisions capable of producing an ‘echo effect that is rather disconcerting if you’re sitting in the middle of it,’ confesses the organist and music director since 2006, Kerry Beaumont, in a bonus feature.

With a richly variegated range gloriously illustrated in the baker’s dozen musical items of the recital, Beaumont’s hugely informative demonstration of the organ’s polyglot abilities provides an excellent starting point. As bonus features go, even allowing for Priory’s previous high standards, his detailed and fascinating exploration of its pipes, stops and divisions ranks as one of the best.

Delightful, too, are all too brief encounters with the cathedral’s chamber organs – an expressive Peter Collins and a 1967 I/6 Torkildsen Brothers beautifully shown off with Scheidt’s gorgeous Variations on ‘Ach, du feiner Reiter’ and a sublime rendition of The Coventry Carol.

The main recital – of works themed on Coventry’s wartime devastation and recovery – boasts the darkly strident charisma of ‘Mars’ from The Planets, Messiaen’s loweringly bittersweet ‘Jésus accepte la souffrance’ (La nativité), resplendent accounts of Walton’s Orb and Sceptre and Walford Davies’s evocative RAF March, and an effervescently bubbling take on Pierre Cholley’s Rumba sur les grands jeux.

Priory’s sound (especially in 5.1, or try stereo on headphones) can’t be better and its well-chosen visuals shine brilliantly in Blu-ray. Excellent notes and detailed organ specifications add to the pleasure. Highly recommended.

MICHAEL QUINN Read the full review on Agora Classica

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