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Two (more) recordings of Elgar’s Organ Sonata and Vesper Voluntaries, and two attractive instruments, with Merton’s new Dobson organ and Leeds’s revived 1904 Norman & Beard both sounding cohesive and convincing. The Merton organ is particularly interesting: with its gutsy unison foundations (the Great 8ft Diapasons just slightly too articulate?), convincingly Victorian reeds and almost ‘Father’ Willis-like upperwork and Corno di Bassetto, Elgar is clearly its ideal repertoire.

Both players also seem particularly at home in the music. Nicholas’s playing is more dramatic in general and he perhaps finds a more convincing orchestral sweep in the Sonata in particular, though it must be noted that neither he nor Justin is really fastidious about the myriad articulation and phrase markings which Elgar details in the score. In the case of Justin, this extends even to rests (especially in the pedal). Both players also offer ‘Nimrod’, the edgy, keen strings at Leeds contrasting with the broad American ones in Oxford. Nicholas’s increase in tension feels more natural, although Justin’s diminuendo is slightly more convincing. Nicholas does perhaps score higher on the other couplings, in particular with his (premiere) recording of Herbert Brewer’s transcription of the Prelude to The Kingdom, which again reveals the new Merton organ’s affinity with late romantic repertoire (the sequencer is kept busy…). The Leeds organ is the ‘real deal’, of course, and the story of its revival by Klais from an extended period of neglect and silence, together with a stoplist at least, deserved to be detailed in the booklet.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica


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