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Frederick William Holloway is an unknown but somewhat interesting figure in late 19th- and early 20th-century British organ history as long-time organist of the Crystal Palace, following its relocation to Sydenham. In fact, he was directing a choir rehearsal there when the last great fire broke out in 1936. His music is clearly for the secular arena and is perhaps most reminiscent of Lemare in style. The present release, made up largely of first recordings, includes an Organ Symphony in C minor, a Concert Toccata and a vigorous Introduction & Allegro concertante, as well as plenty of pretty ‘tea-shop’ melodies. The latter show off the elegant solo stops of the Gackenbach organ well, but I am not entirely comfortable with the choice of instrument, despite the generous acoustics. What began as a transplant of a 13-stop Nelson organ from Co. Durham has been expanded to four manuals and 43 stops with an illogical stoplist (the Great has three opens but no mixture, the Solo a mixture but no other vestige of a principal chorus; the Great has an oboe, the Swell none but does have two trumpets). Even if the remaining pipework is reputedly of English origin, in larger registrations the sound tends to become slightly gritty and unblended and there are some moments when the chorus reeds seem to struggle. The organ’s footprint has not grown at all; where are all the extra reservoirs? Surely the second-hand pipework had been voiced for a variety of pressures? One seeks in vain for answers to any detailed questions online. Markus Eichenlaub plays with the virtuosity and panache of a leading English town hall organist and deserves enormous credit for pouring so much energy and serious intent into this forgotten English music.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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