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The Willis organ at Hereford has largely retained its distinctive tonal characteristics despite some subsequent revisions. Like any historic organ of unequivocal quality, it has a strong personality and demands to be taken on its own terms. The American Damin Spritzer understands this instinctively. Her programme of English late romantic rhapsodies fits the instrument like a glove and her attention to detail in managing seamless crescendi and diminuendi, and showing offthe panoply of solo colours, is no less than brilliant. If the repertoire, by Alec Rowley, Harold Darke, Ernest Bullock, Harvey Grace and others, is occasionally reminiscent of Beecham’s famous adage that ‘the English may not like music, but they absolutely love the noise it makes’, Spritzer’s strongly characterised interpretations and the sumptuous sound captured by Christoph Frommen make this highly enjoyable.

Douglas Tang’s disc, by comparison, too often strays into ‘painting by numbers’. Nearly 10 minutes each of Marchand and Bruhns is a curious and uncomfortable choice of repertoire, and the metronomic interpretation of Mendelssohn’s Sixth Sonata is at odds with the contemporary descriptions of Mendelssohn’s own organ playing. The choruses employed too often terminate in the incongruous quint mixtures added in 1978, rather than the original surviving tierce mixtures, which are such an inherent part of Willis’s style. Only in the Howells set 2 no.1 Psalm Prelude and Whitlock’s Plymouth Suite does the organ sound at all happy. For all Tang’s digital dexterity, and despite the much broader variety of repertoire, Spritzer’s disc demonstrates far more of the organ’s potential. For the real ‘Hereford Experience’, hers is the disc to have.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica


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