Robert Quinney, based now at New College, Oxford, has a well-deserved reputation, alongside his excellent choral directing, as an expert performer of the organ music of J S Bach. He has produced a number of fine recordings and I know that several of us in the audience were particularly looking forward to hearing the two pieces of Bach in this programme.
Beginning with the well-known ‘Dorian’ Toccata and Fugue in D minor (not the other, more famous one) the evening got off to a very good start. Commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of the influential English composer William Byrd we heard his Ut re mi fa sol la – a freely composed piece based around the major scale. Three Dances from a Set of Five by the twentieth century English composer John Gardner, were delightful – rhythmic, melodic and at, times, surprising – I was really pleased to be introduced to these pieces. The simple but lovely Prelude in E flat by William Harris followed and the first half closed with three well-known movements from Handel’s Water Music.
The second work by JS Bach opened the second half. The fifth of the set of six Trio sonatas, this piece really demands completely independent control of the two hands and feet to weave a complex texture, registered to allow the different lines to be easily heard. Robert Quinney’s performance of Frank Bridge’s Adagio in E brilliantly demonstrated the ability of an organ such as this to create an enormous swell of sound from almost nothing and then back to where it began, in the 19th/20th Anglican cathedral tradition of music suitable to set the scene before worship. The evening ended with a complete contrast to this – Victorian jollity in the form of Stainer’s Jubilant March.
A most enjoyable and varied evening of music from an experienced performer who was last here twenty years ago!
Next concert – 14th August Margaret Phillips, concert organist.