Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Guillou, Jackson, Langlais & Morgan

Huw Morgan Cofion Cynnes am Davies
Jean Guillou Sagas nos 1 & 5
Gabriel Jackson Wedding Carillon for Louise and Nick
Jean Langlais Suite Breve

Organ Recital by Michael Bonaventure

St. Laurence Church, Catford, London, 9 January 2010

Michael Bonaventure, organist of All Saints Church, Blackheath, gave an enterprising recital at Catford, which boasts a splendid modern church and a magnificent organ (1969, J.W. Walker & Sons), its pipework hidden within a cloth covered chamber behind the altar - 9 ranks [5 enclosed] including a repeating Mixture.

After several bad experiences of churches with acoustically mis-matched organs that made me muffle my ears, the joy of this one is that it is perfectly adapted tonally to the modest circular space of this handsome church.

Bonaventure is a dedicated proponent of contemporary music for his instrument, and this was a typical programme. Alongside major works by French organist composers he featured a delightful rippling Wedding Carillon by Gabriel Jackson and a suite of pieces by Huw Morgan, organist at Catford, who was turning over for Bonaventure. It was a pity that no introductory notes were provided, especially to elucidate the obscure Welsh title of the latter !

Space being limited, the makers adopted some clever techniques to add variety and sonority to what is actually quite a small instrument. For some of us, pieces by Guillou were the most welcome; an important Parisian organist/composer (with an impressive discography on Philips) he has long been a favourite of ours, but his music is little known in UK. This is accessible modernism, with a quirky turn of phrase and harmony.

The shortish Langlais suite did justice to the full organ in its outer movements, Grand Jeux and Dialogue sur les mixtures, with delicate tones exploited in the inner pair, Cantilène and Plainte. [See a video of Dialogue on the Mixtures -- "the ultimate Dancing Hands piece..."]

Guillou, Searle etc at Blackheath

All Saints Church, Blackheath Sunday 10 January 2010 at 5.15pm

JEAN GUILLOU Saga No.I & IV (1969)
Tsunami (2005)
AVRIL ANDERSON The Grass is Sleeping(1979)
DAVID SUTTON-ANDERSON Three Pieces (1999/2002) (Meditation - Priere - 44 Frames)
GABRIEL JACKSON Carillon for Louise and Nick (2001)
HUMPHREY SEARLE Toccata alla passacaglia (1957)

This was a more satisfactory recital than Bonaventure's in his own church in December; once again though problems necessitated late programme changes, and he seemed to have eschewed the more painful registrations which drove me to ear-muffling...

Patterson's tribute to the devastating 2005 Tsunami is a well-wrought piece which gained from a second hearing. Humphrey Searle's Toccata was a timely reminder of a one-time important British composer, an indefatigable champion of serialism before it was accepted in then parochial England... A strong piece and a worthy recital finisher.

I had problems with the more austere examples of minimal preoccupations from Avril Anderson and David Sutton-Anderson (who might be related?). Their pieces needed some introduction to help listeners and break the ice - almost literally, as London is in deep freeze, the vast spaces of All Saints unheated again. What were the "44 Frames", we were left wondering after a portentous succession of chords?

This was Jean Guillou's weekend and it has been good to renew acquaintance with some of his Sagas (their titles relating to ancient Icelandic legends). Some of them (i.e. No 4) are notated transcriptions of improvisations issued on Philips 456 512-2, a treasured disc in my collection.

In 2009 Universal France re-released the complete recordings of Guillou's own music which he made during the 1960/70s (4802099 - 5 CD Set) - definitely worth seeking out.
JEAN GUILLOU celebrates his 80th birthday in May this year and hopefully it will not be overlooked in London organ recitals?

Peter Grahame Woolf

Michael Bonaventure is shortly to commence recording British contemporary organ music on sfz music

Watch Bonaventure on YouTube playing Hibernal by Yumi Hara Cawkwell

And do enjoy YouTube videos of Jean Guillou improvising and in an except from his La Révolte des Orgues ! [Editor]

This was a very enjoyable recital, given by the resident organist and director of the record label sfz, which has an extensive programme of English composer organ recordings underway with Michael Bonaventure.

It was a well contrasted programme, introduced by Huw Morgan, one contrived to demonstrate the range of the St Laurence organ, and the church was bathed in sun through the stained glass windows on a fine Spring Saturday morning; perhaps that was responsible for reducing the number of listeners...

The Bach choice was from the "48", and it went well on the organ, particularly so in the Fugue with the bright registrations chosen.

The grand finale was a Buxtehude Prelude, actually one in D. Afterwards coffee, biscuits and conversation were enjoyed by the audience, joined by Huw Morgan.

Peter Grahame Woolf