Browse reviews

FringeReview UK 2019

John Collins Organ Recital

John Collins

Genre: Live Music, Music

Venue: St Nicholas Church, Dyke Road, Brighton


Low Down

John Collins plays organ music from the Italian/Iberian seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, via a favourite composer, Pachelbel, and with a strong accent for some British stops with John Marsh again completing the recital.


John Collins’ latest organ recital yet again sweeps through the Italian/Iberian seventeenth, then eighteenth century – with some German and British stops. organist at St George’s Worthing 1984-2017 he’s recently moved to Christ Church there.


Collins who also translates, lectures, records and is the authority on several countries’ organ music (the Iberian being the most intriguing) also concentrates on this area, excluding Bach and the better-known German repertoire.


Bar one piece it was a chronological survey, essentially Spanish ad Portuguese, ending in Britain. I don’t know Giovanni Salvatore 1620-88, but he sounds impressively early baroque, his Toccata del 1 Tuono a perfect curtain-raiser to the programme, rhythmic and potent. Fabrazio Fontana 1625-95 emerges in the same idiom, and his Ricercare seems a gentle answer to the Salvatore.


We tjhen turned back a century to Girolamo Cavazionne (1525-77) one of two Italians. you can hear the late Renaissance tonality, but already you can see it’s going to move somewhere else – he was born in the year of Palestrina so it’s worth noting how instrumental music was already feeling its way out of late medievalism through the Renaissance


With Johann Pachelbel 1653-1706 we think of that Canon, in fact he wrote 80. This though s part of the great organ repertoire he left, in addition to his rediscovered vocal music. A fine Chorale Prelude this time too ‘Ach Herr mich amen Sunder’ a fine rolling and detailed piece, furnishing a contrast in tonal progression and genre. Pachelbel and others till get championed, partly because they’re so good, but also because Pachelbel’s only played for one of his eighty canons and now his vocal music is getting far better known.


After this came three pieces I really needed to differentiate. I thought I knew one of them but that was simply a coincidence of name. So Juan Baptista Cabanilles 1644-1712 provided a baroque work, his Tiento II de Falass de I Tono a contemplative piece, hugely aerated by lighter tones. So the next composer, one of only two Portuguese organ composer of note in the 17th century, Pedro de Araujo (1640-1704) and his Tento 2 Tom, a deep undulating piece, darkly inviting. This seemed the centre of gravity of the recital.


The next work, the Italian Giovanni Maria Casini (1652-1719) was a contemporary of Corelli, but he sounds from a slightly earlier generation. It’s an attractive elusive work, but there’s so little to compare mid-17the Italian organ composers to. After Frescobaldi, everyone turned to the voice or harpsichords music, Storace, and the Scarlattis.


Gaetano Valerjlived a full century later, 1760-1822, so he’s a contemporary of say Clementi, Mozart, Dussek and Cherubini. And yes we get light classical Rococo voices for a start the Sonata Rondo in F is in the flutes, and really does stay there, like pink and blue Rococo puttis. A delightful soufflé of a contrast.


John Alcock Sr. 1715-1806 comes at the tail end of a remarkable British generation of composers born from 1709-14: Charles Avison, Thomas Arne, William Boyce, William Stanley, Thomas Mudge. They share a post-Handelian brightness, an easy rhetoric, and confident flourishes. This Voluntary in G minor was rather reo reflective a fine piece I’d like to hear again, and unusual in a Voluntary from this time being in the minor.


hid son the shorter-lived John Alcock Jr. 1740-91 contributed a Voluntary 4 in C, a marginally more advanced but extrovert more classically-cut piece, highly attractive too.


Finally a favourite of Collins: John Marsh 1756-1828 is known for some symphonies and concertos, a composer in the Arne and Boyce tradition born the same year as Mozart Kraus (revered by Haydn) and Thomas Linley whom Mozart thought a genius. All died young. Marsh who outlived many of the next generation wasn’t at all negligible. His Voluntary XIV in G is brilliant, virtuosic, full of a strut and late-classical force. You can see the Wesleys emerging in him. This composer’s known for orchestral work, readily available on CD, but his organ music’s wonderfully idiomatic, and more of the composer’s fingerprints perhaps can be felt here. Another absorbing recital.