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Brighton Year-Round 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, with a strong accent for once on German music – with some British stops.


John Collins’ latest organ recital wasn’t scheduled at all. He stepped in to replace other artists who were indisposed.

Collins 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 relishes the change of registers and the remarkable sound-world of St Nicholas. Indeed the organ’s never sounded better than now, and Collins even at short notice knows this.

Bernado Storace is known for a collection of keyboard pieces collected in 1664. That’s it. They’re often played on a harpsichord and can fit on one CD. Though less-known because of this, he might be the most significant Italian keyboard composer between Frescobaldi (1583-1643) and Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757). His Toccata and Canzona in G is a striding confident product of mid-baroque: all process and strut, attractive touch-off and a neat singing postlude maintaining that bright G major.

Antonio e cabezon (1510-66) might be the greatest Iberian composer of the keyboard, certainly the greatest before Albeniz, Granados and Mompou, with only Soler and Seixas (more on him in a bit)to rival his eminence. Born in the middle of the great Iberian polyphonists Cabezon blind from two years old, produced works of an inwardness to parallel the younger Victoria. His Tiento de Cuarto Tono is a recognizably Renaissance work, with a dark hushed core no-one else quite has. We hear it on harpsichord, but the organ conveys it too.

Giovani Maria Casini (1652-1719) is a fine mid-baroque composer whose Pensiero Ottavo is a remarkably serious work, religious in tone, not so much part of the keyboard world of say the 1690s, but again a reflective slow work, like most things here worth hearing twice.

Carlos Seixas (1704-42) a priest, was like the younger Antonio Soler a pupil of the Italian Domenico Scarlatti. In his brief TB-haunted 38 years he wrote a cluster of attractively post-Scarlatti works which prefigure Soler (1729-83) and the gallantry of the Rococo era, rather than just the baroque. His Sonata No. 15 in C minor the Siciliano-Minuet is a languorously misleading classical thing that quickly drops its languor and waltzes to minuet-time: bright, perky, attractive and memorable.

Starling Goodwin (ca. 1714-74) is one of those like the man named Sue, who seems to have overcome his startling name. He’s a memorable virtuosic voice though with his Voluntary No. 5 Set 1 in F with Swell and Vox Humana. This is in effect a bright early-classical prelude (he was born in the year of Gluck and C P E Bach) and a kind of off-stage voicing in the latter sound, ghosting a melody lie a processional that’s moved away. Quirky, original music.

Henry Heron who worked around 1760 wrote a more recognizably British Voluntary N. 4 in C, a trumpet and echo effect, though more integrated, less showy perhaps. It was followed by a straightforward contrast by the obscure and beautifully-named-for-an-organist, Jonas Blewitt ca 1757-1805. His Voluntary in G Op 2 No. 7 suggests there’s more to be discovered here. Using the flute stops, this bright optimism of G works as a more delicate but still attractive classical full stop.

It preludes the pieces from Handel’s 1749 Music for the Royal Fireworks. Some things are lost but he stripped-down focus allows one to listen for elements you’d otherwise miss. The Overture-Bouree, quite plain till it moves up a notch is followed by La Paix (Largo alla Siciliana) with its memorable sway ad Handelian bask. It’s followed by La Réjouissance an Allegro with Handelian swagger but a memorable tune, which the two Minuets, so famous in themselves cap with the ones you walk out with. Yet another superb Collins recital, impromptu.