This new CD from Priory features the fine Frobenius organ in Oundle School Chapel. This is a ‘co-educational boarding and day independent school’ in the historic market town of Oundle in Northamptonshire. It was founded by the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London in 1556: they still support it.
The liner notes suggest that in spite of the instrument’s justified fame, there has been no commercial recording since 1985. This was ‘The New Frobenius Organ at Oundle School’ with the organist James Parsons (PR168). It featured Bach, Maxwell-Davies, Howells and Saint-Saens. The present CD celebrates the instrument’s 30th anniversary, in an attempt to redress the balance.
The programme presents music appropriate to the Christmas season from Advent to Epiphany and is designed to display the organ’s versatility: the music ranges from the 15th to the 20th century.
The CD opens with the attractive Concerto Grosso, op.6, no.4 by Arcangelo Corelli which is better known as the Christmas Concerto. It is believed to have been composed for Christmas Eve 1690 for his new patron, the Duke of Modena. Normally heard in its string and continuo version, this six movement concerto transcribes extremely well for organ. The track listings (but not the liner notes) for some reason show this work to have been composed by a certain Alessandro Corelli (1660-1725). These dates actually suggest Alessandro Scarlatti!
The haunting Magnificat Sexti Toni by the French composer Jean Titelouze is accompanied by the chant of the canticle, beautifully sung by Daisy Tebbutt. Clearly, this instrument is at its best playing Bach and Buxtehude. So the latter composer’s Chorale Fantasia on ‘Wie Schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ is used to display the ‘Germanic flavour’ for which the organ is justly famous. The variation structure of the work allows for some very interesting registrations. Alexander Eadon then performs three consecutive settings by Bach of the chorale prelude, ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’. It is certainly stimulating to hear them played ‘back to back’ in this manner.
Just to prove that romantic music can be effectively played on this instrument, the recital includes Alexandre Guilmant’s ‘Introduction et Variations sur un Ancien Noël Polonais’. It is not a work I warm to, and one feels that Guilmant has not quite realised the intimate mood of the ‘Infant Holy, Infant Lowly’ text in this somewhat loud and lively piece.
Flor Peeters’ ‘Heer Jezus heeft een hofken’ (King Jesus hath a garden) is a lovely reflective little theme and variations. The theme makes use of the romantic salicional and flute stops. The second variation is wayward, with interesting use of polytonality and the finale is brash, but satisfying. In contrast, the short ‘Veni, Emanuel’ by Gerhard Krapf is written for manuals only and is surprisingly beguiling. Helmut Walcha, the great Bach organist, contributes an attractively simple chorale prelude on ‘Den die Hirten Lobten sehre’ (He whom the shepherds praised).
Paul Manz’s ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ is a will-o’-the-wisp piece that showcases the Rohr 8̍ flute on the Great and the pedal coupled to the Positive 4̍ flute.
The most modern piece on this disc is Mark Blatchly’s Three Versets on ‘Away in a Manger’ which was published in 1995. For some reason this work is not mentioned in the liner notes. However, the composer uses imaginative harmonies and accompaniments to point up this well-loved carol.
The CD ends with Paul Edmundson’s Toccata-Prelude IV on ‘Vom Himmel hoch’ which is the finale from his Christmas Suite no.2. This American composer provides a great warhorse which I guess would sound impressive on any instrument, large or small, baroque or romantic.
Strangely there is no history given about the organ builder or the organ: a few words may be of interest to readers.
Th. Frobenius & Sons was founded in 1909 in Copenhagen, Denmark by Theodor Frobenius (1885-1972). In 1925 the company moved to the suburb of Lyngby. Joined by his two sons, he gained a reputation for building organs with mechanical actions and slider windchests. They are regarded as epitomising neo-classical design. Important instruments include Aarhus Cathedral in Denmark, as well as The Queen’s College, Oxford, All Saints, Kingston upon Thames and the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. The Oundle School organ was installed in 1984 and the inaugural concert given by the late Carlo Curley in January 1985. The liner notes do give the all-important organ specification of organ, which has three manuals and pedals. (Great, Positive and Swell). The instrument has tracker action for the keys and mechanical action for the stops. One useful feature of the sleeve notes are the details of the registration used for each piece.
Alexander Eadon is currently Assistant Director of Music of Eastbourne College. Between 2009 and 2015 he was Choirmaster at Oundle School. At present, Eadon has a free-lance career, giving recitals in concert halls and organ lofts across the world.
Altogether an enjoyable CD which succeeds in being both a seasonal and inclusive exploration of one of the more interesting neo-classical organs in the country.
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713) arr. Jan VERMULST (1925-94) & Robert GOWER (?) ‘Christmas Concerto’ - Concerto Grosso in G, Op. 6 No.8 (1690?)
Jean TITELOUZE (1562/3-1633) Magnificat Sexti Toni
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707) Chorale Fantasia on ‘Wie Schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Chorale Prelude: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland BWV 659; Chorale Prelude: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland BWV 660; Chorale Prelude: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland BWV 661
Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911) Introduction et Variations sur un Ancien Noël Polonais
Flor PEETERS (1903-86) Heer Jezus heeft een hofken
Gerhard KRAPF (1924-2008) Veni, Emmanuel
Helmut WALCHA (1907-91) Chorale Prelude on ‘Den die Hirten Lobten sehre’ [2:06]
Paul MANZ (1919-2009) Wie schön leuchtet [2:33]
Mark BLATCHLY (b.1960) Three Versets on ‘Away in a Manger’ (pub.1995)
Garth EDMUNDSON (1892-1971) Toccata- Prelude IV on ‘Vom Himmel hoch’ (1937)
Alexander Eadon (organ) Plainchant versets for Titelouze sung by Daisy Tebbutt
PRIORY PRCD 1164
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published.