Tom Winpenny organ

NAXOS 8.574366

This interesting and attractive CD contains just two works which Elgar composed specifically for organ: the Organ Sonata No.1 in G major, Op.28, and Vesper Voluntaries, Op.14. There are also three works of which the composer himself produced organ versions taken from elsewhere in his repertoire, along with three famous pieces arranged for organ by other notable organists: Imperial March, Op.32, ‘Nimrod’ from the Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance, No. 4. The Organ Sonata No.2 is an arrangement by Sir Ivor Atkins (1869 – 1953) of four of the five movements of the ‘Severn Suite’ which Elgar composed originally for brass band before two years later producing a version for orchestra.

The four movements of the first Organ Sonata are symphonic in style with the organ used much like a full orchestra. Multiple stop variations produce passages as if for solo instruments, often flutes, as well as instrumental groups from the rest of the orchestra. The two central movements are wonderfully transparent in texture. Apparently, according to Rosa Burley, mentioned by Tom Winpenny in his accompanying notes, the original organist Hugh Blair ‘made a terrible mess of poor Elgar’s work’. We, on the other hand have the remarkable Tom Winpenny who makes Elgar’s fine noble melodies throughout the piece sing forth splendidly.

The second Organ Sonata, arranged by Atkins, is splendidly well shaped, possibly cleaner than the originals with the final Coda bringing back the opening tune. It is more suited to the organ as such than the first Sonata with both a dazzling toccata and a solemn fugue. Nevertheless, Elgar’s melodic gift overlies both movements and that, for me, was just great.

The Introduction followed by seven short pieces in the Vesper Voluntaries are pure ecclesiastical organ writing. The pieces, possibly played separately in church, still come together very well as a suite, with the final Coda bringing back the earlier music, but in the major key.

Cantique, Op.3, Solemn March, and Loughborough Memorial Chime are all good organ arrangements but, of course, the three final pieces including Nimrod and a gloriously celebratory performance of Pomp and Circumstance No.4 by Tom Winpenny on the wonderfully resonant Father Willis organ of Hereford Cathedral, make a fine conclusion to a fascinating and enjoyable organ recital.

Review by Alan Cooper