Splendiferous sounds captured on CD from Christchurch Town Hall’s rejuvenated Rieger organ courtesy of Martin Setchell


Martin Setchell at the Rieger Organ of Christchurch Town Hall

Mons Leidvin Takle – Celebration
JS Bach – Prelude in G Major BWV 541
Alexander Guilmant – Grand Choeur in D (alla Handel)
Reynaldo Hahn “A Chloris” (arr. Setchell)
Noël Goemanne – El dia de Fiesta
Enrico Bossi – Scherzo in G Minor Op. 49 No. 2
Bonaventura Somma – Toccata in A
Louis Vierne – Romance from Symphony IV
Reger – Variations and Fugue on “God Save the Queen”
Denis Bédard – Cats at Play
Marcel LAnquetuit – Toccata in D
Madeleine Dring – Caribbean Dance (arr. Setchell)
Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wély – Andante in F
*Charles-Marie Widor – Toccata in F

Pipeline Press PP2

*Original Recording from Ode Manu 1539, Sept.1997

This recording, “Resounding Aftershocks”  broke an eight-year silence for the Christchurch Town Hall Rieger organ which followed the catastrophic 2011 earthquakes, and, as befitted the occasion, celebrated the instrument’s return to full prowess in heady fashion! Organist Martin Setchell’s long-established brilliance and elan as a performer is here demonstrated to the utmost thanks to the skills and expertise of the disc’s sound engineer Mike Clayton, capturing the occasion most resplendently. Purely as a sound-spectacle it’s a thrilling experience; and the mix of well-known (Widor’s ubiquitous “Toccata”), sure-fire crowd-pleasers (Guilmant’s Handelian “Grand Choeur”), ear-tickling discoveries and gentler/more humourful moments (Reynaldo Hahn’s “A Chloris” and Denis Bédard’s “Cats at Play”) and out-and-out celebratory free-for-alls (Mons Leidvin Takle’s “Celebration” – a riot of sounds, suitably “cheesy” in places and all the more enjoyable and festive for that), suggests a time for uninhibited listening-pleasure in a variety of shapes and forms, if ever there was one!

Continuing the “resounding” ambiences are JS Bach’s Prelude In G Major BBWV 541 closely followed by the Guilmant “Grand Choeur in D”, suitably subtitled “a la Handel”! Contrasts come with Setchell’s arrangement of Reyaldo Hahn’s son “A Chloris”, before we are thrown back into sterner stuff with Noël Goermanne’s energetic, if somewhat dour, “El Dia de Fiesta” (impressive in its own way, but I think I would have rather been somewhere with a bit more cheerful an aspect!)

Thank goodness for Enrico Bossi’s mischievous Scherzo in G minor immediately afterwards, with its charming antiphonal-like echo effects, and piquant mood-changes wrought by some gorgeously-varied registrations. Bonaventura Somma’s ebullient Toccata in A undoubtedly echoes the sound-world of THE more famous Widor, but fascinates as an engaging variant, all the same, as does Marcel Languetuit’s Toccata in D Major, the textures also remarkably similar to Widor’s, even if the trajectories are differently calibrated! Incidentally, I’m sure the dedicatee to this piece, Albert Dupré, was actually the father of organist MARCEL Dupré, and not “Maurice”, as commented on in the booklet notes!

Louis Vierne’s Romance from his Fourth Organ Symphony straightaway haunted the ear like no other track heard thus far, with an excerpt that seemed to capture the essence of the instrument’s soul more deeply and ambiently than anything else on the CD – a deep well of feeling in the midst of so many sparkling, sunlit fountains and cascading waterfalls. Vierne wrote the work in 1914, in the shadow cast by the oncoming European hostilities, the piece’s darker, more agitated middle section reflecting these tensions and uncertainties in contrast to the serenities of the outer sequences of the music.

Max Reger’s “Variations and Fugue on God Save the Queen” (somewhat oddly written after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901) was included by Setchell to pay due respect to Christchurch’sEnglish heritage, and to honour Queen Elizabeth II, now the British throne’s longest serving monarch. However ill-timed one might think the piece’s original provenance, there’s no doubt it all makes a rather gorgeous and resplendent noise, especially as the music works up to an undeniably sonorous climax! I had never heard of English composer Madeleine Dring, but her “Caribbean Dance” from 1959, as arranged by Setchell, has a lazily attractive rhythm, crunching some unexpectedly bluesy-plus harmonies at one point, before leading  to a suitably insouciant conclusion.

I loved the tremulous Voix humaine’s other-worldly sound in Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wély’s Andante in F, a demonstration, incidentally, of one of two new stops “gained” by the refurbished instrument, the other being the Clarinette sound in the transcription of the Hahn song. The piece’s spacious serenity provides the utmost contrast to the opening tones of the long-awaited, tried-and-true favourite, Charles-Marie Widor’s arresting Toccata, from the Fifth of the composer’s organ symphonies, Setchell’s recording , here “lifted” without any signs of wear-and-tear from the organist’s 1997 MANU recording “Let the Pealing Organ Blow” as an appropriate “link” with the instrument’s history, one underlining the “return to life” of one of Christchurch’s most important cultural assets, and further reinforcing the inestimable qualitative value to the city of one of its most illustrious performers.

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