Margaret Phillips

Concert organist

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Concert review

Margaret Phillips at Reading Town Hall
22 April 2010


Sinfonia from Cantata 29: J.S. Bach (arr. Guilmant)
Pièce d'Orgue (Fantasia in G) BWV 572: J.S. Bach
Fantaisie in C Op. 157: Camille Saint-Saëns
The Swan (Carnival of the Animals): Saint-Saëns (arr. Guilmant)
Marche Héro que Op. 34: Camille Saint-Saëns
Andante, 'Ch ur de Voix humaines ; Sortie in B flat: Louis Lefébure-Wély
Sonata No. 1 Op. 42: Alexandre Guilmant

The recital commenced with the Bach Guilmant arrangement and was rightly played as Guilmant rather than Bach. The Fantasia was given a performance to match the title, with every part clear as it should be. The Saint-Saëns items varied from early to late in his lifetime and were beautifully interpreted and played. The March, we were informed, is dedicated to a friend who died in the Paris uprising; it is salutary to remember how much of the French organ music of the period was written in turbulent times. Which leads on to Lefébure-Wély who is subject to much critical comment. Yet he was very popular in his time was this in part because of the political unrest? The two works in the programme are very different, with the Andante gentle, the Vox Humana being used to good effect. The Sortie is vigorous and was played with the full blooded approach it requires. On an organ such as the Willis and a player in sympathy, which we had, one can see why it was popular and it was certainly well appreciated.

The second half of the recital comprised Sonata No. 1 by Guilmant. This is a major work by one of the leading organists of the time, and it should be heard more often. The first movement is extensive, requiring full use of the organ. Contrast is provided by the Pastorale which introduces passages requiring use of, and interplay between the oboe, clarinet and flute stops, fine examples of which exist on the Willis. This was beautifully attained by the recitalist, allowing the full organ introduction to the final movement to achieve the maximum effect. It is not an easy movement for the player, but in this performance was made to appear so. The recitalist was rewarded by enthusiastic applause from a very appreciative audience. The encore in response was a delicate piece by Dubois, Marcietta. Reading has been very fortunate in its recitalists who manage to combine technique with musicianship and this recital was another excellent example.
The Berkshire Organist (Journal of the Berkshire Organists' Association), 2010

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