Whitlock: Organ Sonata - Battiwalla
Base2 Music Base2-09
Classical - Instrumental
Whitlock: Organ Sonata
Farnam: Toccata on 'O filii et filiae'
Grainger: Blithe Bells (after Bach)
Darius Battiwalla (JJ Binns organ of Rochdale Town Hall)
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - June 18, 2021
This is the fifth time that an organ recording of Base2 Music sees the light. And this one confirms once more that reviewing these releases has become more an aspect of whether or not one likes the music than leaving an opinion on the merits of the technical qualities of the recording, or even on the performance; these two having invariably been of a high standard indeed. Jake Purches knows how to select the organs and the performers that go best with them. All different, but all of an intriguing nature.
The J. J. Binns organ is a true concert style organ built in the historical Rochdale Town Hall (Greater Manchester) with elements of the great German organ builder, Schulze, once Mr. Binns’ master. The listener will be pleased to read the full explanatory notes in the accompanying booklet.
The other quality flows from the musical genius of Darius Battiwalla, the recently appointed Leeds City Organist. This ‘Jack of all trades’ started the piano at an early age, shifting subsequently to the cello and the organ. Soloist with some of the better British Symphony Orchestras he also performed with the Black Dyke (Brass) Band, whilst being an improviser for silent films, arranger, and choral conductor, plus doing a whole lot more. In short: a genuine musician. Good to have him here ‘on record’.
The remaining question: What about the music? Long-time forgotten and mostly appreciated for his shorter pieces, Percy Whitlock’s Sonata, the main work on this disc, ‘surfaced’ in the 19-seventies, to become a core element of English organ repertoire. Several recordings exist, but none having such an authoritative level of expression and sound: Around a mighty forty-five minutes of organ splendour filling the full space of the Great Hall.
The programme furthermore contains two more though hardly known compositions, a short ‘Toccata’, the only published work for organ by the famous Canadian virtuoso, Lynnwood Farnam, with which Battiwalla sharpens the ears of his audience, and 'Kyrie’, a composition from Fela Sowande a locally much-respected personality from the Nigerian Highlife Scene, turned classical composer at the Royal College of Organists in London, England. And many will appreciate the inclusion of Percy Granger’s ‘Blithe Bells, elsewhere described as “A free ramble on Bach's Aria: Sheep may safely graze”.
This release will no doubt please British organ fans and possibly many ‘overseas’ customers for whom Whitlock still is a white spot in Organ Land. Besides, in Bastiaan Kuijt’s (BK Audio, Amsterdam) surround mastering, no detail gets lost and all of it is conveyed with energy galore!
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
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