On Saturday, 7th September, I was unable to go on the SOCA trip because we had an arrangement to visit an old friend currently living in Cardiff. To compensate for the omission, we went to hear David Briggs play the Gala Recital in Llandaff Cathedral as part of the IAO’s Organfest in Cardiff.
It was an outstanding performance. He began with his own transcription of the final movement from Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony, in which he played the orchestral parts as well as the organ solo. A Chorale Prelude by Bach led into Bach’s Piѐce d’Orgue with some interesting registration, and some rubato in the middle section. Then came Beethoven’s Fugue in D, a new piece to me. After a quiet movement from a Widor symphony, the real meat of the first part of the recital was a performance of Dupré’s 2nd Symphony. This is, as some of you will know, a piece requiring an outstanding technique along with an ability to get the most from a major organ. The colour that David Briggs obtained was dazzling, constantly changing, and ranging from a rich string chorus through to heavy reeds.
The second part consisted of an improvisation on 3 Welsh tunes: in English, these were Land Of My Fathers, All Through The Night, and Men Of Harlech. Again, the variety of sounds and musical styles was stupendous, with fugues and toccatas aplenty.
The recital was recorded by the BBC for a radio 3 broadcast on 25th September. I recommend listening to it. Perhaps it might be worth considering a SOCA visit? This Nicholson organ was all new a few years ago, and has huge tonal resources.