Brighton Fringe: Organ Music at St. Bart’s – John March
Covid restrictions have generated a real hunger for live music so this year’s recitals began with a splendid banquet. The starter was Buxtehude’s ‘Prelude & fugue in G minor’ BuxWV149. It opened with a flourish, built up with some fugal interest and ended almost abruptly. Eager for more, we were served a delightful Bach Chorale Prelude, ‘O Mensch, bewein dein’ Sünde gross’ BWV 622.
The elegant Baroque formality then gave way to the full Romantic splendour of Liszt’s ‘Fantasia and Fugue on BACH’. Now the 1901 J W Walker & Sons organ sounded like a completely different instrument, its rich depth matching the grandeur of the building. A thunderous waterfall of sound drew curious passers-by in through the glass doors.
An exquisite contrast followed, the premiere of ‘La Mort de Cordelia’, a gentle, meditative sketch by Debussy sensitively completed by Brighton’s illustrious Robert Orledge. It easily held its own after all that gorgeous Lisztian bluster. I would have loved an encore except this satisfying programme just had to move on to the Messiaen, ‘Dieu Parmi Nous’ which is even more exuberant than the Liszt. All this was rich fare indeed and very generous programming for a lunchtime concert. It’s just as well the church is so famously enormous because there was only just enough socially-distanced space for such a large audience!
St. Bartholomew’s Church,
1 June 2021