Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
1:02 AM 4th November 2023

Classical Music: Thomas Trotter A Celebration

Thomas Trotter A Celebration
40 years as Birmingham City Organist

Parry Fantasia and Fugue in G Op 188; Wolstenholme The Question/The Answer; Holst arr Trotter Jupiter from The Planets Op 32; Kevin Volans Walking Song; Mendelssohn arr W T Best Overture to St Paul Op 36; Madeleine Dring arr Trotter Caribbean Dance; Coates arr Trotter Knightsbridge March; Willan Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue; Karg-Elert Valse Mignonne, Op 142; Rachel Laurin Étude héroique.

Regent REGCD584

This exciting new release from Regent is a must for organ enthusiasts and those who enjoy Town Hall recitals.

One of the leading lights on the organ scene, Thomas Trotter has curated a superb and infectious programme to celebrate his 40 years as Birmingham’s City Organist.

Quite the gymnast, Trotter astounds with a dazzling display of virtuosic and rhythmic dexterity, all his trademark characteristics, and, of course, an excellent technique coupled with a superhero ability to change stops and create, quite simply, stunning effects throughout with innovative registrations.

Trotter manages the climaxes through electrifying crescendos, ably assisted by Regent's superb recording engineers with equally impressive diminuendos. He cleverly takes us on a tour of all the instrument's ranks, creating beautiful sounds from the organ he has shown off to great effect since 1983. He thrills with a blazing selection of reeds, tubas, and trumpets going full pelt, mixtures rattling your neighbours’ windows, and a concoction of smaller sounds—dulciana, salicional, flutes, vox humana, plus tremulant, cymbelstern, and let's not forget the marvellous and magnificent Bombarde section and the 32ft pedal Bombardon —what is there not to like?

The central work is Healey Willan's terrific Introduction, Passacaglia, and Fugue, a work that should be more widely known. I know some organists dismiss it, but not me; the benchmark is Nathan Laube playing the organ in the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, which this recording equals. I was disappointed recently that a well-known organist programmed it for a recital at my local cathedral, as it was his favourite work. It was a poor performance, suffering from a lack of creative flair. Trotter's performance has symphonic creativity and excitement in spades. Those lovely opening pedals sound delicious.

Where would any town hall organist be without William Wolstenholme? That is The question for which we also get an answer, well David Gammie tells us that Wolstenholme’s pair of pretty little pieces were apparently written for his fiancée in 1895. The Question gently persistent, and passionate too at times, and The Answer a dainty ‘I do’, with a hint of coquetry in its unpredictable irregular phrase lengths. Of course, there is always W.T. Best to add some sparkle, and he has arranged Mendelssohn’s Overture to St Paul, which is delivered with aplomb.

Trotter is quite adept at arrangements, and we get a feisty display of Eric Coates well-known Knightsbridge March, a gorgeous adaptation of Madeleine Dring’s delightful Caribbean Dance, bells included, and a superb performance of Holst’s Jupiter, the fourth movement of the composer’s Planets Suite, ingeniously arranged by Trotter, who plays with wonderful symphonic registrations and plenty of colour and well-controlled flourishes.

The mood changes for South African composer Kevin Volan’s minimalistic and catchy Walking Song , a piece that complements a programme of such an eclectic mix of compositions.

I had forgotten that Karg-Elert could be so insouciant with his light and airy Valse mignonne which transports us to the cinema organ or a tea dance, with a wonderful and delectable use of the tremulant. “Such fun," as the comedian Miranda often said.

If that wasn’t enough, Parry’s mighty Fantasia and Fugue in G opens Trotter’s recital, and he closes with Canadian composer Rachel Laurin’s Étude héroique, a piece Trotter uses to remind us of how versatile the Birmingham organ is. Laurin died this year, and it is a fitting tribute to her compositional skill, as Gammie writes: ‘… amid the sound and fury, there are lighter and softer moments too, including some scampering scherzo-like episodes, a lyrical second theme coloured by mysterious French-style harmonies…’

The interesting booklet not only has Gammie’s notes but also a short history of the organ by Nicholas Thistlethwaite.

A glorious and spectacular indulgence in organ music, delivered with a stylish flamboyance and panache.

Recommended without hesitation.