Rededication of the Grand Organ St Paul’s Cathedral 30th October 2008
by Brian Moore
The journey to St Paul’s provided an unexpected pleasure as the first bus to arrive outside Charing Cross Station was a very smart Routemaster, running on Heritage Route No 15 from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill. The conductress kept a watchful eye on her passengers, especially anyone attempting to jump off the open rear platform in moving traffic.
At St Paul’s the courteous Wandsmen in elegant morning dress were on duty, adding to the sense of occasion in the richly lit interior. Following an introduction by Canon Lucy Winkett, Precentor, the organ was blessed by The Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, Dean of St Paul’s. The programme itself was introduced by Simon Bates, Presenter, Classic FM, who in turn welcomed the recitalist, Olivier Latry, Organist –Titulaire, Notre Dame de Paris.
The organ now has a very handsome mobile console, which was positioned in front of the chancel steps for the recital. It was donated by a generous benefactor in memory of his father, Harry Gabb CVO, Sub-Organist of St Paul’s 1946-74 and Organist of HM Chapel Royal, St James Palace.
The current restoration has been carried out by Mander Organs. Both consoles are identical with 137 drawstops and copious controls. A new Pipenet Real Time Operating System has been installed, capable of handling 8.5 million signals instantaneously, and using the same technology as the NASA space shuttle programme. The other major change is in the Dome section, controlled by the fifth manual. The chorus work here mostly dates from the major Mander rebuild of 1977, but the reed and tuba ranks, which were in poor condition, have now been replaced with new pipework, adding to and blending with the four manual chancel organ to thrilling effect.
M. Latry’s programme was:-
Prelude and Fugue in G major BWV 541 Johann Sebastian Bach
Andante sostenuto (from Symphonie Gothique) Charles-Marie Widor
Prelude and Fugue in G minor Op7 no3 Marcel Dupré
Apparition du Christ ressuscité à Marie-Madeleine
(from Livre du Saint-Sacrement) Olivier Messiaen
Deuxième Evocation Thierry Escaich
The mobile console enables the player to hear the whole organ in perspective, and M. Latry certainly has the measure of it, his superb articulation and phrasing allowing the organ to speak as clearly as possible in the vast acoustic of St Paul’s. Every facet and resource of the organ was displayed, the whole programme being played from memory, apart from the Messiaen.
If there was one piece, which showed the most amazing virtuosity, it was the Deuxième Evocation, which began with an almost inaudible throbbing pedal ostinato, and rose through jagged rhythms to a tremendous climax.
After his masterly improvisation on submitted themes – Oranges and Lemons and Agincourt Battle Song – M. Latry played as an encore Toccata from Suite Gothique – Boëllmann, bringing this unforgettable recital to a thunderous conclusion.
New Mander Mobile Console
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