Organ Recital, Albert Hall Nottingham, 4****: William Ruff


Jonathan Scott, organ

October 21 2018

Albert Hall, Nottingham


Review: William Ruff


Barnstorming organ showpieces from Jonathan Scott

If I buy a CD of organ music it’s usually one that carries a warning that, before playing, it’s best to ensure that all the neighbourhood pets are inside and heavily sedated.  ‘Tummy-wobbling’ is a word one reviewer once used of one of my favourite recordings – and my tummy certainly wobbled during Jonathan Scott’s Albert Hall recital on Sunday afternoon.

The concert marked 25 years since the restoration of the mighty Binns organ and was also a tribute to the golden days of the City Organ and the showpiece spectaculars (often transcriptions of orchestral music) with which virtuosos would thrill their audiences.

Jonathan Scott is an enthusiastic showman in the grand tradition, demonstrating his mastery of (one would have thought) impossible techniques.  I’d never heard of ‘thumbing down’ before but that’s what happened in Wagner’s Tannhaüser Overture when eight fingers played the keyboard above and his two thumbs played the keyboard below.  And, of course, he was also using both feet.

The programme showed just what the Binns organ can do in terms of its almost orchestral range of colour.  Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet overture had all the passion one could want, both of inter-family hatred and of young love (and must have been fiendishly difficult to perform).

He also included music from Coppelia, Ketèlbey’s In a Persian Market and the last movement of Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony, playing not only the solo part but all the orchestral parts as well.

There were some weightier pieces as well (Mozart’s F Minor Fantasia, Lanquetuit’s Toccata and Dupré’s G Minor Prelude and Fugue) but even these were served up with as much Technicolor spectacle as the Binns could muster.  In everything he played Jonathan Scott proved that the art of the organ virtuoso is very much alive and well.

Jonathan Scott playing the Binns Organ at Nottingham’s Albert Hall


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