Images: Anna Lapwood on the organ of Ely Cathedral
While one naturally associated the organ with huge swathes of sound and stomach-churning basslines that storm the Heavens, here Anna Lapwood goes out of her way to show the instrument's silvery soft side. Without further ado, let's see an example of that, the "Forlane" from Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin, arranged by Erwin Weirsinga:
Somehow Ravel's delicacy works supermely well on the organ, and those high registers sparkle like gems.
Recorded on a chilly January evening in 2021, after hours as it were, at night, the disc is spellbinding. Even in the idea of a voluntary (this one by Patrick Gowers, based on Jeremiah Clarke's famous Trumpet Voluntary) is gentler than one might expect: but there is also swirling virtuosity here in Lapwood's superb performance, with the theme arriving at the end played by Lapwood's right foot!:
This disc seems to me about questioning boundaries and identities. How far can one take a piece from its original and maintain its identity, but still reframe it? Who would have thought Debussy's String Quartet (Andantino, douce expressif movement) could emerge as so beautiful on the organ?:
Ideal to follow that woith Karensa Briggs' Light in Darkness (which shares some harmonic traits with the Debussy); and it's like the light fades further with Nadia Boulanger's Improvisation (the third of three from 1911, which also exist in a version for cello and piano). Boulanger's piece is glorious: it reveals layer on layer on repeated listening, the way the luntitude of harmonic explorations is bound together by an ostinato:
The album is named after Owain Park's piece of that name, itself inspired by a passage from Walt Whitman:
Word over all, beautiful as the sky. Beautiful that war and all of its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost ...
This is a piece that was written specifically for the building ("the building has been written into the music" as the booklet notes put it) - and indeed listening to it in Dolby Atmos on Apple Music (Hi-Res Lossless) is definitely defnitely worth the trip (arguably in multiple senses of the word), but here for the moment is the YouTube version:
Lapwood offers her own arrangement of the Four Sea Interludes from "Peter Grimes". There is indeed real magic to the opening of "Dawn":
We do feel the power ofthe organ on this disc, though: in "Storm," a virtuoso transcription of the higherst level. What's astonishing is the level of audible detail:
Lapwood also arranges Olivier Messiaen's Vocalise-Étude, originally for wordless soprano. Lapwood's arrangement of this early (1935) piece is simply lovely:
... and finally, the aptly named Taking Your Leave, an organ voluntary by Cheryl Frances-Hoad that sparkles in a toccata before a magnificently imaginative middle section, based on the gesture of a rustling right hand and left-hand points of light offer a most stimulating contrast:
The organ of Ely Cathedral is clealy an awesome instrument (in the most literal meaning), and yet, as Lapwood proves, is capable of the most astonishing delicacy.
A wonderful disc.