Philip Scriven’s second year-long organ cycle ended triumphantly on Tuesday June 4th with a splendid Mendelssohn encore ‘The War March of the Priests’ from ‘Athalie’. Pieces like this explain the reason organs were installed in the great Town Halls (such as Birmingham) and why the public flocked to them in the days before the gramophone. Cranleigh’s great Mander certainly came closer to the power of a full orchestra than most home hi-fi systems can, with the range of stops giving us brass, strings and wind. In another piece, however, the third of Schumann’s Sketches (which, the organist explained, understandably, was his favourite of the four) we were closer to the composer’s favoured piano tone. Indeed the piece seemed remarkably close to one of the Nachtstücke in the outer sections. In the final Sketch Philip Scriven displayed the flutey delicacy of the instrument with nifty footwork. If the organist had not told us, I do not think any of the audience would have guessed that he was playing nearly all these pieces for the first time.
The third featured composer in this cycle of their complete organ works, Brahms, was represented by the challenging early Fugue in the fiendishly flat-laden key of A flat minor but the core of this seventh recital was the three great Preludes and Fugues of Mendelssohn. With last year’s complete Bach cycle in mind, Philip Scriven helped us hear how much Mendelssohn was a true successor to JS. The official end to the cycle was well-chosen: Mendelssohn’s ‘Postlude’ led ceremoniously on to the encore.
As usual the audience for this lunch-time recital comprised around 30 enthusiasts, connoisseurs and afficiandos, one of whom, the Reverend Stephen Godfrey, in presenting Philip Scriven with a bottle-shaped gift, thanked not only the organist himself for inspiring and uplifting the listeners, but also kindly thanked the School for allowing organ enthusiasts to enjoy the cycle.
Most readers who have read thus far will not need reminding that on Friday June 21st Philip has managed to book Jeremy Filsell for a rare UK recital at the school where he taught in the 1980s, but we can hope that the evening slot will allow a large number of parents and pupils to hear one of the world’s leading musicians on the splendid Mander organ.