GMCD 7165 – Around the World in 80 minutes
Nigel Potts – Organ
Organist Review May 2000
‘The gutsy refinement of the romantic Walker organ at Wimbledon (as beautifully restored by Mander in 1985) instantly makes one realise why this company achieved a period of great popularity at the end of the 19th century and during the first couple of decades of the 20th, building superb cathedral organs at Bristol and Rochester and many organs of distinction in churches such as St Margaret’s Westminster, St Matthew’s Northampton, Holy Trinity Sloane Square and St Mary’s Portsea. The Sacred Heart organ has the trade mark three diapasons & Wald Flute on the Great and ‘pepper pot’ reeds on the Swell; an enclosed Choir organ from 16′ gamba to 2′ Piccolo, a Dulciana celeste, two orchestral reeds and Tuba. The Swell is the largest division, and the Pedal boasta no fewer than three 32 foot registers, among them a mighty Contra Trombone 32′. Rich-toned, it displays voicing of the highest calibre, and clearly inspires the richly talented Nigel Potts to great heights of achievement in his compellingly splendid playing. All the familiar repertoire is memorably played, every piece benefitting from the tonal qualities of this organ and its resonant acoustic. The Paul Spicer pieces (Spicer was producer for the recording) prove just what a fine composer this versatile musician is, turning his hand to a variety of forms with a refreshing flexibility of style – sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes harmonically seductive, on occasion more intellectually challenging. I have enjoyed this disc very much; it is richly rewarding quite surprisingly so.’
Paul Hale Sydney Organ Journal This CD has a curious title, considering the total recorded music time is only about 64 and a half minutes. That being said, a friend arrived while Iwas playing it and thought I was listening to theatre organ music. Had he arrived a few minutes later or earlier, he would have thought I was listening to “heavy” organ music: such is the variety of styles of music to be heard on this CD. It is a welcome change to hear a recording of an early 20th century English romantic organ in excellent condition. How often do we get to hear tubby Tubas, silvery strings, orchestral solo reeds (on the Choir) and full, round Tromba-type reeds on CD? The playing is excellent throughout as are the choices of registrations. We hear sweeping crescendi and diminuendi and complex, juxtaposed, orchestrally inspired registrations, especially in the transcribed works.
The detailed 28 page booklet contains detailed program notes in English, German and French and details of the organ in English. The player, known to many of our members, having grown up in Wellington, NZ before studying in the UK and now studying at Yale with Prof. Tom Murray, played a lunchtime recital at St Andrew’s Cathedral earlier this year.
The Durufl? sounds remarkably French while at the same time, the Sousa “Liberty Bell March” could easily have been recorded on a Wurlitzer. An interesting piece by Max Reger, Siegesfeier Op. 145, No. 7, based on “Nun Danket Alle Gott” and the German National Anthem “Austria” provides some solid romantic organ music as a complete contrast.
The CD opens with a tuba fanfare in what appears to be a resonant building. The Spicer “Variations on “God Defend New Zealand” provides another opportunity for varied and colourful registrations and another touch of theatre organ music. In what is a very well thought out program, the CD ends with an encore type piece, again by Spicer – “Dreams of Derry”, based on the Irish tune “Londonderry Air”.
A very enjoyable CD.
The American Organist – October 2000
Even with the Internet and jet travel, a round-the-world tour in only 80 minutes might seem like a breathless undertaking. Fortunately, Nigel Potts’s compositional itinerary leaves us some moments to catch our breath, and the residue of “British Imperial Presence” around the globe makes the passing musical scenery seem not nearly so exotic as might have been imagined. But, in a way, what was once commonplace has become unusual. Just as young organists of my generation flocked to discover Baroque (or, more often, neo-Baroque) instruments and repertoire, then later embraced the 19th-century ideals of Cavaille-Coll, Franck, Guilmant, and Widor, now the young set is tackling the stuff we middle-agers threw away: Romantic transcriptions, charming potboilers, and the beefy, rotund, and remarkable English instruments of the early 20th century. To some, the Wimbledon Walker would seem an unlikely target, yet it speaks forthrightly from its spacious west gallery chambers with gusto and personality. The 1985 Mander restorations claims to take us back to the original 1912 tonal scheme, which provides us with buoyant, liquid flutes, strings that hum with a generous luster, dramatic choruses, and two full-length 32′ registers, which make their profound weight known in appropriate places. It’s nice to hear, for a change, a recording of the Durufle Scherzo played so lovingly on an instrument that makes absolutely no pretense at having anything to do with a true French sound but shows us the soul of the score nonetheless.
The recording is just a bit dense and center-focused for my taste, though not lacking in clarity or heft. The sonorous Willan piece brims with Elgarian pomp and circumstance; why is it so seldom played? Producer Spicer provides entertaining booklet notes, and some interesting scores, too. If I sense some strange harmonies here and there in Finlandia, or overall some lack of that last element of panache, which can differentiate a fine organist’s rendition from a truly musical one, I’ll still give young Potts good marks overall for leading us on a worthwhile adventure, and will look forward to the next trip.
American Record Guide May/June 00 Page 243
This disc is an interesting compilation of transcriptions and organ works from ‘around the world”. Potts is a good player but lacks the introspective poise of a mature arist. There is a great deal of Potential in his playing, and I will follow his career with great interest.
The sound is good. Most of the works are familiar and interpreted conservatively. The Spicer works were the most unfamiliar; he has a natural flair for composing for the organ, and his music is accessible and enjoyable. Overall, a worthwhile recording.