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The English Organ
4-DVD & 3-CD Box Set
". . . hugely impressive visual and audio package."
The Grampohone - [FSFDVDEnglishOrgan]

The English Organ

4-DVD, 3-CD Box Set

writes Robert Delcamp in The American Record Guide, July-August 2020:
This is a fascinating and lavish production of huge scope and ambition . . . on the English organ and its music over a span of 500 years. . . Daniel Moult . . . is a superb player . . . [he] discusses each of the 33 organs, interviews various builders and historians, demonstrates each organ with excerpts appropriate to the periods and instruments, and does it all with aplomb, geniality, and effortless virtuosity.  . . .I was overwhelmed with the amount of research and organization involved to put this together and am really at a loss for words to describe its effect.  If you have any interest in the English organ, buy this!

writes Marc Rochester in The Gramophone, June 2020:
North German organs of the late 17th/early 18th centuries and French organs of the late 19th/early 20th centuries, along with the music written for them, have been so dominant that it has been easy to overlook other national schools of organ building. Few of these has been so undervalued and maligned as the English organ, which may have largely been driven by the unique choral demands of the English church but nevertheless spawned a vast repertory from English organist-composers.

Fugue State Films has turned its lenses and microphones to the English organ with this set of four DVDs and three audio CDs. The first of the DVDs includes three documentary films of 70 minutes each, tracing the development of the English organ from ‘The Long Beginning’ through ‘The Victorian Boom’ to ‘Modernity and Nostalgia’. The remaining three DVDs present stop-by-stop tours of each of the 33 instruments featured in the documentary as well as filmed performances of appropriate repertory. Three audio CDs present further repertory which has possibly less  visual impact – Thalben-Ball’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini for Pedals would not seem quite so sensational if you could not see the organist’s feet darting about the pedalboard of Dundee’s Caird Hall. Organ registrations are given in full in a lavishly illustrated booklet.

Guiding us through the convoluted history of the English Organ is Daniel Moult, who does so with all the eagerness of a true enthusiast. You somehow know that after all his clambering around the insides of organs, his joyous talk of wind pressures, pipe scalings, wind trunking and ratcheted swell pedals, a steam train is going to appear somewhere; and so it does (buried deep in the third documentary). However, Moult is no mere enthusiast, but someone with an obvious passion for the subject, and he draws us into the saga of the English organ through his own manifest fascination with it. He calls on a handful of experts to add colour to his commentary: the historian Paul Binski provides a touch of sobriety, putting social context to organ developments, Nicholas Thistlethwaite’s elegant eloquence explains the evolving fashions which have shaped organ design since the 17th century, and Bruce Buchanan oozes old school mischievousness as he recalls the heady days of the Henry Willis company, roundly dismissing the subsequent ‘stewards’ of the firm, deliciously noting, with reference to Henry Willis III, that ‘it was against his principles to agree with anyone’. The image of Buchanan standing alone in an empty St George’s Hall, Liverpool, staring admiringly at the organ as it thunders out WT Best’s transcription of The War March of the Priests is just one of many unforgettable visual images in this series of superbly edited films.

There is a pleasing coherence to the overall narrative, opening (to the accompaniment of pastoral birdsong) at what the film claims to be the oldest surviving English organ case, dating back to the mid-16th century and housed in the church at Old Radnor in Wales. The films go on to trace the development of the organ through various key figures in the world of English organ building. We hear of how the English organ remained virtually isolated from foreign influence until William Hill began to introduce German and Dutch elements, and Gray & Davison brought in something more French. The much-maligned Hope-Jones is revealed as having had an enduring influence despite the fact that those whom he influenced ‘did not give him credit’. Harrison & Harrison are described as creating ‘the acme of the English organ’, while Ralph Downes and the Organ Reform movement (‘a cold shower after the warm bath of Romanticism’) are dismissed as having a misguided understanding of continental organ sounds, one expert suggesting that Downes’s knowledge of the sound of continental organs was distorted by having heard them through the tinny speaker of an old transistor radio. The documentaries end with the somewhat ambiguous message that the English organ has returned to its roots – cue a return to Old Radnor.

Moult is not just an enthusiastic guide, perhaps at his best exploring the organ stops at Holy Trinity, Walton Breck, but a highly  versatile player. Every one of his performances here – ranging from William Byrd to David Matthews – is highly recommendable on its own terms. He is equally impressive as an accompanist, beautifully moulding his playing around the gorgeous sound of the Truro Cathedral choir in Stanford’s A major Magnificat. In short, in Moult, Fugue State Films has found an ideal advocate for the English organ and has supported this one man’s odyssey with a hugely impressive visual and audio package.

Preview on YouTube a small segment demonstrating the tonal resources of the famous Sydney Town Hall organ by clicking here:

Another Preview here:

The English Organ definitively explores the full history of the English organ through longer than 12 hours of video documentary and audio material in a set of 4 video DVDs and 3 CDs that, like Fugue State Film's much beloved and awarded The Genius of Cavaillé-Coll, features playing, interviews and organ visits. The lavish boxed set includes video visits to more than 30 organs: early surviving examples of English organs to a few recent ones.

The centerpiece of this grand production is a three-part documentary video tracing the history of the English organ and its music played in England and in parts of the British Empire during the period ca. 1600 to the present, showing the vibrant culture of the organ and its music. The set includes a booklet with photos and specifications of all the instruments. Many performances are by the concert organist Daniel Moult who received great reviews for his contributions to the earlier, single DVD, The Elusive English Organ, now out of print.

The DVDs in the new set include video of full performances of three hours of music from Purcell to the present day, among them such composers as Handel, Stanley, Wesley, Smart, Stanford, Brahms, Elgar, Bridge, Howells, Parry, Vaughan-Williams, Whitlock, Thalben-Ball, Britton, Hollins, Britten, Brockless, Gowers, MacMillan, Leighton etc. Some choral music from the Anglican tradition is included.

Instruments include, but are not limited to:
ca. 1680 Anon., Adlington Hall
1704 Renatus Harris, St. Botolph's, Aldgate
1735 Richard Bridge, Christ Church Spitalfields
1755 John Snetzler, Clare College, Cambridge
1818 Thomas Elliot, Ashridge College
1829 James C. Bishop, St. James', Bermondsey
1851 Gray and Davison, St. Anne's, Limehouse
1855 Wm. Hill & Sons, Kidderminster Town Hall
1855 Henry Willis, St. George's Hall, Liverpool
1869 Edmund Schulze, St. Bartholomew's, Armley
1884 T. C. Lewis, St. George's, Cullercoats
1885 Michel and Thynne "The Grove Organ," Tewkesbury Abbey
1887 Henry Willis, Truro Cathedral
1889 Thomas Hill, Sydney Town Hall, Australia
1890 T. C. Lewis, St. Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, Australia
1908 Robert Hope-Jones, First Universalist Church, Rochester, NY, USA
1919 Hill, Norman and Beard, Dunedin Town Hall, New Zealand
1923 Harrison and Harrison, Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland
1934 Harrison and Harrison, King's College, Cambridge
1954 J. W. Walker & Sons, Brompton Oratory
1962 Harrison and Harrison, Coventry Cathedral
1969 Grant, Degens, and Bradbeer, York University
1993 John Mander, St. Ignatius Loyola, New York City
2017 John Nicholson & Co., Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland, New Zealand
and more

The English Organ<BR>4-DVD & 3-CD Box Set<I><font color = red><BR>\". . . hugely impressive visual and audio package.\"</I></font> The Grampohone
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