Master of Music, Westminster Cathedral
Vivaldi, Guillou, Buxtehude, Mozart, Schmidt, Widor and Duruflé together with some improvisation
Vivaldi, Antonio (1678-1741)
Concerto in D arr. Guillou, Jean (b.1930)
Guillou, Jean (b.1930)
Buxtehude, Dietrich (c.1637-1707)
Ciacona in E minor (BuxWV 160)
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791)
Andante in F major (K. 616)
Schmidt, Franz (1874-1939)
Prelude and Fugue in D (Hallelujah!)
— Interval —
Widor, Charles-Marie (1844-1937)
from Symphonie V in F minor (Op. 42 no. 1)
Duruflé, Maurice (1902-1986)
from Suite (Op. 5)
Baker, Martin (b.1967)
To start our new 2019 --2020 season, the Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, Martin Baker, gave an Organ Recital on Friday evening 11th October. Unfortunately a very wet night probably dissuaded many of our usual organ enthusiasts from attending, but the thirty or so of those who came, were rewarded with a fine concert given by a musician with a very agreeable style of playing, with smooth, articulate, and sensitive command of the capabilities of our fine instrument.
Before commencing with the first piece, Vivaldi`s Concerto in D arranged by Jean Guillou, Martin Baker spoke very clearly about his programme, and this arrangement of the Vivaldi proved to be a very bright and attractive item with which to start. However, his second choice, "Saga IV"also by Guillou, written at the turn of the 20th century, and apparently inspired by the moon landings and all things to do with space exploration, was a bit weird and left the audience rather bemused at the somewhat unusual organ effects.
Dietrich Buxtehude, whom the great J.S.Bach is said to have walked fifty miles to hear play the organ, wrote the next piece, the rhythmically interesting Ciacona in E minor, and this was followed by Mozart`s Andante in F,originally written for mechanical organ and using mostly short flute stops with consequently a very bright sound. Finally, before the interval we heard the "Hallelujah" D major Prelude and Fugue by the Hungarian Franz Schmidt who died in 1939. A Romantic composer, brilliant pianist ,cellist and organist, this work has a very loud and powerful beginning and a similar ending to the fugue, and provided an excellent opportunity to exploit the potential of the organ.
The first movement "Allegro Vivace" from Widor`s Fifth Symphony from which the famous Toccata is best known followed the interval. A strong chordal tune, the rhythm of which is played alternatively loud and soft is traced through a series of variations with florid accompaniments and ending powerfully to great effect.
Maurice Durufle, another great French organist`s "Prelude" from his Suite Op.5 followed, and proved to be a slow cortege-- like composition written over a ground base, rising to a central climax before subsiding again to a quiet ending.
To end his recital, Martin chose to play improvisations on a tune suggested by a member of the audience. The hymn "All creatures of our God and King" was suggested and we were treated to a virtuosic rendering of this tune embracing as many technical difficulties as he could muster and ending in a masterly display of fff pyrotechnics. Again we were left in no doubt of the organ`s vast potential in the hands of the right craftsman and consummate artist.
Born in Manchester in 1967, Martin Baker studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, Chetham's School of Music and Downing College, Cambridge, then held positions at London's Westminster and St Paul's Cathedrals before being appointed to Westminster Abbey at the age of 24. In 2000 he returned to Westminster Cathedral as Master of Music, where he is responsible for directing the world renowned choir in its daily choral programme and busy schedule of concerts, tours and recordings. Martin Baker is also much sought after as an organist, playing frequent solo concerts in the UK and around the world.