The opening recital of the new school year was given by the Director of Music, Peter Davis, who treated us to two organ works of the Classical repertoire betwixt a piece of piano music by contemporary Latvian composer, Peteris Vasks. All of Mozart’s works for organ were written to be played by a mechanical (clockwork) organ, which offered the composer lots of options for textural and technical complexity. Mr Davis showed masterful technical control in realising the various melodic lines between his hands and feet, showing no technical compromises with the latter. Eine kleine Gigue, K574 offered plenty of tonal variety, using the warmth of the organ’s principal stops as well as choruses of flutes and solo oboe. In this piece, Mr Davis showed how the pedal part can simply become an extension of the left hand, for the keys that cannot be reached with spare fingers. Such was the deftness of his touch and articulation, one could not have known without the aid of the relayed video on the projector which lines were played with hands and which with feet.
Following the liveliness of the Gigue, we then experienced the contemplative Music for a Summer Evening, a pensive tempo and very deliberated use of sustain pedal showing us Mr Davis’ expressive control. The piece’s harmony moved freely between minor and modality, offering sobriety in places such as one would hear from much early 20th Century piano music, combined with features such as the use of parallel moving chords that one might associate with the music of Debussy. What was most striking about this performance was the sense of space in the church that the carefully controlled expression created, both with the notes played but importantly, also in the gaps between phrases.
The recital’s final piece was Mozart's Fantasia in F minor, K608, which showed influence of the French overture style, with passages of robust dotted rhythms, majestically delivered with a powerful full-organ sound. Whilst these passages alluded to a great Baroque tradition, the softer more lyrical sections showed something resembling Mozart’s more intimate chamber music, with lyrical, playful melody and close-harmony accompaniment. The control used take the organ from full to flutes was seamless and further changes brought out the use of reeds and solo parts. Most impressive was the pedal solo in the latter stages of the piece. Overall, the grandeur of this work topped off an exemplary programme that was delivered with a masterful rigour that all of this term’s concert performers can aspire to.