RECITAL REVIEW: Through the ages of organ music across the continent

Priory Church, Deeping St James, hosts of the monthly 'Music at the Priory' series of recitals which featured organist Christopher Dexter-Mills. Photo by Tim Wilson. 1005082w61wat.
  • Seven Centuries of European Organ Music

Christopher Dexter-Mills, Music at the Priory, Priory Church, Deeping St James

Former Boston Stump organist Christopher Dexter-Mills took about 700 years of organ music from across Western Europe and squeezed it into 70 minutes on Sunday.

I thought it would be very interesting to start with the 20th century and then go back quite a way to the 14th century with one of the earliest examples of organ music that we have in this country

Former Boston Stump organist Christopher Dexter-Mills

Priory Church, Deeping St James, hosted its last “Music at the Priory” of British Summertime which featured compositions from Johann Sebastian Bach to the less well-known Danish-German 17th century composer Dietrich Buxtehude.

In all, nine different pieces were played by Christopher which led the Vicar of Deeping St James, the Reverend Susan Paterson, to say: “We couldn’t have got a more varied programme by which to find that our organ has so much tone, brought out so vividly by Christopher”.

The recital started with Prelude, Op.29 No. 1 by Frenchman Gabriel Pierne before Christopher played the 14th century piece Estampie I, described by the organist as “one of the earliest examples of organ music that we have in this country”.

Italian composer Girolamo Frescobaldi’s Canzona Quarta was next and Christopher’s programme also included German violinist Paul Hindemith, regarded by one critic as “the 20th century’s most neglected composer”.

During the recital, Christopher said: “I thought it would be very interesting to start with the 20th century (Pierne, Hindemith and fellow German composers Hugo Distler and Hermann Schroeder) and then go back quite a way to the 14th century (Estampie I) and one of the earliest examples of organ music that we have in this country.

“It’s about exploring ideas that may seem old-fashioned, but giving them a new style fitting for the 21st century.”

Speaking about individual works, Christopher explained that Frescobaldi’s “Canzona Quartat represents some important changes in the style of organ music”.

Bach’s Pastorale in F major, BWV 590: “There are many opinions about this piece, but it’s the most wonderful work, portraying the evening of Jesus Christ’s birth.

“It’s quite possible to imagine the shepherds present at Christ’s birth, followed by some lively music to celebrate it.”

Buxtehude’s Passacaglia: “The composer was highly influential and even Johann Sebastian Bach took the chance to visit him which tells us something about the esteem in which he was held at that time.”

Schroeder’s Kleine Praludien und Intermezzi: “His music uses influences from the past, as well as influences from the 20th century.

“Schroeder brought an expansive sort of music to organ compositions.”

What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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Review by Winston Brown

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