Reviews
 

ORGANIST • MUSICOLOGIST • COMPOSER

   
 

   

Tender is the North
*****

If, like myself, you read the words ‘Nordic Organ Music’ with more than a slight sense of bewilderment, this superbly performed CD of little-known works will come as a very pleasant surprise. Opening with Sibelius’ Two Pieces, Op. 111, Iain Quinn takes us on a remarkable journey through some wonderful repertoire, played on the organ of Coventry Cathedral. Highlights include the Tre Tonestykker by Niels W. Gade, whose musical language has much in common with that of Mendelssohn – most notably in the central slow movement, which is in the style of a ‘song without words’ .

The CD features two premiere recordings: the most recent work, Áskell Másson’s chromatic and sombre Larghetto (2009) allows Iain Quinn to display some of the more unusual colours on the Coventry organ – a feature that also characterises Knut Nystedt’s set of variations on a Norwegian folk tune (1940). The plaintive folk melody inspired an interesting set of variations; the one marked Lento stands out in particular for its calm, haunting beauty. The final piece on this release is Otto Olsson’s Sonata, Op. 38 (1909), a substantial piece with touches of both humour and virtuosity. The final movement is guaranteed to raise a smile, with its pedal solo and light-hearted, festive character. An entertaining and fitting conclusion to an eye-opening disc of rarely heard music performed with great conviction and musicianship.

Martin Ford – The Organ, London

   

This must be one of the finest recordings of Coventry Cathedral’s glorious Harrison and Harrison since Graham Barber’s pioneering account of the Whitlock Sonata for Vista in 1979. By a happy coincidence Iain Quinn opens with Sibelius’s monumental Two Pieces which were given their UK premiere by Whitlock in 1934, The Intrada of 1925 is a magnificent piece, as is the Surusoitto written in 1931 for the funeral of Sibelius’s friend, the artist Akseli Gallen-Kalla.

Gade’s Three Tone Pieces date from 1851. Mendelssohn springs to mind, especially in the charming central Allegretto. Equally endearing are Palmgren’s exquisite pair of Preludes of 1908. Their brevity makes one yearn for more organ music from his pen, but that’s all there is!

Knut Nystedt’s Variations were composed 70 years ago and are here receiving their long overdue premiere recording. Built on the Dupré tradition, the Norwegian folk-tune theme is treated with increasing levels of tonal sophistication and harmonic adventure.

This impressive recital sheds new light on the treasures of Scandinavia. Quinn’s playing is never less than enthralling and the organ – with Chandos’s perfectly balanced engineering - has never sounded finer.

Malcolm Riley – Gramophone
   

Missa Omnes Sancti

Here's another first-rate recording of sacred works by living composers from one of America's finest church choirs; they're also one of America's foremost standard-bearers for Episcopalian church music. All of the works here—as in the previous album I reviewed from this group (Missa Orbis Factor) have some sort of special connection to the cathedral, either via commission or performance history. All of the works are for organ-supported choir, save for Simon Preston's " Alleluyas', a stirring virtuoso piece for solo organ.

The album's title piece—Malcolm Archer's Omnes Sancti Mass—is a compact, but supremely effective setting of the standard mass, sans Credo. The emphatic opening Kyrie immediately revealed distinct French stylistic echoes, bringing Vierne's Solemn Mass to mind. After the bright Gloria, the brief, light-hearted Sanctus leads directly into the like-toned, but even lighter Benedictus. The hushed Agnus Dei is especially sweet and pastoral.

Before that, we hear very inspiring and accomplished shorter pieces by five other composers. Quinn's own rarefied settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis are heard first. Two fine pieces by Philip Moore follow: his bright and triumphant 'Song of Christ's Glory' and the mostly quiet and stately (until its final climax) 'He that is Down Needs Fear no Fall'. Between them we get Peter Hallock's delicate and dreamy Evensong piece, 'The Lord is My light'. Anthony Piccolo's delightful 'O How Amiable' starts out as a sort of celestial dance, maintaining an irresistible, often lilting flow to the end. Well-known organist-composer David Briggs contributes 'O Lord, Support Us', a marvel of gentle, yet intense entreaty (another good Evensong number). In addition to the title piece, the works by Quinn, Piccolo, and Briggs are recorded here for the first time.

Any church composer would be pleased and proud to have first recordings from this superb choir. I'm in love with their exquisitely pure-sounding soprano section, in particular. Excellent sound engineering as well as a serviceable booklet complete a well-nigh impeccable package.

Lindsay Koob – American Record Guide

   

Iain Quinn at Westminster Cathedral

The brilliant young Welsh-born but now American resident organist Iain Quinn presented a superb short recital at Westminster Cathedral on July 26th after having heard one of his own Motets given as part of the earlier afternoon service of Vespers at 3.30.

He presented a superbly eclectic yet eminently worthwhile programme which began with the very rarely-heard Three Tone-Studies (Tre Tonestykker) by the 19th-century Danish master Niels W. Gade. For many in the audience, these pieces would have come as something of a revelation – Gade’s writing for the instrument is thoroughly idiomatic, and the organ music of this still underrated master is certainly worth investigation, more so as it clearly led to the towering masterpiece of Danish organ music of a couple of generations later – Carl Nielsen’s great Commotio.

The three movements – Moderato, Allegretto and Allegro con fuoco – are finely contrasted and were exceptionally well projected on the Cathedral’s Henry Willis III Grand Organ by this most gifted musician, who went on to give the UK premiere of a new work by Áskell Másson, simply entitled Larghetto. This proved to be another finely imagined composition of the latest generation, with a naturally controlled sense of growth and climax, clearly the product of a naturally gifted composer. It received an excellent performance that would surely have earned the composer’s admiration.

Iain Quinn’s recital ended with a composition by the organist himself – a Toccata on Victimae Paschali Laudes. This cleverly sectioned yet continuous work proved to be a real virtuoso piece, engaging virtually the full range of the instrument, and building to a truly overwhelming conclusion in which the massive acoustic of the Cathedral took the heftiest of tuttis entirely without strain. Needless to say, one could hardly have imagined a more committed or impressively exciting performance from the young composer-organist.

Robert Matthew-Walker – The Organ, London

   

Czech Music from Norwich Cathedral

The playing of this young musician is, as I have implied, very fine and at all timed highly musical. His registrations are excellent and the detail of his part playing is first-class. Here is a rare collection, splendidly presented and recorded, which is very strongly recommended.

International Record Review
   

Missa Orbis Factor – New Works for the Liturgy

The choir of the Cathedral Church of St. John is held in high regard in this country and abroad. They produce a vibrant, decisive, clear, dynamically expressive sound. Each section is distinct, yet all blend into a unified whole. The choir has an ongoing commitment for performing new works, many of them commissioned, as are two on this recording: 'The Head That Once Was Crowned with Thorns' by David Arcus and 'New Every Morning Is the Love' by Stephen Paulus. The central feature is the Missa Orbis Factor by Gerald Near. The work's five movements are gracious, spiritually uplifting settings of the chant melodies. Interspersed with this are four movements of Peter Togni's Liturgical Suite for solo organ. Based on melodies of Orbis Factor, they are a perfect complement to the Near. David Hogan's compelling Magnificat [Mount St. Albans, 1989), Judith Bingham's poignant setting of Ave Verum Corpus, and Iain Quinn's brilliant Toccata on Victimae paschali laudes round out the program. All of this music will enhance and enrich the liturgy, especially as so beautifully presented here.

James Hildreth – The American Organist
   

*****

The Church has a long history of commissioning new music for the liturgy, and the Cathedral Church of St John in Albuquerque is no exception. The central work is two settings of the Missa Orbis Factor. Canadian composer Peter Togni's four interludes from his Liturgical Suite for organ based on themes from the Mass interspersed with Gerald Near's choral setting. These works neatly dovetail together and are enhanced by the clear, expressive singing of the choir and the sympathetically registered organ playing of Thévenot. Accompanying works are by Hogan, Paulus, Bingham, Arcus and Quinn's Toccata on 'Victimae Paschali Laudes', a powerful work magnificently played by the composer on the cathedral's impressive Reuter organ. There is much to admire here.

Shirley Ratcliffe – Choir and Organ

   

The Great Organ of Methuen

. . sympathetic performances of three of Liszt's lesser known pieces . . . quiet compositions that show off the rich softer sounds of this legendary instrument. An exuberant playing of Franck's Chorale in A Minor follows, showing the color and variety available on this noble organ.

The three final compositions on the CD are of great interest in that each is dedicated to Mr. Quinn . . . The first is a Meditation (1992) by the Icelandic composer Askell Masson, based on the third movement of his marimba concerto. It has a quiet improvisatory character this is compelling, with a slight buildup towards the end. Wilfred Josephs' Sonata (1992) follows — a work of considerable musical interest. Its four-minute "Andante" would make a lovely voluntary, as would the brief "Vivo" if your technique is up to the challenge. The Moto di Gioia (1993) by Leslie Howard brings this splendid CD to a close. The six-minute work sounds very difficult — double pedaling and all that — but Quinn is up to every musical challenge.

Charles Huddleston Heaton – The Diapason
   
   

The Cathedral Organ

Expand your horizons from the church into the concert hall, and hear some first-rate music-making, too. Quinn . . . plays works made for big basilicas — including Dupré's gorgeous, powerful Placare Christe servuilis . . . He offers concert music such as Busoni's demanding Praeludium (Basso Ostinato) and Doppelfuge, an intelligent and beautifully expansive reading of Franck's Pièce Héroïque, Homilius's charming Prelude in G Major, and Lemare's violet-scented Andantino in D-flat . . . Quinn knows the St. John's huge, recent Reuter organ like the back of his hand, and he has an uncanny ability to meld technique with heart. Listen to his excellent arrangement of Rachmaninoff's delicate, difficult Barcarolle, the insouciance with which he tosses off Reger's imperial Introduction and Passacaglia, and the rapture he brings to Howells's angelic Master Tallis's Testament, and you'll never think again that organs are stuffy. Raven's lively on-site sound is the icing on the cake.

Craig Smith – Santa Fe New Mexican

   
   

“Brilliant, enthralling and observing great attention to detail”

Musical Opinion, London

 
   

“Iain Quinn is outstanding and his skilful, polished use of the Winchester Cathedral organ makes this one of the best CDs you’ll hear of this instrument”

Tsar of Instruments, Chandos Records
Gramophone

   
   

“Sympathetic and stylish playing from the brilliant and versatile Iain Quinn”

Tsar of Instruments, Chandos Records
Cathedral Music (Friends of Cathedral Music)

 

   

“Iain Quinn joins the long line of performers who have made Hyperion’s Simpson series such a consistent triumph”

Robert Simpson, Eppur si muove, Hyperion Records
Gramophone

 

   

“Iain Quinn has acquired enormous prestige due to the captivating style of his concerts. When attending his performances one can fully appreciate that he is a first-rate artist in the international musical scene.”

Il Giornale, Milan

 

   

“Mr. Quinn’s recital set a standard of excellence for the festival with music making of the highest calibre. The audience response was most enthusiastic, many of them commenting privately that Mr. Quinn’s recital was the real high point of the festival, not only because of his musicianship but also because of his engaging communicative power.”

Basically Bach Festival, New York

   
   
“His reputation and the way he is constantly in demand reflect more than a fashionable whim to expose a new virtuoso.”
The Organ, London
   
   
“Stylish virtuosity”
Fono Forum, Germany