This is a pleasing programme from a young harpist who is making a name for herself as soloist and freelance player. Handel is here and harp maestro Grandjany, some Welsh bardic strains and some contemporary repertoire to complete a relatively wide-ranging conspectus. Her Handel is accomplished and buoyant though the spatial separation between her harp and the organ at St. Ann, Manchester, played by Ronald Frost is unbridgeable in this recording and we get a rather askew perspective. Her arpeggio playing in the Tournier is fine, and she launches into the virtuoso decoration and variations of Thomas’ Minstrel’s Adieu with convincing confidence and relish. The Grandjany is a very beautiful piece, well deserving of recordings, though it is explicitly Handelian – the organ accompaniment here is very discreet.
David Watkins’ Fire Dance won first prize at the International Competition of the Northern California Harpists’ Association in 1961 – it’s fiery and splendidly written for the instrument. It’s good to hear the Croft; I’m obviously not up with the latest Purcellian research because I’ve always known the Croft Ground as the Harpsichord Ground by Purcell (I first heard it played, I think, by Robert Woolley). Its transformation into organ guise is successful and fluent. Roger Nichols wrote his Impromptu in 1972 and it’s a fine piece, rolling with arpeggios, very mobile and full of fancy and colour. It’s good to be acquainted with Oreste Ravanello (1871-1938), sometime organist of St. Mark’s Venice, whose Prelude-Berceuse is full of teasing wit, though I think the overpowering pedal note from the organ is overdone – or is magnified by the recording. Mathias’s Santa Fe Suite is an evocative one – full of wind shudder, nocturnal impasse and cascading Spanishry in the Sun – rhythmic and pliant.
The notes cover the programme reliably; the recording has some ambient noise in the church acoustic and, as I said, the spatial problems between instruments haven’t been satisfactorily resolved. Still, don’t necessarily let that put you off if you want to follow Rachel Dent’s choice of repertoire.
Looking forward to the release of this organ and harpsichord album later this year. Wouldn't mind seeing more images of the beautiful Holy Name Church in Manchester where it was recorded either! twitter.com/sirbasme…