Sunday 18 September 2016

Peter King gives performances of terrific gusto and breadth bringing a real spontaneity on his new recording for Regent playing the Klais organ of Bath Abbey

Peter King is a former student of organists Dame Gillian Weir and Allan Wicks; and pianist Ronald Smith. He was Assistant Chorus Director to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra during all of Sir Simon Rattle’s reign as Musical Director. As organist he played on Rattle’s EMI recordings of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony and Eight Symphony: Symphony of a Thousand.

In 1986 King was appointed Director of Music at Bath Abbey. Under his direction the Abbey Choir has visited Germany, Holland and France and broadcast on BBC TV and Radio 3. In 1997 he started a Girls’ Choir at Bath Abbey which quickly established itself as one of the finest of such choirs. Together with Nicolas Kynaston, he was responsible for the design and installation of the Abbey’s Klais Organ .

King has given concerts all over Europe including the opening recital on the new organ in Palacio Euskalduna, Bilbao and at the opening of the new Organ in Symphony Hall, Birmingham. He holds the honorary degree of Doctor of Music from the University of Bath and since 2015 has been President of the Incorporated Association of Organists.

Peter King has made a number of recordings for Regent Records the latest of which is a recital of works by Boëly, Saint-Saëns, Eben, Mendelssohn, Bach, Messiaen, Vierne and Reubke played on the Klais Organ of Bath Abbey. This comes as a well-presented CD and DVD set that acts as a tribute to his 30 years at Bath Abbey.

CD and DVD 5.0 and stereo
16:9 Region Free

Peter King opens his recital with Alexandre-Pierre-François Boëly’s (1785 1858) Fantaisie et Fugue in B flat, Op 18 vi to which he brings a lovely fluency and a finely developed fugue.  The sonorous opening of the Con moto of Camille Saint-Saëns’ (1835 1921) Fantaisie in E flat brings some very fine textures. He has a lovely touch in the short phrases as the piece develops, wonderfully shaped, though with a real freedom. What a glorious sound the Klais organ makes when the Allegro di molto e con fuoco arrives, King bringing a real spring to the rhythms, developing a real swagger and with a quite thrilling coda.

It is Peter King’s fine rhythmic touch that marks out the opening of Petr Eben’s (1929 2007) Moto Ostinato (Sunday Music) finding a lovely balance between musical lines with finely controlled dynamics and some lovely little details that appear so spontaneously. King guides us through some wonderful passages as the music develops before growing in power through some tremendous passages, so wonderfully caught in this fine recording. Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809-47) Prelude & Fugue in E minor has a nicely laid out Prelude, again with a lovely fluency before rising in the Fugue with this organist finding a wonderfully free and spontaneous flow. He adds a subtle rhythmic lift before running into the most stunning passages that lead to a tremendous conclusion.

Next Peter King brings a selection of Johann Sebastian Bach’s (1685 1750) Chorale Preludes from Orgelbüchlein. Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 599 is beautifully phrased and paced, bringing a lovely sense of peace. He brings a lovely light to Gottes Sohn ist kommen, BWV 600 with a fine overlay of musical lines, again with a lovely feel of spontaneity. Herr Christ, der ein ge Gottessohn, BWV 601 receives a real rhythmic lift, moving at a fine pace, full of life. He makes a quite beautiful choice of registration in the lovely Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 604, producing lovely textures and sonorities from the Klais organ. The Klais organ sounds out joyfully in Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her, BWV 606 bringing a fine strength yet transparency of sound.  The glockenspiel of the organ rings out to herald In dulci jubilo, BWV 608 with King bringing a nicely integrated sound from which the tune emerges with such care and subtlety. Finally King brings together so many of the qualities shown in the preceding Bach pieces to form a wonderfully flowing fine textured In dir ist Freude, BWV 615, a wonderful conclusion to this selection of Chorale Preludes.

King’s sense of freedom and spontaneity, as well as mastery of overall structure are heard at their most obvious in Olivier Messiaen’s (1908 92) Les Anges from La Nativité du Seigneur, brilliantly phrased, illuminating Messiaen’s wonderful harmonies. Louis Vierne’s (1870 1937) Naïades from his Pièces de fantaisie, Quatrième Suite, Op 55 has a wonderful lightness of touch, a fine fluency and transparency, quite magically done.

Peter King concludes his recital with the longest work on this disc, Julius Reubke’s (1834-1858) The 94th Psalm, Sonata in C minor. In the first movement, marked Grave – Larghetto - Allegro con fuoco the music grows out of a solemn, deep, rich organ texture before rising through some quite wonderful, powerful passages, King finding a sense of passion, even anger from the opening grave. He moves through moments of restrained depth before welling up again through some wonderfully florid passages to find strength again in a passage of formidable power, subtly finding a sense of triumph and energy in the tremendous coda. There is a thoughtful Adagio which initially ruminates before slowly finding a flow with a fine melody. It moves through some powerfully rich passages with carefully chosen registrations, King bringing such subtlety and poetry. The music frequently tries to rise only to fall to a quiet restraint to lead into the Fugue – Allegro where the music rises bringing a defiance as it shifts quickly forward, King bringing a terrific fluency in the fast moving passages. Slowly and subtly the music gains a rhythmic spring as the Allegro arrives, later falling quieter but keeping its forward rushing energy before heading to a tremendous coda – quite stunning.

Peter King receives a beautifully natural and quite vivid recording.

The accompanying DVD not only includes the full recital but also a video presented by Peter King in three parts, A brief history of Bath Abbey, that is not only interesting but a visual delight, The Klais Organ of Bath Abbey where we are given a brief history and tour of the organ with King demonstrating some of the features of the organ and The Music which is a brief introduction to the composers and their music featured in the recital together with brief examples played by King who proves to be an enthusiastic and warm presenter.

The full recital on DVD has the obvious advantage of the visual element and is nicely produced with views of the inside and exterior of the Abbey around the filming of King playing the Klais organ.

Both picture quality and sound on the DVD are excellent. The two discs are presented in a DVD box with a booklet that contains excellent notes as well as full organ specification.

Peter King gives performances of terrific gusto and breadth bringing a real spontaneity. He just exudes musicality making him an organist to rank with the finest. 

This is an organ recital I will return to frequently – both on CD and DVD.


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