CLASSICAL MUSIC/ Mark Pappenheim on Classical Music

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The early evening organ recital has now become something of a Proms fixture - despite the failings of the Royal Albert Hall's impressive but wheezing Victorian instrument. Though restored as recently as 1990, the 1871 behemoth is still in desperate need of further repair. According to Carlo Curley, that 20-stone Liberace of the organ world, drastic measures are called for. 'I mean, talk about a noise-maker at weddings] It's really a scandal - because it could be the most wonderful concert venue for a big romantic symphonic organ. But it's gotta be all ripped out - it needs a ground-up restoration.'

Christopher Herrick, a former organist at St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, and this year's Prom recitalist, is a little more sanguine. For him, the monster's merits still outweigh the odd little problems of leaks and balance. 'Yes, it is ageing,' he concedes, 'and it does need rather a lot of money spending on it. And, yes, one does have to be careful not to pile on all the stops, because there isn't enough wind. And it is true that, from the console, you really do not hear the organ as it is, which can be quite disconcerting. . .but it's still a magnificent instrument, a concert-hall organ of a particular period - and it's wonderful for the sort of music I've chosen.' Which, appropriately enough in this retrospective centenary season, amounts to a whistlestop tour of the past 100 years of English organ music from Elgar's 1895 sonata and a pair of pieces by Frank Bridge and his pupil Benjamin Britten, through to a Fantasy by that modern-day romantic, Robin Holloway, which Herrick enthusiastically describes as 'a cornucopia of wonderful things, full of fantastic harmonies'. There's also Edwin Lemare's Concert Fantasia, and, to round it all off, what Herrick hails as an 'authentic' arrangement of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No 4 by George Sinclair, a friend of the composer and organist at Hereford Cathedral, but best remembered as the owner of the bulldog Dan, featured in the 11th of the Enigma Variations.

Wed 6pm, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, SW7 (071-589 8212) and live on BBC Radio 3

(Photograph omitted)

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