The Dutch Church is tucked away in the vestigial lane of Austin Friars, overshadowed by Tower 42 (the former NatWest Tower) in the City. It has a modest two-manual organ built by Willem van Leeuwen in 1954 in the spirit of the Baroque revival - suitable for the smallish building of the same date, but muffled to some extent by the niche it sits in. This was particularly noticeable in Bach's powerful Toccata & Fugue in F major during David Titterington's lunchtime recital last Tuesday. Taken at a breezy tempo, the piece and its tricky pedal solos didn't emerge unscathed.
In fact, much of Titterington's playing was a bit rough and ready, though his programme probably demonstrated this particular organ's qualities as ingeniously and as widely as possible. Confining himself usually to one choice of stops for each piece or movement, he managed to unfold a new aural vista in each, from a gorgeous chromatic fantasia by Sweelinck to a subfusc chorale-based suite by Lionel Rogg.
One of the recital's discoveries was a pair of voluntaries - appealing as well as serious pieces - by Peter Prelleur, who in 1735 became the first organist of Christ Church, Spitalfields. (The great church is, at present, out of bounds because of restoration, including the building of a new floor.) Prelleur or his parents may have been Huguenot refugees from Catholic persecution in France who settled in the area.
The demand for Ton Koopman's recital on Thursday was so great that he agreed to repeat it after only a short break. If this 70 minutes of music left us mere listeners exhausted, how can he have felt?
Koopman made lots of registration changes during pieces, which in one case resulted in long delays and in another, a false start. Still, it's nice to know that a star is human, and the possibilities of 26 stops were endlessly exploited, even if they couldn't do ideal justice to the sumptuous Offertoire and Elévation from Couperin's Messe pour les Couvents.
Koopman dispatched Buxtehude's Preludium in C major with characteristic panache, and had fun running amok in Sweelinck's Echo Fantasia in A minor as well as Byrd's Fantasia in A minor. Ending with Bach, he tended to press the Prelude & Fugue in C minor a bit spasmodically, and "Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme", from the Schübler Chorales, went so fast it seemed almost blasé.
In a setting of "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland", the chorale tune emerged accidentally distorted by the wrong combination of stops, and was started again at a noticeably steadier tempo - a nice touch. To end, the concise Fugue in G minor went like a bomb - exhilarating in its way, even if the ending seemed like an emergency.
Ton Koopman's recital will be broadcast in 'Morning Performance' on BBC Radio 3 during the week beginning 28 July. Spitalfields Festival continues to 27 June: hotline 020-7377 1362; www.spitalfieldsfestival.org.uk
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