The culmination of this years music festival at the Magdalen Chapel was an organ recital given by Peter King who is of course the organist at Bath Abbey (the ‘other’ cathedral in Bath as we like to refer to it!). Peter is another musician who is returning to the chapel by popular demand and so I was greatly looking forward to hearing him once again face the challenge of performing on our 3 manual Viscount organ.
I have no wish to start the usual debate about whether or not electronic organs should even be given floor space when compared to a “proper” pipe organ. And in fact Peter’s recital provided the definitive answer to this debate. I’ve always considered Peter King a showman, and I mean that in the best possible way. He has a technical mastery of the organ which is almost second to none but as well as this he interacts with his audience and makes organ music so accessible. Throughout his recital at the chapel Peter introduced each piece. But rather than just giving a short, rather academic but nevertheless dull introduction, Dr King managed to captivate his entire audience with his explanation of the pieces he was about to play.
So often you hear the introduction… Well Bach was born in Eisenach and Clavierubung III is the subject of much scholarly debate as to whether it is keyboard practice or Lutheran Mass setting. I know, dull, dull dull – trust me I wrote a dissertation on this subject! Peter King, however, managed to talk about intertwined lovers whilst introducing a choral about the ten commandments!
At first glance, the evenings programme looked quite understated particularly for a man of such talent and high regard. Don’t misunderstand me, I was in no way disappointed and it was a fabulous opportunity to hear such a range of colours on the organ and enjoy music which is not often performed in a recital. Probably the only concession to vulgarity was the encore of Liberty Bell which unsurprisingly had been requested by my good friend Robert Anderson who is the organist of the Magdalen Chapel.
Afterwards, over a glass of wine in the chapel garden we asked Peter King about his choice for the evenings recital. He said that electronic organs sound far better when played quietly using flutes and principals than they do at the top end. If his recital was anything to go by then he is absolutely spot on and I will be considering this when I decide on voluntaries for Sunday morning!