While playing organs worldwide and concentrating his work in his native England, Peter Hurford nonetheless gave recitals on organs across Australia throughout his long career. However, he hardly played an instrument more dazzling in its impact and variety than the organ which was installed at the Sydney Opera House.
Completed in May 1979 at a cost of $1.2 million, the organ has come to be regarded as one of the finest such instruments in the southern hemisphere. Among the world’s largest mechanical-action organs, it was built by an Australian, Ronald Sharpe and, during the final phase of construction, the Austrian organ-building firm of Gregor Hradetzky.
Both the instrument and Hurford’s rhythmically animated playing are justly immortalised by this album of popular organ classics. It begins with the toccata and fugue which was almost certainly not written for organ and probably not composed by Bach but is destined to be associated with both in the public imagination. Likewise the Adagio that is no more or less than Giazotto’s reworking and Romantic elaboration of a slender theme ‘by’ Albinoni.
Whoever it was by, every piece on this compendious introduction to organ literature is richly enjoyable and Hurford duly enjoys all the colours of the Sydney organ by, almost literally, pulling out all the stops during the course of the album. In the hands of Hurford, Herbert Murrill’s ‘Carillon’ is a dazzling feat of prestidigitation and the Sydney trumpets will test out the most exacting audio equipment here and in the album’s inevitable conclusion, the Toccata from Widor’s Fifth Symphony.
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH:
Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring (arr. Hurford)
TOMASO ALBINONI (arr. REMO GIAZOTTO): Adagio in G minor
JEREMIAH CLARKE: Trumpet Tune in D major (arr. Hurford)
FELIX MENDELSSOHN : Wedding March from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
CÉSAR FRANCK: Chorale No. 2 in B minor
HERBERT MURRILL: Carillon
HENRY WALFORD DAVIES: Solemn Melody
CHARLES-MARIE WIDOR: Toccata from Symphony No. 5
at the Organ of Sydney Opera House
Recording Producer: Christopher Hazell
Balance Engineer: Martin Benge
Recording Location: Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia, 20–22 August 1982
Original Argo LP Release: ZRDL 1016
Original Decca CD Release: 411 929-2
‘This is the sort of programme with which organs are baptized … There is a springiness in the playing which comes up fresh every time … All very good value.’ Gramophone, June 1983
‘Here’s a bit of fun. Imagine the astonishment of Purcell and Bach, leading from the bar of heaven to listen to the Trumpet Tune and ‘Jesu, joy‘ on an organ beyond their wildest imaginings. Hurford plays as scrupulously for a popular audience as for the stuffiest international jury.’ Musical Times, December 1983