On Wednesday evening, Piers Maxim presented and brilliantly performed a well constructed and enjoyable programme of music, firstly from the English and later from the French idiom.
He made an unusual yet effective start by playing two sections from Edward Elgar's famous oratorio 'The Dream of Gerontius', First the Prelude commencing softly, building to a dramatic climax, which Piers skilfully transitioned into the sublime poignant Angel's Farewell.
This was a transcription of orchestral music as were other short pieces; i.e., William Walton's music for the Laurence Olivier film, 'Henry V', Butterworth's 'The banks of green willow, Vaughan Williams 'Fantasia on a theme of Tallis' and the famous 'Salut d'amour, also by Elgar. The use of transcriptions went out of favour in the mid 20th century, but have since become popular again. This is particularly good as it provides a wider appeal and enables a good organist, such as Piers to display the tremendous variety of tone colours obtainable from a well voiced organ such as we heard tonight in Aylesbury Methodist Church.
In between Piers played the 'Toccata Nuptiale' by Christopher Maxim (no relation to Piers). This was written for a wedding of two cyclist friends and it brought smiles to the faces of the audience as it incorporated the well known music hall song "Daisy, Daisy".
Piers concluded the first half of his programme with the 'Festival Toccata' by the famous theatre musician Percy Fletcher. Although written in the style of a French Toccata it incorporated a very lively and English concept using unexpected harmonies. Certainly a lively piece to which there was great applause.
The second half of the programme began with two pieces reminiscent if the French impressionist movement. The first two using remote harmonies perhaps somewhat demanding for listeners, but the third piece was the famous 'Carillon de Westminster', written by Vierne based on the Westminster Chimes.
This was followed by one of the showpieces of French organ music, the famous 'Choral No 3 in A minor' by Cesar Franck. Beautiful melodies were encased in rapid broken arpeggios drawing to a dramatic finish.
Piers ended his recital with the famous 'war-horse' 'Carillon Sortie' by Henry Mulet. This is also a toccata, i.e., a showpiece, a format which over the years has become popular to organ recital audiences. This, as with some of the other pieces Piers played was fraught with technical difficulties which only the most daring of organists would approach. Piers simply took it in his stride and made it look easy and performed brilliantly without blemish.
A mention should be made about his versatile assistant, Andrew Hoodless, who not only undertook the difficult task of turning pages, but was also required to move backwards and forwards, handling many of the registration stop changes necessary for the music chosen.
To see a copy of the programme, organ details and Pier Maxim's impressive musical achievements. click here.