Organist Colin Walsh plays Durufle, Tournemire, and Vierne at St John’s Smith Square

Colin Walsh lunchtime recital under way with a well-crafted programme that took the audience on a journey from darkness to sunlight via mild peril.

The Prelude from Durufle‘s Op.5 Suite got proceedings off to an eery start before heading off into a heady mix of nostalgia and hope.

Some of the upper manual orchestration lacked fluidity. Still, Walsh exploited the rich storytelling opportunities in Durufle’s music.

(I’ve added a recording of the prelude to the Thoroughly Good Spotify Playlist – you knew about that, didn’t you?)

Tournemire’s Petite rapsodie improvisee is a dark textural oddity, after which Ropartz‘s Prelude Funebre seemed surprisingly orthodox with hints of a rock-like odyssey in parts. A solo flute towards the end gave the melodic subject a palpable fragility.

The real drama was reserved for Vierne‘s third organ symphony. In the first movement lavish chords are unravelled with terrifying effect – a musical illustration of a rag being run dry.

A more contemplative near-confessional second movement follows, after which a dark grotesque waltz full of intrigue, mystery and mild terror.

Here Colin Walsh succeeded in transforming an otherwise sunny lunchtime in SW1 into a thick foggy afternoon with limited visibility. Ravishing.

An exquisite fourth movement tricks the listener into a sense of modest resolution. What followed was pure showmanship: musically unnecessary, but gratefully received nonetheless.

And another important thing: Colin Walsh is the only performer in St John’s Smith Square’s 2017/18 roster whose publicity picture features his own dog.

St John’s Smith Square Thursday Lunchtime Concerts continue next week with the Maclet-Hadjiev Duo playing Handel, Kodaly and Bach



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