Author Topic: Southampton Guildhall Compton / Richard Hills CD 'Grand Variety' out now  (Read 9668 times)

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Lucien Nunes

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The Southampton Guildhall Compton has not been recorded for a long time. Now, to mark its 75th anniversary, we're proud to bring you 'Grand Variety' with Richard Hills at the (two) consoles of Compton's magnum opus - playing classics, show tunes, novelties and more. The Guildhall organ is a comprehensive 50 rank + Melotone instrument with two entirely different 4-manual consoles, one designed for performing classics (the Grand console) and one for light music (the Variety console). Richard has masterful control of this beast whichever console he is seated at, but I need not eulogise any further as a review has just come in from Carlo Curley...

Review of Grand Variety by Carlo Curley: http://www.ssfweb.co.uk/silverst/html/carlo_curley_review.html
Hear samples and buy the CD online: http://www.ssfweb.co.uk/silverst/html/grand_variety.html
Guildhall organ's own website: http://www.guildhall-compton.org.uk/
See us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/211948242234668/

Enjoy the music!

Lucien
« Last Edit: February 17, 2012, 12:49:45 AM by Lucien Nunes »

AnOrganCornucopia

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First heard this plugged on The Organist Entertains. I have now listened to all the samples, and read Carlo Curley's wonderfully descriptive review, and am every bit as awe-struck as when I heard it on TOE - I LOVE it. Definitely going to buy it and soon! Mind you, I've got a LONG list of CDs to buy, far more than I can afford, or have space for!  ;D

I hope that Richard Hills will get more recognition - he seems to fall in a no-man's-land at the moment, viewed with a degree of inverted snobbery by some of the theatre organ world, but overlooked by the classical organ world because of his dabbling in theatre organs, rather than recognising his - or this Compton's - truly dual-purpose nature. I love the sound of the Melotone unit, which Mr Ogden informed us that you restored, Lucien - every organ should have one!

However, is the Guildhall really Compton's magnum opus? Downside Abbey might have something to say about that... that's a wonderful organ! Just needs a Tibia and a Vox Humana, and a Melotone  ;D

revtonynewnham

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Hi

The question of if this was Compton's "magnum opus" came up on another list.  Certainly it's a unique Compton, the only other dual purpose organs that I can think of in the UK are the HNB/Christie in the Dome, Brighton and a much smaller organ in what is now an East London college, so from that point of view, it is in the running for the title.

Downside is significantly smaller in terms of numbers of ranks, and isn't "pure" Compton, as it uses some pipework from the previous instrument.  The first BBC theatre organ MAY have been larger in terms of number of ranks - it certainly had more speaking stops - so the conclusion that I came to was that Southampton is Compton's largest surviving organ, and the two styles of consoles is only possibly unique, although I have seen a ref to 2 consoles on the East London organ - but it's not 100% reliable.

The East London organ is http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=E00633 - formerly the People's Palace, Mile End Road, now  the Great Hall of Queen Mary College.  I hear that this organ is currently being restored.  (I had to do an NPOR search to track it down).

every Blessing

Tony


AnOrganCornucopia

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I was going to say, I'm sure that's that Spurden-Rutt. Nice organ by all accounts and not that small! It's mostly straight, unlike the Brighton organ - it's really much closer to the equally dual-purpose Compton in Wolverhampton Civic Hall. That was once a largely straight concert organ with a Melotone, but it lost the Melotone when still quite new and has since gained a few theatre-type ranks (NPOR is out of date on this). The Tibia is a Moller rank of ENORMOUS scale (it's honestly only three times higher than it is wide) on 20" wind! Further additions are planned in the form of a stronger pair of strings - apparently the existing ones are very much on the quiet side and of limited use for the light music concerts and dances which have saved this organ from oblivion (the local council were on the point of scrapping it when Steve Tovey, now the borough organist, stepped in and showed that, with a few additions, it could actually become a profitable asset rather than a liability).

There's also the Compton in Bournemouth Pavilion - Percy Whitlock's old organ. What of the remaining two Comptons in the BBC's possession? Aren't they fairly dual purpose?

The Odeon, Leicester Square is fairly dual-purpose too, having diapason choruses on three manuals...

Quite why PCND5584 chooses to take offence at my having expressed a wish that, however briefly, former forum member "Barniclecompton" was still on this forum, as he knows so much (more than any of the rest of us, I suspect) about the Wolverhampton organ, is a mystery to me.

Anyway, I have ordered Richard Hills' CD - I shall report back when I've received it and had a good listen to it.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2012, 11:45:43 PM by AnOrganCornucopia »

David Drinkell

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Yes, the People's Palace organ was a Rutt - it even had the name in big letters forming the music desk, as Compton and Wurlitzer were wont to do.  I don't know what it's like, but in general I find Rutts well-made but tonally depressing (the one exception is St. Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge, but I think that Rutt left the tonal side mostly alone when he rebuilt it).

It used to be the case that the BBC Concert Hall organ was little used because of sound leaks into other studios, particularly the news department.  The Maida Vale organ was much used and well-maintained. It had the reputation of being a remarkably fine instrument, particularly considering that it was more extended than Compton's norm.  Some of the smaller Comptons are particularly effective - St. Olave, Hart Street, for one.  St. Bride's must be one of the biggest jobs Comptons' ever did - a lot of it being completely straight.

AnOrganCornucopia

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St Cyprian, Clarence Gate is a Rutt - and it's very nice indeed. Pretty comprehensive 3-manual instrument - the one thing it lacks is a mixture of any description anywhere on the organ, but the diapason choruses to 2ft are pretty bright anyway - a mixture beyond 2ft would really be a bit of a luxury for additional impact, as with the Armley Schulze. It's a pity that the casework (designed by Comper, as was the rest of this fabulous church, one of Betjeman's favourites) was never executed, although I hear that plans are afoot to rectify this. It certainly ought to have a proper case to reflect the wonderful rood and parclose screens up the other end.

There's also a Rutt somewhere Purley way, used for a local festival with which Gerard Brooks is involved, rebuilt and enlarged by GDB in 1981 or so, which has a console much like the People's Palace organ, with the Rutt name in that stylish curly italic font.

David, what do you find 'tonally depressing' about them?

As for Compton, apparently yesterday's concert at Wolverhampton Civic Hall (again, a lot of straight ranks in that) was something of a revelation to certain first-time visitors. It certainly sounds like a nice organ in the recordings I've heard. I know also that PCND is something of an admirer of St Luke's Chelsea - not normally his favourite type of organ, but, considering that the single biggest criticism he could find of it was that the light bulb on the 32' reed stop disc failed (!) I don't think Compton need worry too much about his reputation and can get on with life on the other side.

St Alban's Holborn is almost all straight - the Pedal is all extended, but the three manuals only have one extended rank apiece (Ch.Dulciana 16 to mixture, Great Double Open Diapason 16' to 2', Swell Salicional 16' to 2'). I've got a recording of it in a Finzi Singers disc released by Chandos many years ago and now unavailable - the standout piece being Vaughan-Williams' A Vision of Aeroplanes. I have uploaded this to YouTube (along with a few other bits and bobs) at http://www.youtube.com/anorgancornucopia. It sounds absolutely fantastic to me - though I'm told that, when going flat out, it's loud to the point of excruciating pain at the console. It sounded surprisingly nice having Bruhns played on it for Radio 3's Choral Evensong the other day, though!
« Last Edit: February 19, 2012, 10:04:34 AM by AnOrganCornucopia »

Lucien Nunes

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I hope you like the CD -  its sales will contribute towards keeping the organ playable. At the moment the organ has to pay its own way for maintenance, however this is a considerable advance on the situation a few years ago when it wasn't really usable.  A full rebuild was out of the question and will probably remain so for the time being, however the council did not turn their back on it and let it simply fall silent, choosing instead to work closely with HWS to see what could be done with the available resources. All has worked out well because it is being played and heard, on a budget of which their stakeholders would approve, without deviating from the conservation approach that it deserves due to its originality.

Credit for overhauling the Southampton Melo actually goes to John Leeming who did the obligatory hours of poring over the tracks with a magnifier. It's still a work in progress, we want to have another go at the disks fairly soon to iron out some crackles but when it comes to switching it on and playing it, the Melo is actually pretty reliable.

Lucien

David Drinkell

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St Cyprian, Clarence Gate is a Rutt - and it's very nice indeed. Pretty comprehensive 3-manual instrument - the one thing it lacks is a mixture of any description anywhere on the organ, but the diapason choruses to 2ft are pretty bright anyway - a mixture beyond 2ft would really be a bit of a luxury for additional impact, as with the Armley Schulze. It's a pity that the casework (designed by Comper, as was the rest of this fabulous church, one of Betjeman's favourites) was never executed, although I hear that plans are afoot to rectify this. It certainly ought to have a proper case to reflect the wonderful rood and parclose screens up the other end.

There's also a Rutt somewhere Purley way, used for a local festival with which Gerard Brooks is involved, rebuilt and enlarged by GDB in 1981 or so, which has a console much like the People's Palace organ, with the Rutt name in that stylish curly italic font.

David, what do you find 'tonally depressing' about them?

A

I've always wanted to try St. Cyprian's (and see the church, too: its tonal qualities were described by Edward Maynard Pinkney in Music Opinion, November 1972, as 'particularly ripe', and I've been intrigued ever since.

Generally, though, I've rarely found a Rutt that I liked, which is rare for me.  I did lot of practice as a teenager at Wivenhoe Congregational Church
http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N08676
Whopping Diapason, Dulciana and little 4'flute on the Great, Stopped Diapason and Gamba on the Swell, no octave couplers.  Nicely made, and half-decent case (built for the previous church and transferred to the new one in the sixties), but tonally there wasn't much you could do with it.

St. Peter's, Colchester has a Rutt - one of the worst organs I've ever encountered, which is saying a great deal:
http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=H00583
A reasonable specification, but nothing really adds up and there's a complete lack of excitement.  I have nothing against extension organs, but this is the sort of job which gives them a bad name.  Again, workmanship and case are of a high quality.

The old organ at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Rutt's largest, was fairly grotesque.  I knew it towards the end of its life, but I can't imagine it was ever very much better.  And the Rutt luminous console was a dreadfully ugly thing.

I wish I liked Rutt more - he was an Essex Man, like me!

I've never heard the Compton at St. Alban's, Holborn, but I've heard it's pretty startling.  Thanks for the mention of this week's Choral Evensong - I'm listening to it now.....

AnOrganCornucopia

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I thought you couldn't get the iPlayer overseas? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bz20ySkDyA is the Vision of Aeroplanes... gives you an idea what the last Compton ever built can do!

I wonder what "particularly ripe" means... but that was a time when even a vintage Hill like Chester was fair game for turning into a neo-broke bubble'n'squeak job!

Meanwhile, I am listening to a marvellous transcription of Mussorgsky, played on the Wanamaker organ, as far from neo-baroque as you can imagine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jGusHrOXZw

AnOrganCornucopia

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I should have pointed out that I have now had this CD for about six or seven weeks. I've played it a few times and thoroughly enjoyed it - although certain bits (like the Novello suite) I find less than enthralling - though that is not Richard Hills' fault. It's a thrilling concert organ, with very bright diapason choruses up to (derived) Quint mixtures of quite high pitch and very powerful chorus reeds. The power and weight of the Pedal division has to be heard to be believed! There are a great variety of Trumpet/Tuba-type stops with varying degrees of brightness (there's one that's quite searing), lots of lovely flutes and strings, various fine orchestral reeds including a wonderful Cor Anglais and also the aforementioned Melotone unit - that alone makes this CD worth buying!

Richard Hills' playing is impeccable throughout - the Alfred Hollins Concert Overture which opens the disc is taken at a cracking pace and the Thalben-Ball Elegy which closes it is by far the best performance I've ever heard. Normally I find this piece loathesomely dreary but Hills' sensitive shaping and phrasing really brings it to life. A less cynical listener might even call it moving.

The recording quality is also impeccable - every little nuance of registration is picked out with real clarity and the thunderous Pedal line in the Hollins (in particular) is transmitted with real but not overwhelming power.

Carlo Curley's review could, arguably, have been said with half as many words, but he hits the nail on the head. This is a very fine recording of a wonderful combination of player and organ - highly recommended!

 


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