The packed house said it all. With two wonderful instruments now available at the city’s main concert venues, Birmingham is enjoying a huge revival of interest in organ music.
And for Thomas Trotter it was a resounding endorsement of his 25 years as City Organist.
Monday’s lunchtime anniversary recital revealed only a sample of Trotter’s many talents as performer and interpretive musician, but it was enough. His Bach (Prelude and Fugue in G, BWV541) was, as it always is, clearly articulated and refreshingly free of fussy registration changes – a rock-steady model of good taste. So, too, his Widor, a beautifully shaped Moderato Cantabile from the mighty Symphony No. 8, with a headily swirling scherzo to follow.
By comparison another scherzo, from Frederick Holloway’s Symphony in C minor, seemed hardly in the same league, although it was pleasant enough and demonstrated Trotter’s open-minded approach to music of all persuasions, as did his encore, Lemare’s soupy Andantino in D flat (aka Moonlight and Roses.)
On a more maverick level three Gospel Preludes by William Bolcom offered an exhilarating display of technical prowess.
For his tour-de-force finale Trotter gave us – and why not, on such an occasion? – Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. This was spectacularly well done, especially in the inspired exploration of the organ’s tonal resources. Trotter’s skill in choosing just the right stops for themes and even individual phrases was both awesome and adept, with a climax – no cannon effects here, but some very acceptable bells – of stunning impact and total musical integrity.
In his valedictory speech Paul Keene, programming and events director of Performances Birmingham, described Thomas Trotter as one of the world’s great organists, if not the greatest. He might well be right.