Review: Late Night in the Quire; St Edmundsbury Cathedral; Bury St Edmunds Festival; Thursday May 24

As we sat in the atmospheric setting of the cathedral choir stalls, beneath the magnificently ornate and colourful casework of the new organ, James Thomas, Director of Music, introduced the all-Bach programme which we were to hear played by Dan Soper and him, and he invited us to sit back, relax, and let the cares of the day disappear.

And that’s exactly what we did. Bach, who for many musicians is the greatest composer who has ever lived, is an indisputable giant when it comes to works for the organ, with a prodigious and varied output full of staggering musical invention. In a programme carefully chosen to showcase the different sounds of the organ, the two musicians each played a set of chorale preludes, pieces based around the congregational Lutheran hymn tunes sung in the eighteenth century. Many of the sounds used in these were the beautifully voiced flute stops.

Then, in the piece known colloquially as the ‘Giant Fugue’ we heard the diapasons, the organ sounds most instantly familiar to most people. After a trio sonata movement Dan Soper ended the recital with the 5-part Fugue in E flat (BWV 552b), known as the ‘St Anne’, a piece I had already heard about an hour previously, played by 5 recorder players in an earlier concert.

In this, the original version, the full power of the organ was gradually unleashed, bringing the recital to an impressive close. After the two excellent organists took their applause from the organ loft above us, an elderly lady next to me turned and said “That was a treat…” – a sentiment with which I could only agree.

Wynn Rees

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