The organ is strictly voluntary at sold-out Birmingham pops

The organ is strictly voluntary at sold-out Birmingham pops


norman lebrecht

October 22, 2019

The latest review in our CBSO100 series:

by Norman Stinchcombe
CBSO at Symphony Hall ★★★★

The CBSO’s Benevolent Fund Concert, with a “Sold Out” sign on the orchestra’s website, was a vibrant performance of popular classics with conductor Andrew Litton and soloist Thomas Trotter, both giving their services for free.

Trotter, Birmingham City Organist since 1983, was cheered to the gods for the concluding Toccata from Widor’s Organ Symphony No. 5. The orchestra stayed in their seats and craned their necks to watch Trotter as he juggled an ostinato figure, an implacably marching bass line and some snazzy decorations all in his (seemingly) effortless style.

On disc Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 often has a church organ dubbed, sometimes crudely, on to a studio recording. Here was how it should sound, organ and orchestra blending perfectly and, with the doors to the hall’s reverberation chambers fully open, a gloriously full and rich sound. Litton is a fine conductor of such lush, romantic pieces coaxing some gorgeous string playing from the orchestra while eschewing self indulgence by observing the poco direction in the swooningly sumptuous adagio. And, even when one knows it’s coming, Trotter’s great C Major entry in the finale was thrilling. The concert opened with a stirring performance of Sibelius’s Karelia Suite, with delightful cor anglais (Rachael Pankhurst) in the Ballade and an irresistible swagger to the concluding march. Ravel’s gentle Pavane pour une infante défunte was followed by Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, vividly played (bravo bassoons and contra bassoon!) and brilliantly paced by Litton.

Norman Stinchcombe has reviewed concerts and recordings for the Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post and Midland Music Reviews website.


  • Saxon Broken says:

    Too many descriptions of the kind: “vibrant performance”, “gorgeous string playing”, “delightful cor anglais”, “brilliantly paced” etc. I really have no idea what this performance was actually like, except that the critic enjoyed it.