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Stephen Farr - Bingham Everlasting Crown - Audiophile Audition

13 June 2012
Audiophile Audition
Peter Joelson
5 Stars

Another five-star organ release from Resonus.  I'll start right away by drawing attention to the playing time if you are reading this far - have no fear, the recording is priced accordingly.

Judith Bingham's "The Everlasting Crown" was premièred during London's BBC Promenade Concerts of 2011.  On 17 July, Stephen Farr gave a recital on the organ in the Royal Albert Hall, a programme of some variety which included Alain: Litanies, Liszt: Prelude Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (arr. Winterberger), JS Bach: Chorale Prelude ‘Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott', BWV 721, and the piece recorded here, Judith Bingham:  The Everlasting Crown.

Paul Serotsky described Bingham's music as "compromisingly modern" and The Everlasting Crown continues in that vein, 21st-century without frightening the horses.  The colours and textures produced in this seven-movement work inspired by, amongst other things, the iridescence of precious stones, the history, myth and fact behind them, and that, unlike us, age does not wither them.  Modern, sounding quite a challenge to perform, it is nonetheless sufficiently approachable unless music for pipe organ is anathema for you, in which case you certainly won't be reading this far.  However, that aside, it may well take several auditions to appreciate what Judith Bingham has achieved, as it should with all but the most superficial of writing.

Recorded on the Harrison & Harrison instrument which Peter Hurford and the late Ralph Downes designed for St Alban's Abbey in 1962, both instrument and acoustic combine with Stephen Farr at the console to allow the biggest sounds the space and the intimate sections the clarity they need.  The instrument is in top condition, too, having been restored recently.  The sound quality of Adam Binks' recording is quite first-class, the stereo-only 24 bit option again chosen for audition.

The excellent booklet has an introduction by the composer (who attended the recording session), as well as an extensive essay by Andrew Stewart about the music, full organ specifications and photographs.  Superb production values all round.

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