The first performance of Poulenc’s Organ Concerto took place in 1938 and has been one of my favourite pieces since I first heard a recording in the 1960’s. The B side had Poulenc’s Concert Champetre for Harpsicord, which is also a very appealing composition.
I recommend you watch the video below, where International Recitalist Joseph Nolan gives a very informative presentation of the piece illustrating the very striking similarities with the Bach G Minor Fantasia 542.
The Organ Concerto features a string orchestra with parts written for first and second violin, viola, cello and double bass. I am not sure there is a set number of strings for performance but to balance an organ at full tilt you certainly need a significant number. A performance I watched recently featured 3 Double Bass, 4 Cello, 6 Viola and 15 Violins.
John Scott Whitely took on the challenge of arranging the string parts for our Regent Classic Skinner Organ and he did this in Brilliant Fashion as you can hear for yourself in the video below.
The work is a masterpiece of invention with the mood changing on a sixpence from frenetic high energy to relaxed lyrical mood and then as quickly back again. We would love to hear your views of this version arranged for two organs.
Perhaps it will offer a means of performance slightly easier than finding the small army of string players needed? But then there is of course the challenge of learning John’s transcription that he fears is extraordinarily challenging!
Watch some more highlights from the concert below.
I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Viscount Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.