Christopher Herrick (organ)

St George’s Cathedral


reviewed by Neville Cohn


Perhaps it was the unusual recital time – a Saturday at 5:30pm – that kept concertgoers away. It was their loss because Herrick is no run-of-the-mill organist. In fact, his CD recordings sell by the bushel which, if his offerings at St George’s Cathedral are anything to go by, is hardly surprising. Because Herrick is to the organ what Horowitz is to the piano – a phenomenal virtuoso. This was exemplified in his account of Liszt’s Fantasia and Fugue on a theme of Meyerbeer.

All the drama and dazzle inherent in the work came through in the most powerful and satisfying way with finger and foot in absolute accord. Certainly, momentum was scrupulously maintained during even the most gruelling of episodes. By even the strictest of critical criteria, this was a performance worth getting excited about.

But there’s far more to Herrick’s skill at the organ than the ability to perform as a console athlete. He’s a musician to the fingertips – and toes, for that matter (his pedalling is phenomenally secure) – and this was specially evident in his account of Bach’s Trio Sonata No 6 in G which unfolded in the most musically logical way, wondrously buoyant in the opening Vivace and quietly eloquent in the central Lento.

There was a rarity, certainly for Perth: Chelsea Fayre by the quaintly named Reginald Goss-Custard. This was a disappointing curtain raiser, with finger and foot not always in accord, resulting in an unfortunate rhythmic waywardness. But Herrick, who was for a number of years, organist to London’s Westminster Abbey, retrieved the initiative in Edwin Lemare’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, a glittering crowd pleaser if there ever was one. And Franck’s Cantabile was an expressively considered essay in introspection.

This recital was tantalisingly brief. Certainly, one would have liked to hear more Bach not least because Herrick’s reputation rests so much on his performances of the Master’s music and the numerous recordings of the Bach oeuvre he has made for the Hyperion label.

© Neville Cohn 2005

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