Andrew Johnstone (organ)

 

Laus Christo Domino Nostro - Andrew Johnstone

Passacaglia Groocock ConcertFantasia - > Stewart

Lub - Andrew Synnott

Riverdance - Bill Whelan/A. Johnstone

Organist-composers are a distinctive breed. Their penchant for reinterpreting past styles was well represented in Andrew Johnstone's recital at lunchtime last Friday in Christ Church Cathedral. All the music was by composers from Ireland.

Johnstone's Laus Christo Domino Nostro takes a short acclamation commonly sung at Christ Church (where Johnstone is assistant organist) and sets it on a seven-movement odyssey of variation techniques drawn mainly from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Yet the vocabulary is very much of our time. It wears its contrapuntal techniques on its sleeve, and relishes them.

The passacaglia is an archetypal organ genre, Bach's, Rheinberger's and Reger's being among the best known. The late Joseph Groocock's Passacaglia dates from 1947 and is in that tradition - technically resourceful, dignified and warm-hearted.

Two pieces less involved with earlier styles were 19thcentury Robert Prescott Stewart's Concert-Fantasia - brimming with Mendelssohnian virtuosity - and Andrew Synnott's Lub, written in 1992 and perhaps the most frequently played of all recent Irish organ compositions. Johnstone gave the most persuasively paced performance of the several I have heard.

Riverdance on the organ? Well, Bill Whelan was doing his own bit of reinterpretation, while Andrew Johnstone's transcription presents the music in its own right, not merely as a cipher for the original. It was played with the confidence in musicianship and technique which characterised all in this recital.