When an organ recital opens with a piece called Exit, two piano solos find their way onto the programme, and the church organist – usually heard but not seen – imparts erudite knowledge with the delivery of a stand-up comedian, you know you’re in for something special.
But as a former secondary Head Teacher, too, Sean Sweeney has all the necessary credentials to bring all this off, and with panache to spare.
In fact Lefébure-Wély’s Sortie in E flat proved a great opener, where Sean transformed the usually more-staid St Andrew’s instrument into a cross between a fairground organ and calliope.
Sean had, in fact devised his programme to contrast the organ’s easy facility for power with its equal ability for quiet delicacy, which the same composer’s Andante in F then clearly confirmed.
Moving seamlessly over to the piano, Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude further emphasised the theme of dynamic contrast, as did a stirring reading Bach’s St Anne Fugue, followed by Thalben-Ball’s calmly pensive Elegy.
Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen gave the piano a good work out, where the spirited outer sections finely complemented the serenity of the middle, in a performance that undoubtedly captured the composer’s intentions throughout.
Alexandre Guilmant’s March on Lift up your heads’ from Handel’s Messiah ensured that Sean’s recital, arguably one of the series’ most enjoyable to date, went out on a real high note.
PHILIP R BUTTALL
(This concert took place at the Minster Church of St Andrew on August 23, 2017.)
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