A Giant Reborn: The restored 1735 organ of Christ Church, Spitalfields | Fugue State Records FSRCD010

A Giant Reborn: The restored 1735 organ of Christ Church, Spitalfields


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Label: Fugue State Records

Cat No: FSRCD010

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 2

Genre: Instrumental

Release Date: 3rd March 2017



Fugue State Films are pleased to release a fabulous double-CD recording of what is surely one of Britain’s best and most important organs. Gerard Brooks plays English 18th-century organ music on the organ of Christ Church, Spitalfields.

Gerard Brooks himself writes: “When it was completed in 1735, the organ in Christ Church, Spitalfields, built by Richard Bridge was the largest in England and it complements the physical scale of Hawksmoor's church, consecrated in 1729. Today it is the largest surviving Georgian organ and, after many years of silent neglect, it has been brought magnificently to life by William Drake Organ Builders. Their historically informed and sensitive restoration has enabled us to hear the organ as it was originally heard and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to record a representative selection of music from the eighteenth century, a period that many regard as the 'Golden Age' of English organ music.”

Indeed it was a golden age. For the CD Gerard selected music by composers both more and less well-known – on the one hand works by Croft, Purcell, Boyce, Arne, Handel, Stanley, and on the other hand wonderful but slightly more obscure works by Prelleur, Greene, Barrett, Heron, Walond, Nares, Reading, James and Keeble. The inspiring variety and depth of this music is perfectly brought out by Gerard’s playing – as always he is virtuosic but in a subtle way that suits the essentially English quality of this music – the voluntaries, concertos and fugues on the CD may well imitate the grandeur of particularly French models, but always in a refined and discreet way.

This repertoire comes alive on the instruments of its time, of which the Spitalfields organ was perhaps the most ambitious example. Bridge was probably an apprentice of Renatus Harris, so is part of the Dallam-Harris tradition on which much of English organ building is founded. This organ is his greatest work, and one of the landmarks of our organ heritage. It was the largest in England of its time (hence the “Giant” in the CD's title), and has a wonderful array of stops and colours that are obviously perfect for 18th century voluntaries – the diapasons, cornets and a set of exquisite reeds with their very distinctive sounds. Very few English organs from this period have survived unscathed, which makes this instrument and recording all the more important. We're also grateful to Joost from William Drake Organ Builders who pumped the bellows by hand for us, to give the recording a final touch of authenticity! This was all captured superbly by tonmeister David Hinitt (who recorded The Genius of Cavaillé-Coll for us in 2012).

It’s in an amazing location, too. The fabulous Hawksmoor-designed church, which until recently was locked up and pretty much derelict, has been splendidly restored. Usually it is hemmed in by buildings, but the above photo was taken just after the demolition of buildings opposite, giving a rare view of the church from a distance - the site has already been rebuilt so the church is no longer viewable from this angle.

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