The Grand Organ of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London (2010)

by | Feb 13, 2011 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The Grand Organ of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London (2010)

Concert by organist Simon Johnson + CD of same program
Program: (below)
Studio: Priory PRDVD 5 [12/14/10] (Distr. by Albany)
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: English DD 5.1 surround, 2.0
Extras: Tour of the organ registrations & St. Paul’s with Simon Johnson, Printed booklet
Rating: ****

This is an historic instrument in a historic cathedral. It might be wise to take the video tour of the organ and venue with organist Johnson before experiencing the concert. The organ has a long history and has been removed and replaced, added to, and rebuilt many times.  The history of the cathedral itself is most interesting as well.  Organist Johnson want to show off every trumpet and tuba registration the organ possesses; the various ranks are highlit in some of the shots so that we see the actual pipes producing the sounds. The several trumpet stops are especially interesting. Some are 70 yards away, so you will see the organist’s hands pressing the keys considerably before hearing the sounds of the pipes.              

The program consists of 14 short works; the longest is eight minutes. There are closeups of the many keyboard manuals and knobs for the various stops, but also interesting closeups of objects both inside the cathedral and outside photos and footage that tie into the music being heard. For example, during Handel’s Dead March we see some of the many crypts of famous people in the cathedral, Barber’s Adagio for Strings is accompanied by videos of famous events – WWII, the Blitz, 9/11 – and the closing Stravinsky excerpt from The Firebird Suite is matched by pictures of the Great Fire of London in 1666.

The DVD box says on the back it is PAL format, but though my Oppo player is set only for NTSC it played fine. There are also no credits for Dolby, and I was unable to switch from the 5.1 audio option to the 2.0. The reason I attempted to change to stereo was that the organ’s sounds in the DVD are rather muffled and murky, buried in the strong reverberation of St. Paul’s interior. The accompanying standard CD, however, has a much cleaner and more forward sonic aspect to the organ’s sound.  I would thus say that generally if there is a PCM stereo option on a standard DVD’s audio, that will usually sound better than the Dolby 5.1 surround option.  Only on Blu-ray, with its lossless Dolby and DTS codecs, is the best surround fidelity offered – which is why Blu-ray music videos are such a treat – more than the enhanced images.

WILLCOCKS: Fanfare on “Gopsal,” CLARKE: Trumpet Voluntary; GREENE: Voluntary in c, WIDOR: Andante Sostenuoto, MENDELSSOHN: Prelude & Fugue in c, KARG-ELERT: Harmonies du Soir, BONNET: Variations de Concert, HANDEL: Dead March, COCKER: Tuba Tune, PARRY: Elegy, BREWER: Marche Heroique, BARBER: Adagio, EBEN: Moto Ostinato, STRAVINSKY: Berceus & Finale from “The Firebird”

 — John Sunier

Related Reviews
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
Logo Pure Pleasure