Recital by Hugh Davies in Kendal Parish Church
10 November 2007
Review by Jeremy Suter

In welcoming the sizeable audience to the church where he is organist, Hugh Davies pointed out that the instrument he was about to play enjoys a reputation as one of the loudest in the North West, adding that a recent tuning had further increased its decibel level. Notwithstanding this announcement those sitting at the church's west end remained doggedly in their places, whilst I secretly congratulated myself on choosing a pew at the front.

The programme opened with Bach's "Wedge" Prelude and Fugue, of which the former was majestic and well paced, whilst the latter's bravura semiquaver passages had us on the edge of our seats. Harwood's unjustly neglected Sonata in C sharp minor was given an authoritative reading, the work's structure clearly communicated through the creation of impressive climaxes relaxing into passages of relative calm, using the considerable array of tone colours available from the three manual Willis/Walker instrument.

After a brief interval we were treated to two of the mightiest war horses of the organ repertoire, Lizst's BACH Fantasia and Fugue and Reubke's Sonata on the 94th Psalm. Hugh's formidable technique made light of the virtuoso demands of both works, and his interpretation was masterly. At one point it occurred to me that this might be the best performance of the Liszt I had ever heard (and I have heard several in my time). At one level the Reubke was a white knuckle ride from start to finish, but at another it was a profound musical and religious experience. In either case the listener was awe struck by both the genius of the 23 year old composer of this remarkable piece and the almost super human dexterity of the slightly older performer.

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