Review: Thomas Heywood

The internationally famed Australian organ virtuoso, Thomas Heywood, wowed a summer evening concert audience at Christ Church Cathedral with a bonzer display to brighten glum skies and pour musical torrents down on expectant heads. He is an all-action performer, a showman, who radiates enthusiasm for music and the myriad possibilities of the organ. He is exuberant and his introductions are gems of interest and humour. His extensive transcriptions and transposition for organ are a joy and as such he is a vital populariser of organ music. His fingers and feet dance on the keys and pedals and his wife, Simone, actions the stops so quickly, to give the music an added excitement. Occasionally he rushes measure for urgency but that’s the rock and roll of the man, the passion at the core of his technique.

Opening with Overture from Orpheus In The Underworld, this was friendly and familiar with scary bits, fanfares, fast fingers, flashy feet, soaring and sonorous melody before the big flourish of the can-can. A dramatic Beethoven Coriolan Overture was electric with stops, pauses, flurries, creeping tones, hesitancy, almost indecision, then fanfares and fireworks before a gorgeous fade to silence.

A Brewer Marche Heroique changed into a romantic Vocalise from Rachmaninoff and then a battering of the senses with a powerhouse from Wagoner’s Tannhauser Grand March with cannonares of trumpet sounds that reverberated all around the cathedral.

After the interval the familiar and flowing Handel’s Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba, was a blast, as he eased into Elgar Salut D’amore (an engagement gift for the composer’s poet wife). This was romantic we’ll-meet-again stuff that changed into a bonzer Chopin Military Polonaise.

His introductions were always interesting as was his joke about swine flu (I rang the swine flu hot line and all I got was crackling). A Tchaikovsky selection from The Sleeping Beauty, was amazing with a beautiful Garland Waltz and a stunning Rose Adagio that made a summer night memorable.

Still full of life, he encored with a zippy, impressive Toccata. It doesn’t get much better – a virtuoso on the organ, an essential venue in a slow season, good company and the love and enjoyment of music from a world class musician.

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