David Briggs

Concert Organist and Composer

Recordings - 2

The Art of Transcription:

Schubert Eight and Tchaikovsky Four
Chestnut 003
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Following on the success of David's transcription of Mahler Five, David has transcribed Schubert's Eighth and Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphonies and recorded them on the Blackburn Cathedral Organ.

Back in the days before home sound systems, the organ transcription became a very effective way of making concert works more readily available to the public. Consequently there were many itinerant organists who devoted themselves to playing transcriptions of symphonic music throughout Europe and America.
This release is an outstanding example of what you might have heard at one of their recitals. It's entitled "The Art of Organ Transcription" and with good reason. That's because successful sounding organ transcriptions of symphonic works like the two here are indeed an art form requiring considerable creativity as well as virtuosity. The creative aspect involves arranging the many orchestral parts so they can be played with just two hands and two feet as well as picking the right combinations of pipes (known as registration) to convincingly mimic the endless variety of instrumental colors. But that's only the beginning, because it then takes a real virtuoso to faithfully execute what inevitably turns out to be an extremely complex score.
British-born David Briggs is one of the best practitioners of this art alive today, as evidenced by the standing ovation he got at a recent recital at Washington National Cathedral featuring some of his own transcriptions. Now, thanks to this disc, those of you who weren't there can get an idea of what an exciting concert that was. Granted, he plays a different instrument here, but the Blackburn Cathedral organ is a fabulous instrument with outstanding tonal characteristics that in some ways make it even better suited to the two symphonies on this disc.
Most readers of these pages have probably heard both of them all too frequently, but you'll find they take on new life as transcribed for organ and become old wine in new bottles, so to speak. The program begins with the only two extant movements from the Unfinished Symphony (No. 8) of Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Listen to how effectively Briggs captures the alternately foreboding and lyrically moving passages in the first one, as well as the innocent and highly assertive ones in the second. Also, the dynamics on "The Pope of Instruments" as Hector Berlioz called the organ are not to be believed. That's particularly true of the next selection,
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) fourth symphony. Briggs very effectively conveys the full emotional essence of that fateful opening. His renditions of the slow movement and following scherzo are magnificently registrated and played. The finale is something else again, and quite mind-boggling when you consider that this is a one man operation. Note the incredible clarity with which he executes those complex running passages, and how successfully he manages to "organize" what you're used to hearing in the concert hall. The final coda must be one of the most exciting organ moments on silver disc, barring none.
These spectacular transcriptions and performances plus good recorded sound guarantee anyone getting this release a thrilling listening experience.
By the way, Briggs is also noted for his stunning improvisations.
Also, be on the lookout for an upcoming recording of David doing his transcription of Gustav Mahler's sixth symphony. He included the slow movement from this in his Washington recital, and it was something of a religious experience!

Bob McQuiston, former reviewer for Tower Records, Washington DC

    

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The Art of Transcription:
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Dreamworld

Major organ works: Song Cycle
Chestnut 001
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Marche Episcopale (2000)
Variations on Greensleeves (2005)
Trio Sonata (2005)
Song Cycle 'Dreamworld' (2004/5) with Edward Goater (tenor)
Variations on 'Laudi Spirituali' (2004)
Fantaisie (2004)

All compositions by David Briggs

    

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Dreamworld
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David Briggs Live!

in concert on the Muller Organ at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Little Rock, Arkansas
CD7176
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Prelude and Fugue in B Minor BWV 544 - JS Bach
Symphonic Poem "Orpheus" - Liszt/Guillou
War March of the Priests - Mendelssohn/Briggs
Suite for Organ, Op.5 - Durufle
Improvisations on 2 submitted themes

    

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David Briggs Live!
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Freedom of Spirit

David Briggs improvises on world class organs in France, the United States and Italy
Chestnut 006
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1. Variations on ‘Alouette, gentile Alouette’ (14:22)
Eglise St Vincent, Roquevaire, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
17th October 2008

Four Concert Improvisations
Luther College, Decorah, Iowa
2nd March 2008
Improvisations in the style of:
2. J S Bach (6:53)
3. Felix Mendelssohn (4:30)
4. Maurice Ravel (10:00)
5. David Briggs (3:30)

6. Improvisation on ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ (9:15)
Danville Presbyterian Church, Kentucky, USA
Tuesday 8th April 2008

7. Improvisation: ‘Homage à Jean Langlais’ (5:00)
Basilica Santa Maggiore, Bergamo, Italy
Bergamo International Organ Festival, Italy
10th October 2007

Three Liturgical Improvisations from St Sulpice, Paris
September 2002

8. Offertoire (3:37)
9. Communion (4:59)
10. Sortie (8:15)

11. Improvisation on Ave Maria – ‘Lourdes Hymn’ (6:00)
1888 Cavaillé-Coll Organ of St Sernin, Toulouse, France
Recorded in October 2007

    

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Freedom of Spirit
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Full Splendour

Recorded on the stunning Anneessens (1866) organ of Bridlington Priory, Yorkshire, UK.
Chestnut 005
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Music by J S Bach, D’Aquin, Lemmens, Franck, Widor, Vierne and Debussy

    

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Full Splendour
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Organ Spectacular

New Delos CD Recording on the Largest Church Organ in the World!
First Congregational Church, Los Angeles, California
DELOS 3241
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Improvisation: Prelude, Adagio and Chorale Variations 'Ein feste burg ist unser Gott'
Coronation March 'Orb and Sceptre', Walton
Nocturne (from 'Shylock'), Faure
Will o' the Wisp, Nevin
Carillon de Westminster, Vierne
Sonata on the 94th Psalm, Reubke

(with nearly 300 stops, including 8 32s, 81 ranks of strings, 6 ranks of Chamades [one of which is on 35 inches wind!], 2 five-manual consoles, etc, it's hardly surprising that they have earthquake problems in Los Angeles...)

"You are an absolute champagne ... creative, exciting and of a hugely high musical level ... "
(Amelia Heygood, President, Delos International, LA)

"An outstanding job... I am particularly impressed with the smoothness of this effort; every improviser pulls out practised routines, but here it seems natural and fitting. And the Cochereau legacy is unmistakable... Briggs does it proud"
(American Record Guide)

"Your reading of the 94th Psalm is frankly the best I think we will ever get - I contacted Delos and asked them 'more, please' ..."
(John Lumb, Music Critic, Washington D.C.)

    

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Organ Spectacular
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Bach at Gloucester


DBCD4
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including Fugue a la Gigue,
Toccata and Fugue in D Min (Dorian),
Trio Sonata No.1, 4 Chorale Preludes,
Prelude and Fugue in E Min (The Wedge)

Available from David Briggs

    

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Bach at Gloucester
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Organ Kaleidoscope

The First Commercial Recording of The Rebuilt Organ of Gloucester Cathedral
PRCD 685
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Variations de Concert, Bonnet
Priere, Franck
Scherzo, Durufle
Four movements from 'Messe pour les Paroisses' Couperin
Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, J S Bach
Chorale Prelude on 'Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier'
Chorale Prelude 'Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend', J S Bach
Fantaisie in E flat, Saint-Saens
Litanies, Alain
Variations on "A la venue de Noel", Pierre Cochereau

"...Briggs is on cracking form: don't pigeon-hole him as a player of French repertoire or a modern French-type improviser: his Bach playing is up with the best, and his romantic British legato style quite delicious... The programme shows how effective this Downes-designed organ can be in a broad range of repertoire..."
(Organists' Review, August 2000)

"David Briggs has already established a reputation as a fine recitalist and transcriber of orchestral scores for organ, as witnessed on previous Priory releases. As the title of the disc suggests, here he is given free reign to display his considerable versatility in a programme designed to show off the 4 manual HNB organ recently rebuilt by Nicholson and Co.
Judging by the thoroughly authentic voice given to works as diverse as Couperin's Messe pour les paroisses, featuring a combination of reeds which I can hardly believe do not originate from France, and a transcription of Cochereau's breathtaking Variations on "A la venue de Noel", Gloucester should be feeling a city duly proud of its revitalised organ. Briggs introduces his enviable credentials in Bonnet's 'Variations de Concert', a work of fiendish difficulty for both hands and feet, but which for him holds no terrors. His mastery over orchestral splashes of colour comes to the fore in Durufle's 'Scherzo'... he delivers Bach's towering G minor Fantasia with exemplary style and articulation and is obviously in his element in the brilliant, feverishly rhythmic Cochereau Variations. In short, a splendid disc"
(Five-star rating, BBC Music Magazine, August 2000)

    

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Organ Kaleidoscope
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Sounds French

David Briggs Plays the Organ of Blackburn Cathedral
LAMM 164D
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Entrée Grand Orgue, Cochereau
Scherzo Symphonique, Cochereau
Choral No.1, Franck
Symphonie en Improvisation, Briggs
Messe Alme Pater, Langlais
Incantation pour un jour Saint, Langlais
Attende Domine, Demessieux
Allegro Deciso, Dupré

"...Unlike many improvisers (and certainly unlike his hero, Cochereau), Briggs is a self-effacing interpreter - his personality never gets in the way of the composer's. When it comes to his own improvisations it is quite a different story! The richly inventive and deeply satisfying 20-minute symphonic improvisation conceived on the spot at the end of the (single evening's) recording session is a case in point ... no-one else in the world sounds like this. What impresses almost the most is the sense that, like Dupré, Briggs can think in huge spans ... Only the greatest of improvisers can think in such perfectly structured forms; the rest of us can just gasp in admiration - and enjoy."
(Organists' Review, August 2004)

    

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Sounds French
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Music to Rouse The Spirit

Gloucester Cathedral Organ
DBCD5
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Including Final (from the Third Symphony), Saint-Saens (arr. DJB),
Lied Symphony, Flor Peeters,
Le Banquet Celeste, Messiaen,
Passacaglia and Fugue on BACH, Karg-Elert,
Improvisation on 'Salve Regina'
Available only from David Briggs

    

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Music to Rouse The Spirit

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