The Virtuoso Organist – Tudor and Jacobean Masterworks by Byrd, Bull, Tallis, Tomkins, Blitheman and Gibbons

Reviewed on Fri 22 May, 2015

This excellent release features the new Taylor and Boody chamber organ of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in an intelligently presented recital by Stephen Farr, assisted by the male voices of the college's choir. Farr's sources include the 1560 Mulliner Book and William Byrd's My Ladye Nevells Book of 1591, with music composed by Byrd, his pupil John Bull, Tallis, Thomas Tomkins and others, while Magnus Williamson’s comprehensive sleeve notes explore aspects of the English keyboard tradition both preceding and following the Reformation. Farr has chosen a very broad range of music, ranging from dances to religious compositions. In the latter category, Tompkins’s unusually expansive 1637 Offertory unfolds over almost 18 minutes, providing an almost hypnotic listening experience. Farr’s performance is absolutely assured and free of distracting mannerisms, while the recorded sound of both organ and choir is of the highest standard. Don’t miss this.
–Chris Achenbach