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Organ recital: Dame Gillian Weir *****

MUSIC REVIEW

KENNETH WALTON

USHER HALL, EDINBURGH

DAME Gillian Weir proved unequivocally on Saturday night that the Usher Hall organ, as a solo instrument, was well worth renovating.

For decades the troublesome old Norman and Beard instrument has lain silent like a sleeping monster. Weir brought it back to life in a dazzling display of virtuosity and supreme musicianship.

She dressed flamboyantly for the occasion - a flowing blood-red gown that sparkled as she played, throwing dance-like reflections onto the walls and stage. The music sparkled too.

Weir plays the organ with the lightning articulation and grace of a concert pianist. If anything illustrated that, it was her fleet-footed execution of Bach's tricky little E flat Trio Sonata. Whether in the eccentric textures of Ives's Variations on America, the plunging harmonies of Liszt, the mercurial contortions of Dupré, the ecstatic flourishes of Messiaen, the Stravinskian obsessiveness of Petr Eben, or the grizzly humour of Guy Bovet's Hamburger Totentanz, we were witness to an inexhaustible tonal palate. Even Howard Blake's specially commissioned The Rise of the House of Usher, despite its routine language - a steady progression from mysterious subterranean growls to crashing climactic chords - sang with clarity and colour.

This article first appeared in the Tuesday, June 10, 2003 The Scotsman