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Concert Fantasia, Op 91

improvision on 'The Sailor's Hornpipe'; 'The British Grenadiers'; 'Rule, Britannia'

This must be one of the few compositions to have been written on an Edison phonograph cylinder, although its gifted composer had really no need to make use of such a device to capture his inspiration.

Edwin Lemare was a highly trained musician, and his skill at the organ was that of the virtuoso. He was born and brought up at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, and although his father was an organist it was his mother who pushed him to develop his musical abilities. By the time he was nineteen he made front page news in the London papers with his astonishing organ recitals at the International Inventions Exhibition. It was not too long before he was organist at the highly fashionabale St Margaret's, Westminster. But side by side with that success were rows, showing a lack of diplomacy which was to plague his whole career. His personal life also showed its instability when he eloped into his first marriage.

Unfortunately the incumbent who brought him to St Margaret's Westminster departed in a hurry and his successor literally had little time for music. Exit Lemare, to the life of a travelling virtuoso and to his first divorce. He travelled in Britain, Australia and the USA, commanding huge audiences. His adventures included missing the San Francisco earthquake by a day, and returning there when the city was rebuilt as the world's highest paid organist.

Harvey Grace, who was at one time organist of Chichester Cathedral, pointed out an aspect of Lemare's genius in this piece, namely his use of the technique of counterpoint (of which Bach was the pastmaster) to the extent of combining all three themes on the final pages. He went on 'Most of us would be satisfied when we had done this, even after the comsumption of midnight oil, but Mr. Lemare, with a casual 'while I think-of-it' air, plays at the same time Auld Lang Syne with the pedals.' … and that is just what happens in this music as published, transcribed by Lemare from his own improvisation to the phonograph.

from notes by Ian Carson © 1988


Organ Fireworks World Tour
Organ Fireworks, Vol. 2
CDA66258Archive Service


Track 4 on CDA66258 [9'03] Archive Service
Track 2 on CDA68214 [9'03]

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