Simon Leach Plays a Stunningly Modulated Organ Recital at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
It’s good to have the mostly-weekly series of organ concerts at St. Patrick’s Cathedral back again. It took a long time for the church to complete the renovations on the organ there, but in the couple of years leading up to the 2020 lockdown, there were some memorable concerts in that space. Yesterday’s performance, by Simon Leach, was a rewarding continuation of that tradition.
He opened by premiering The Call to Care for Creation, by his wife Helen Leach. It was a shapeshifting, dynamic, sometimes rippling, sometimes strikingly anthemic piece in the Romantic tradition, with a precise, triumphantly spiraling coda
Next he tackled Bach’s Pièce d’Orgue, BWV 572, rising quickly from a lilting, understated introduction to a literally imperceptible build into a resolute, similarly subtle yet powerful forward drive, a march arising from a single casual stroll. Leach continued with an unrelenting power and a sleekly turbulent, impeccably modulated conclusion.
Taken out of context, the Cantabile from Franck’s Trois Pièces pour Grand Orgue was an airy and persistently uneasy change of pace. Where Leach had pursued the preceding piece relentlessly, he pulled back on the reins and let the wistfully wafting, often bittersweet passages in this one speak for themselves.
He closed by launching with a bang into a stampeding take of Dupré’s Prelude & Fugue in B Major, from his Trois Préludes et Fugues, Op. 7. Rapidfire lefthand/righthand fugal moments quickly gave way to concise, brightly translucent chordal riffage, Just as he had done with the Bach, Leach found the piece’s internal swing and rode that with a sine-wave consistency and clarity, at least where the composer’s rhythm was steady. When it wasn’t, he parsed the dynamics for a mutedly cheery chorale before elevating to a clenched-teeth, stabbing intensity.
The next organ concert at St. Patrick’s is April 30 at 3:15 PM, with Clayton Roberts in the console playing works by Bach, Dupre, and David N. Johnson. Admission is free. The sonic sweet spot is in the center pews about three quarters of the way toward the back of the church, where you can watch on one of several video screens.