James Tett

Organ Recital

Wednesday 18 September 2019 … 1:00 pm


We were delighted to welcome a large number of music enthusiasts to the first recital of the Organ Series after the summer break. James Tett, who is just starting his second year as a student at the Royal College of Music, London, began with the both comforting and uplifting music of J.S. Bach, playing one of the forty-eight preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier. The Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 541 was written during Bach’s time in Weimar and later revised in Leipzig.

In one of Bach’s most sparkling organ works, James immediately managed to fill the Cathedral with the glorious melodic expression and richly repeated chords of the Prelude.

The Fugue, sterner and with darker harmonies and contrapuntal intensity, dividing its phrases between voices, is rounded off with a wonderful Baroque conclusion. No words can adequately describe the effect that such sublime music has on the soul of the listener; but James succeeded in transporting us, through his clear articulation and most sensitive interpretation, directly to the musical essence of Bach.

James then continued his recital with Sonata No. 4 in B Flat Major, Op.65 by Felix Mendelssohn, from the Six Organ Sonatas, published in 1845. The Sonatas are a collection of varying pieces, including references to Lutheran chorales. In Sonata No. 3, for instance, Mendelssohn wrote the processional movement for the wedding of his sister Fanny. Mendelssohn’s biographer, Eric Werner said: “Next to Bach’s works, Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonatas belong to the required repertory of all organists.”

In today’s Sonata No. 4, James introduced us to the lively and dramatic first movement, Allegro con brio, with a flamboyant rendition of Mendelssohn’s familiar style (there are also unmistakable references to the first two chords of his ever popular ‘Wedding March’. The second movement, Andante Religioso, is calmer and rather hymnal in spirit, followed by the third soothing Allegretto movement. The climax is a triumphant last movement, Allegro Maestoso, with full chordal textures, played convincingly by James to conclude this exhilarating sonata.

There are often musical links to be found between the music and composers of organ music, and especially in James’s programme today. Theses works of Bach and Mendelssohn are likely to have inspired Robert Schumann’s Six Fugues on B-A-C-H Op.60, then later, the Organ Sonatas of Josef Rheinberger.

It, therefore, seemed entirely fitting that James should have continued his recital with the Intermezzo from Sonata No.6 in E Flat Minor, Op. 119 by the German Romantic composer Josef Rheinberger.

At the tender age of seven Rheinberger was already organist of Vaduz Parish Church, before going on to study at the Munich Conservatorium, where he later became professor of piano and composition. Apart from Mendelssohn and Bach, his influences also came from Brahms, Schumann and Schubert. In contrast with the loud and powerful Rheinberger movements we often hear from the pipes of the impressive Brentwood Cathedral organ, this Intermezzo was more subdued and atmospheric, played by James with the reflectiveness it deserved while pulling gently at the heart strings.

The final piece was the Suite Gothique Op.25 by French composer Leon Boëllmann , who at the age of nine studied piano, organ and composition at the École de Musique Classique et Religieuse in Paris. His Suite Gothique, composed in 1895 was by all accounts an instant hit!

Boëllmann wrote for various instruments and voices, but the Suite Gothique is probably his best known work, especially the Toccata, with a melody easily recognised by the audience. The grand Introduction, followed by a mesmerising Minuet gothique and a very quiet Pière a Notre-Dame led us to the final Toccata.

James’s playing held our attention throughout the movements; and the audience’s appreciation was greatly enhanced by the visual projection screen which allowed everyone to admire the dexterity of his impeccable performance.

Following loud applause together with words of thanks from Nina How, there was another opportunity to congratulate James in the Song School where refreshments were provided by the Music Department.

On behalf of Andrew Wright, Director of Music, we would like to thank James Tett for his truly inspiring organ recital and we wish him well in his studies at the Royal College of Music and forthcoming concerts. We hope he will soon return to Brentwood Cathedral.

Julia Bentham

Music is an agreeable harmony for the honour of God and the permissible delights of the soul….”

J.S. Bach


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Prelude and Fugue in G Major BWV 544
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) Sonata No. 4 in B Flat Major, Op. 65
Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) Sonata No. 6 in E Flat Minor, Op. 119, II. Intermezzo
Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897) Suite Gothique Op. 25

James Tett is a nineteen year old British organist and violinist who has been studying for a Bachelor of Music as an RCM Scholar at the Royal College of Music with David Graham and Ani Schnarch. 2019 has seen James give organ recitals at Bristol Cathedral, the Royal Hospital School Holbrook (with The Organ Club), Christ Church Chelsea, St Clement Danes Church and Truro Cathedral. Last year James participated in masterclasses with Thomas Trotter and Daniel Moult and gave organ recitals at St Margaret’s Westminster, St Laurence Upminster and Winchester Cathedral. James is a regular at ‘Oundle for Organists’ and won recital awards for his performance in both the 2017 and 2018 summer schools. The next of these are with the Alton Organ Society and at St George’s Windsor.

James was a music scholar at Westminster School, and as a school organist he played regularly for school services including in Westminster Abbey. James was the organist for the 2017 school performance of the ‘Organ Symphony No. 3 in C minor’ by Saint-Saëns’ at St John’s Smith Square.

As a violinist, James was a student at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and during that time won the prestigious Angela Bull Memorial Prize and the Westminster Young Musician of the Year competition 2018. In 2019 he won the Rickmansworth Young Musician Competition 2019 as well as second prize in the Sevenoaks Young Musician Competition 2019. James is a former member of both the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and National Children’s Orchestras.

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Photos – Graham Hillman

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