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Saturday 20th October 2018


St Botolph's Church, Colchester


Bizet: Carmen Suite

Poulenc: Organ Concerto

Soloist: Philip Scriven

Saint-Saëns: Symphony No 3 (Organ Symphony)

Philip studied at the Royal Academy of Music, Cambridge University, the Vienna Musikhochschule

and the Juilliard School in New York, and his teachers have included Dame Gillian Weir, Peter Hurford, Nicholas Kynaston and Michael Radulescu.  As an organist, he has held positions at St. George’s Windsor, St. John’s College Cambridge, Westminster Abbey, Winchester Cathedral and Lichfield Cathedral, where he was Director of Music (2002-2010).  He regularly plays with orchestras such as Ex Cathedra, Florilegium and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and has performed with the London Mozart Players and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.  He has also appeared as soloist with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, and together in duo with the celebrated trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins.

His talent as a performer and an accompanist has been recognised by numerous awards at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Organists, most notably as the RCO “Performer of the Year” in 1995.  He has performed in many of the major Cathedrals and concert halls throughout the UK, and regular foreign tours have taken him to France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and, most frequently of all, America.  He is one of the few organists to have performed as a soloist in Carnegie Hall.

Philip has twice performed the complete organ works of J.S.Bach (once in Winchester Cathedral within the space of 24 hours, and the other as a 26-recital series at Cranleigh School), and has transcribed a number of works by Brahms, Warlock and Bernstein for the instrument.  His solo CDs have been received with wide critical acclaim.  His CD “Piping Hot” was praised in The Gramophone for “the outstanding quality of his playing...good-humoured and sparkling...a joy to listen to”.  Recent recordings include CDs of jazz-inspired music for organ, the inaugural recording of the new organ at Lyme Regis, and a transcription of Holst’s “The Planets”.  He has also been featured regularly on Radio 2’s ‘The Organist Entertains’.

The Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani by Poulenc has seven sections played without a pause.  It was commissioned in 1934 by Princesse Edmond de Polignac who was heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, and a patron of the arts with considerable wealth.  She had originally requested an ‘easy’ organ part that she could play herself.  In preparation for his first composition for the organ, Poulenc studied past masters and asked Duruflé’s help with registration and voicing.  In the four years that Poulenc took to compose the concerto the request for an ‘easy’ organ part was abandoned.  The concerto was first performed in public in June 1939 in Paris with Duruflé as soloist.  Having heard the music she had commissioned, the Princess wrote a thank you note to Poulenc saying ‘Its profound beauty haunts me’.

The thundering organ theme that dominates the finale of Saint-Saens’ Third Symphony is famous.  You may recognise the theme tune to the film ‘Babe’ about a farmer and a pig – this owes its origins to Saint-Saens and this symphony.   Camille Saint-Saens was a child prodigy.  He gave his first piano recital at the age of 11 offering to play any one of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas as an encore – from memory!   At 22, he was organist at the Madeleine – the most prestigious organ post in France.  His music was praised by established composers who included Liszt and Rossini.  He played for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace and was commissioned by the Philharmonic Society to write his Third Symphony.  This was premiered in London on 19 May 1886 and conducted by the composer.  Saint-Saens wrote of his third and final symphony, 'I gave everything to it I was able to give.  What I have here accomplished I will never achieve again.'

Philip Scriven is Organist-in-Residence at Cranleigh School, Principal Conductor of the Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra, and Assistant Conductor and Accompanist of the world-renowned Bach Choir.  He combines these posts with a freelance recital career, which takes him around the world. He is widely regarded as one of the finest organists of his generation, and highly respected as a choral, orchestral and operatic conductor.

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