Young organists play their way to success at festival

L-R: Davide Mariano, David Cassan, David Titterington, Johannes Zeinler, Professor Sir Peter Gregson

L-R: Davide Mariano, David Cassan, David Titterington, Johannes Zeinler, Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Thomas Gaynor, Zita Nauratyill. - Credit: Archant

Five young organists emerged from a field of 22 to take the top prizes at the prestigious St Albans International Organ Festival.

Johannes Zeinler from Austria won the First Prize for Interpretation with David Cassan from France taking the Tournemire Prize for Improvisation.

The Peter Hurford Bach Prize - named after the founder of the competitions in 1963 when he was organist of St Albans Cathedral - was won by Davide Mariano from Italy who also took Second Prize for Interpretation.

Other prizes were won by Thomas Gaynor from New Zealand and Zita Nauratyill from Hungary.

This year’s competitions attracted around 73 original applicants who were required to submit a recording and from which 22 young organists were shortlisted to participate in the quarter finals in St Albans.

They represented countries as far afield as New Zealand, USA, Russia, South Korea, as well as many European countries and the UK.

The competitors were required to perform on four different instruments in the cathedral, St Saviour’s Church and St Peter’s Church in St Albans as well as in Christ Church, Spitalfields, London.

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They played to an international jury comprising seven renowned organists and teachers from the UK, USA, South Korea, Denmark, Austria, France and Germany, each of whom gave a recital during the festival. The jury was chaired by the festival’s artistic director, David Titterington.

As well as two first prizes of £6000, the winners get to play recitals in major cathedrals and concert halls, in both the UK and abroad.

The 10 days of competition are just part of the festival which featured ballet, an art exhibition, Jazz at Lussmanns, a host of recitals, a Plaque for Paddy busking day, and cathedral concerts.

New chairman, Professor Sir Peter Gregson, vice-chancellor of Cranfield University, explained: “There are three integral parts that make up these 10 days of wonderful music in St Albans; the organ competition itself, the supporting concerts which range from orchestral and choral to early music and jazz and, new this year, 17 live Festival Fringe events free of charge at wonderful venues across the city.

“There were many memorable highlights from each of these three strands and they combined to provide a truly world-class festival.”

St Albans district council supported the festival and Cllr Annie Brewster, portolio holder for leisure, said: “The standard this year was exceptional. It is incredible we have such a top international event in our city and we are indebted to Dr Peter Hurford and his wife Pat for having such a vision to create this international platform for young organists back in 1963.”

She added: “It was a pleasure to welcome back four ex-winners simply to spectate, one who travelled from Russia, plus keen support from the South Korean Ambassador and the Austrian Ambassador who seemed to love it all.”