BEYOND the percussive jamboree of Mathew Street was the celebration of an even bigger Mersey Sound. The cathedral's Bank Holiday organ concerts have been running for nigh on 80 years.
For visiting recitalist Paul Hale, from Southwell Minster, in Nottinghamshire, it was the culmination of a pilgrimage spanning half that time.
As a boy, he had been fixated by the monumental prototype EMI recordings made by Noel Rawsthorne on what was then designated the largest cathedral organ in the world.
The Liverpool instrument is still the biggest in the UK – virtually four times larger than at Southwell – and Hale was not missing out on the opportunity to solo-out many of the unique sound combinations.
The inspiration for his final piece also came from that same EMI series – Conrad Eden at Durham Cathedral playing a monumental set of 54 variations on a theme from a 17th-century harpsichord sonata.
The resulting Homage to Handel has since entered the repertoire of a legion of latter-day players.
But there is no set interpretation, and it is always interesting to compare the differences of voicing and phrasing. Paul Hale proved an exacting champion of subtlety – the difference that but one stop can make.
And not only in this tour de force, with its rampaging pedal solo, but throughout his entire programme, also featuring standard works by John Cook, Mendelssohn and Alexandre Guilmant.
How illuminating to hear the transcription of Albinoni’s Adagio developed beyond the more usual blocks of string and reed tone, and given flashes of woodwind colouring.
Meanwhile, the wonderful flutes were fully exploited in Notre Dame organist Louis Vierne’s chromatic Claire de Lune – much more than a hybrid of the more famous example by his admirer Claude Debussy.