Bach in Black CD

“…These imaginative adaptations, improvisations and arrangements are true to the spirit of J.S. Bach while maintaining a lively modern freshness. Original, reminiscent of the Jacques Loussier Trio, but in their own Jazz-tempered Trio arrangements, they are superbly played, imaginative and highly enjoyable. With selections from The Well-tempered Clavier, Partitas, organ works and orchestral suites, the selection is varied. Some tracks feature Miriam Chote on flute to add a further tonal variety. And the opening work, Vivaldi’s Concerto in A minor (adapted for organ by Bach from Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in E minor), is smartly and stylishly presented. With all the arrangements their own, this is a fine, most enjoyable and highly recommended effort.”

Garth Wilshere, New Zealand Opera News, December 2007/January 2008

Four Hands / Four Feet CD

“…Here we have a major success story. In this recording of a live concert we experience an impressive unanimity. Tempi, rallentandi, accelerandi, rubato, are all so beautifully judged that one might forget that two people are performing. There’s nothing bland or careful here, however. The myriad of colours of the Dunedin Town Hall organ are fully explored (even those of the percussion section) and the listener is left very satisfied with the tour! Gustav Merkel’s Psalm Sonata is a ferocious beast, highly complex and dramatic, very exciting, with an exquisite slow movement. The seamless takeovers in the pedal writing are quite incredible, and one is left wondering where and how these occurred. This palpably difficult work is executed with considerable aplomb! This is a well-controlled, finely-executed and intensely musical performance. The CD booklet is highly informative and, for those of us who like to salivate, gives a comprehensive account of the organ specification.”

Andrew Fletcher, Organists’ Review, November 2007

“…The huge organ played here, located in Dunedin Town Hall (New Zealand), is nicknamed ‘Norma’. Max Kenworthy and Nicholas Grigsby exploit its resources (which include a battery of percussion instruments) to the full, producing a colossal sound in popular hits such Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No. 4 and (a rather stately) Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by Handel. Central to this entertaining programme is the Psalm Sonata by Gustav Merkel. The final fugue is a tour de force that all organ fanciers will want to hear — providing their speakers are up to it!”

Jeremy Nicholas, Classic FM Magazine, November 2007

“…The performers on this recording are two young New Zealand organists who form an effective team in presenting a highly enjoyable programme recorded at a public concert. The works are mainly popular ones, but include Gustav Merkel’s Psalm Sonata for Two Organists (in four movements), a lovely Cantilene Pastorale by Alexandre Guilmant, Derek Bourgeois’ Serenade for Organ as well as Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. The first chords of the first item on this CD — Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba — put one in an admirable state of mind. The organ sound is truly arresting, with spendidly voiced and sparkling choruses and rich reeds in a fine acoustic — one wonders if this 1930 Hill, Norman and Beard gives us any idea of what Melbourne Town Hall organ would have sounded like had it been sensitively preserved. There are also passages with piquant solo reeds, strings and flutes. The two performers take the music at a sane tempo so that one can clearly follow what is happening and play with an excellent sense of spaciousness. The recording quality is excellent. The CD notes include full details of the organ and its history, the music and the performers.”

John Maidment, Organ Historical Trust of Australia, October 2007

“…The big sound achieved in Dunedin Town Hall in front of an applauding audience is splendidly sumptuous. The two organists have the giant instrument capering with an agility that in part belies its forbidding mass of pipes, manuals and stops along with an array of novelty percussion. The exhilerating blast and speed of The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba is tempered by the awkwardness of getting such a colossus to move at such a speed. Two Bach favourites cool the passions before Guilmant’s Cantilene Pastorale with its nicely tiered dynamics and reedy sentimentality. The tripartite Psalm Sonata in D minor by Merkel returns us to massive statements of rib-reverberating grandeur. It can be compared with the giant oratory for organ by Liszt and Reubke although there is some reflective respite in the adagio. Derek Bourgeois’ Serenade for Organ is a real tonic and works well. It is superbly carefree perhaps with a touch of rumba in its DNA. It’s a real discovery that organists should certainly seek out without delay. The Ride of the Valkyries bids fair to bring the house down. The crushingly powered arrangement spares no-one and includes some superb howls along the way. There are good notes in English only and a full specification for the organ with extensive photographs of organ and artists. This is quite a winning disc even if the arrangements cannot be as nimble on their toes as the orchestral originals. In this they continue a noble 19th and 20th century calling that only bloodless purists will object to. As for the rest of you who crave a mix of stunning pops, stunningly recorded and leavened with the saccharine Guilmant, the brutally romantic Merkel and the cheery original Bourgeois, look no further.”

Rob Barnett, MusicWeb-International, October 2007

“…Both these fine performers need little introduction to Australian readers as they have both performed solo recitals on several occasions in various parts of Australia and earlier this year performed the program on this CD between St. James’ King Street and St. Andrews’s Cathedral. To record a solo CD under live conditions can be fraught with many difficulties but to record a duet recital live is even a more dangerous undertaking. The whole program was masterly played — all cut-offs and entries sound exactly together, one of the hardest things to achieve in duet playing. On the whole, the interpretations are on the romantic side which suits the organ extremely well. Highly orchestral registrations show off every stop possible through all the orchestral solo reeds, flutes, strings, vox humana and the organ’s array of percussion stops. A great deal of registrational imagination was needed to conceive so many changes of stops and incorporate those stops, such as the percussion variety, which are not normally found on organs. The whole program is extremely rhythmical. With four hands and four feet available, one can hear many countermelodies not normally found in transcriptions for two hands and two feet. One of the highlights of their Sydney recital was the Merkel Sonata and one is not disappointed by the recorded version. At their St. Andrew’s Cathedral performance, one of the Sydney bishops was walking through the cathedral, sat down opposite the organ and at the end, stood up and shouted out “Bravo” before continuing on with his episcopal duties. Highly recommended for those who enjoy organ duets and symphonic style organs!”

Mark Quarmby, Sydney Organ Journal, August 2007

Organum Maximum CD

“…Expat Brit gives thrilling performances of everything from Buxtehude to Dupré on Wellington Cathedral’s organ — no manuals barred!”

Classic FM Magazine, November 2006

“…the Bairstow Scherzo has terrific energy and a glorious climax. Kenworthy is a sensitive musician at one with the organ he knows well. A most enjoyable disc.”

Organists’ Review, May 2007

“…Max Kenworthy is a highly accomplished player with a fine pedigree. The Franck Chorale no. 3 in A minor is the piece de resistance of this CD. Both performer and organ share star billing.”

Barry Brinson, New Zealand Association of Organists, September 2006


The Jazz-Tempered Trio, Old St Paul’s, Wellington

‘Triumphant trio’

“…This Tuesday lunchtime concert was a wonderful antidote to the cares of the world and ills of winter. A good sized very appreciative audience revelled in cool and attractive classical-inspired jazzy sounds.

With a nod to the famed Jacques Loussier Trio, but through their own arrangements of music by J.S. Bach, the Jazz-tempered Trio demonstrated excellent musicality, drawing mostly from the Well-tempered Clavier books one and two.

The opening Sinfonia and Andante from Partita II, BWV 826 was elegantly and stylishly played by pianist Max Kenworthy with true integrity to Bach, but with the added imaginative collaboration provided by Kyle Macdonald on subtly amplified double bass and Tom Pierard on drums.

The clever insertions of other tunes to each piece played adds interest. A few phrases and snatches of Happy Birthday acknowledging that it was his birthday was a nice surprise to Pierard.

The blending of a Fugue for organ into a Prelude from the Well-tempered Clavier was seamlessly handled. With the selection of Preludes in different keys there was great variety and interest in the music produced. The trio blended brilliantly together.

Bach was a musical genius and a great innovator. I am sure he would have loved and approved of these versions, had he been alive today to hear them.”

Garth Wilshere, Capital Times, July 2007

Wesley Uniting Church, Canberra

‘Sonic joy doubles with four hands and feet’

“…This was a recital that was as unusual as it was entertaining — duets on an organ is something I cannot recall ever reviewing before. Two players can make an overwhelming sonic impression. I have heard a lot of organ performances over the years, but this was something especially memorable.”

W.L. Hoffman, Canberra Times, April 2007

St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral, New Plymouth

“…A thrilling evening of music full of dash and showmanship. I have heard the organ played ‘flat out’ many a time, but with four hands and four feet, the load is doubled up and it turned up trumps, particularly in the Merkel Sonata for Two Organists.”

Harry Brown, Taranaki Daily News, September 2006

Messiaen’s La Nativité du Seigneur, Wellington Cathedral

“…I was transported as soon as I arrived in the dimmed nave to the electrifying organ sounds: wonderfully atmospheric. Lighting was well used, brightening up for the sparkling, dancing performance of The Angels, darkening for Jesus Accepts Suffering. Messiaen’s masterpiece can move the non-believer, particularly in the hands of Max Kenworthy, a brilliant organist who is in full command of the cathedral’s fine organ.”

Lindis Taylor, Dominion Post, Wellington, December 2005

Tongues of Fire Concert, Napier Cathedral

“…The whole performance was underpinned by the colourful and skilled accompaniment of Max Kenworthy. He contributed a major part of the programme including a virtuoso display in Dupré’s Evocation.”

Peter Williams, Hawke’s Bay Today, May 2005