While Iain Farrington’s Animal Parade provided the fun and fireworks of this extraordinary recital at Brentwood Cathedral there is no doubt that it was the world premiere of Dobrinka Tabakova’s Diptych that stole the show.

This beautifully crafted piece was commissioned by the organist William Saunders from the young British/Bulgarian composer and written especially with Brentwood Cathedral’s restored Hunter organ in mind. The two movements, Pastoral and Choral, were simple in structure but rich in sonority and harmony and were done full justice by Saunders. The Choral particularly caught the ear with its emotional intensity and sensuous, shifting harmonies. It is not hard to imagine this quickly establishing itself in the organ repertoire.

Elsewhere in this modern all British programme – put on to launch Saunders’ third CD – the emphasis was on the colourful and spectacular, giving Saunders ample opportunity to demonstrate his well-honed, but never flashy, technique and his wonderful ear for registration. He used the strongly programmatic works in the recital to seduce the very appreciative audience with an extraordinary variety of sounds. Christopher Steel’s Changing Moods with which he opened the recital encapsulated that skill – a kaleidoscope of emotions and musical colour which set the evening up perfectly.

John Gardiner’s Five Dances for organ showed why he is a composer that deserves to be heard more. The haunting Lament in particular stood out. This was followed by a confident performance of William Matthias’s Recessional no 4. The main work of the evening, was Farrington’s Animal Parade. Its twelve movements must constitute one of the strangest pieces ever written for the organ and it is probably best described as a cousin for Saint-Saens’ hugely popular Carnival of the Animals, of which there were echoes in some of the slower movements describing the Hippopotamus and Blue Whale. It would be easy for music like this to slip into a sort of comic pastiche but, while it had its comic moments, Saunders never allowed this to happen because he lent it a feeling of artistic integrity that confidently drew the listener into the composer’s rather strange sound world.