William Thomas Best (13 August 1826 — 10 May 1897) studied at Carlisle Cathedral under John Norman and Abraham Young. Organist of the Pembroke Road Chapel, Liverpool, 1840-55; the Church for the Blind, Liverpool, 1847; the Royal Panopticon, Leicester Square, London, 1853-54; Lincoln’s Inn Chapel, 1854; St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, 1855; St. George’s Hall, Liverpool, 1855-94; Wallasey Parish Church, Birkenhead, 1860-63; Holy Trinity, Liverpool, 1863; West Derby Parish Church, 1879. Engaged in 1871 to give recitals at the Royal Albert Hall (stayed for only a short time). Solo Organist at the Handel festival at the Crystal Palace. Opened the organ in Sydney Town Hall, 1890. Was one of the greatest English Organists of his time. Received a Civil List pension of £100 per annum. Composed church services, anthems, organ pieces, &c. b. Carlisle, England, Aug. 13th, 1826; d. Liverpool, May 10th, 1897 (buried in Childwell Churchyard).
Best was certainly the most famous British organist of the time, and was proclaimed by none other than Franz Liszt to be THE greatest virtuoso on ANY instrument!
He had a very large repertoire which was said to number more than 10,000 pieces.
The "Chorale Prelude on 'London'" is the first of a set of three. It can be found in "English Romantic Classics" published by McAfee Music in 1984.
In this performance, you'll hear the diapasons to dominate the registration. Notice that the sound is "more stringy" than the diapasons of Willis, etc.
To me, there is a strong influence of Mendelssohn in this piece.
The tune, "London" is found in "The Psalmes of David in Prose and Meeter," published in 1635, and this hymn is usually associated with the text:
God God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
(William Cowper 1731-1800)
Photos of Best and Cowper are attached below, as well as the great Willis organ in St. George's Hall, Liverpool.