Each quarter our team of church musicians reviews the latest books, CDs, and printed music for the RSCM’s magazines, CMQ (Church Music Quarterly) and Sunday by Sunday. All reviews are now available online, including additional material not published in the magazines – please follow the links below.
ST PETER’S DAY AT YORK MINSTER: A musical celebration of the Patronal Festival
The Choir of York Minster / David Pipe (organ) / Robert Sharpe · Regent REGCD439
The programme presented on this disc divides into music for the Eucharist, matins and evensong. A hymn (‘Christ is made the sure foundation’/Westminster Abbey) and chanted psalms are found among David Briggs’s Missa Brevis for York Minster (first recording), Richard Shepherd’s Preces and Responses for Salisbury Cathedral (with the composer as cantor); and various canticles, anthems and motets. The canticles include Stanford’s Te Deum in C and Philip Moore’s arresting Jubilate Deo at matins; and Howells’s New College service and Walton’s Coronation Te Deum (arr. Simon Preston and Mark Blatchly) at evensong. Two large anthems, And when the builders by Shepherd and O quam gloriosum by Moore, reflect the happy fact that the extraordinary levels of musical creativity that York Minster has fostered over the last couple of hundred years have been as alive and well as ever in recent years. Amongst the musical pomp, Harris’s Holy it the true light holds its own as a little gem. Throughout the disc, the performances are of the highest order.
SUNDAY AT NORWICH CATHEDRAL
The Choir of Norwich Cathedral / David Dunnett (organ) / Ashley Grote · Priory PRCD 1121
While St Peter’s Day at York Minster includes Eucharist, matins and evensong, Sunday at Norwich consists of just Eucharist and festal evensong. The hymn ‘How shall I sing that majesty’ (complete with Ken Naylor’s own descant for his superlative tune Coe Fen) opens the disc and is indicative of the excellence of the music that is to follow. Grayston Ives’s Missa Brevis is bold, atmospheric and tuneful. Festal evensong features Ashley Grote’s own Preces & Responses (composed for the Gloucester Youth Choir in 2009) and that glorious hymn ‘O love divine, how sweet thou art’ to S.S. Wesley’s Cornwall. The canticles were composed by Richard Allain (b.1965) to a commission in 2013 as part of Norwich Cathedral’s celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten. They feature a particularly colourful and demanding organ part. Elgar’s monumental Give unto the Lord is given a performance imbued with all the gusto that the piece demands. The boys’ fearless attack in the Elgar is spot on; and David Dunnett’s brilliant execution of the accompaniment brings out so much of the detail. His virtuosic performance of Howells’s Psalm Prelude Set 2, no. 3, which concludes the disc, is also worthy of special mention.
A YEAR AT ELY
The Choir of Ely Cathedral/Edmund Aldhouse (organ) / Alex Berry (organ II) / Paul Trepte · Regent REGCD441
Tracing the liturgical calendar from Advent (Out of your sleep – Richard Rodney Bennett) to Christ the King (O clap your hands – Rutter), this disc takes in Christmas (Away in a manger – Kirkpatrick arr. Pat Brandon), Epiphany (Ascribe unto the Lord – S.S. Wesley), Candlemas (Nunc dimittis in B flat – Wood), Lent (Prayer – Ben Parry), Holy Week (When David heard – Tomkins), Easter (My beloved spake – Hadley, Laudate pueri – Mendelssohn), Ascension (Coelos ascendit hodie – Stanford), Pentecost (Come, Holy Ghost, the Maker – Cedric Thorpe Davie), St Etheldreda (A hymn to St Etheldreda – Matthew Martin, Beati quorum via – Stanford), Harvest (Fear not, O land – Sumsion), All Souls (Justorum animae – Stanford), and Remembrance (Death be not proud – Francis Grier). There is so much to enjoy on this excellent disc – not least the performances. But special mention must be made of the Grier and Rutter pieces, both of which are premiere recordings and stunningly good compositions.
PLAINSONG: THE ECHO OF ANGELS
Portsmouth Cathedral Choir / Oliver Hancock & William Wallace (organ) / David Price · Convivium Records CR025
This disc presents some of the best-loved and most exquisite plainsong melodies in various guises, including: a cappella, with organ accompaniment, and woven into compositions. Some tracks are sung in English, others in Latin (and the Kyries are sung in Greek, of course). The music includes the Advent Prose, Lent Prose, Missa de Angelis, Missa Deus Genitor Alme, and a couple of psalms. The compositions based on plainsong are mostly by conductor David Price, though the disc ends with an organ piece, Meditation on ‘Adoro Te Devote’ by Arthur Wills. The music is beautifully sung with every word clearly enunciated, though some of the tempi are on the slow side, particularly those tracks sung in English with organ accompaniment. The accompaniments themselves are very well executed, with several of them improvised.
A YEAR IN SAINT LOUIS
The Choir of Saint Peter’s Church, Saint Louis / Martha Schaffer (chamber organ) / Brian Reeves (assistant conductor) / William Aitkin (grand organ and director) · Regent REGCD415
The adult voices of the choir of St Peter’s are accompanied by what are evidently two fine organs, both by the English firm of Mander. The programme includes music by a number of American composers: Ned Rorem (b. 1923), Leo Sowerby (1895–1968), Moses Hogan (1957–2003), Louie L. White (1921–79), Joseph Goodman (b. 1918), and director/organist William Aitken. British musicians are well represented, too: Weelkes, Stanford, Arthur Baynon (1889–1954), Leighton, and contemporary composer Sasha Johnson Manning (b. 1963) whose A wonder of angels was commissioned by St Peter’s. It is well worth hearing. Victoria and Widor fly the flag for mainland Europe. Widor’s Tu es Petrus and Surrexit a mortuis have the chamber organ accompanying the choir and the main organ impersonating the roaring of the grand orgue of St Sulpice! The choir of St Peter’s sings throughout with very good blend and discipline.
GREAT EUROPEAN ORGANS NO. 91
Daniel Cook plays the Harrison & Harrison Organ of St Davids Cathedral, Wales · Priory PRCD 1102
St Davids nowadays boasts a four-manual organ of which any British cathedral might be proud. Completed by Harrison & Harrison in 2000, it is based on the three-manual instrument built by ‘Father’ Willis in 1883 and sounds absolutely wonderful on this recording. That its Diapason choruses are magnificent and are crowned perfectly by the Mixtures, and that its big reeds are breathtaking is illustrated in abundance by W.T. Best’s arrangement of the Overture to Mendelssohn’s oratorio, St Paul, which opens the programme. On the very next track, the organ sings so sweetly in Tomkins’s A Sad Pavan for these Distracted Times that one could be forgiven for thinking that it is a different instrument. Varied 20th-century repertoire follows (some of it with Welsh connections) in pieces by W.H. Harris, Walford Davies, Cyril Jenkins (1889–1978), Mathias, Bainton, Arnold Cooke (1906–2005), and Ernest Tomlinson (b. 1924). It is, of course, at least as much the quality of Daniel Cook’s playing as the organ itself that makes every one of these pieces a pleasure to listen to. He judges tempi and gestures so well and brings real cantabile to the lines. His performances are characterized by a real sense of excitement on the one hand, and perfect control on the other. And just in case we thought that organ and organist were suited only to British repertoire, the disc ends with music by Gaston Litaize (1909–91), Pierre Villette (1926–98) and Jean-Jacques Grunenwald (1911–82).
Jeremy Filsell plays the organ of Washington National Cathedral · Raven OAR-942 (two-CD set)
Jeremy Filsell’s virtuosity is very much at home in the music on this pair of discs that feature music by American-based composers, many of whom have been associated with Washington National Cathedral. They are: Raymond Weidner, Gerre Hancock, Nancy Plummer Faxon, Leo Sowerby, George Baker, Pamela Decker, David Briggs, Richard Dirksen, Daniel Gawthrop, Normal Coke-Jephcott, Richard Purvis and Douglas Major. Some of the pieces are distinctly ‘American’ to my ears, particularly on the first disc. Raymond Weidner’s Scherzo (Alleluia) makes an energetic opener, while Nancy Plummer Faxon’s Toccata spins notes at a phenomenal rate. There is a surprising level of background hiss on some tracks, George Baker’s Berceuse-Paraphrase being a case in point. This is a pity since it is a rather lovely piece that gives Jeremy Filsell the opportunity to demonstrate some of the organs’ softer colours. Overall, I found the second disc the more enjoyable of the two, not least on account of the inclusion of David Briggs’s Three Preludes & Fugues ‘Homage à Marcel Dupré. They are very much of the sound world of the musician whom they honour and demand an organist of Jeremy Filsell’s skill to execute them – which he does brilliantly.
THE HARROGATE HARRISON
David Halls plays the Harrison & Harrison Organ of St Wilfrid’s, Harrogate · Priory PRCD 1114
For this disc, David Halls, Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral since 2005, returns to St Wilfrid’s Harrogate, where he was Assistant Organist as a boy. The Harrison & Harrison organ was built in 1928 and is described in the CD booklet as ‘a solid, three-manual organ, built in the conservative style of its day’. Distinctively of its period in tone, David Halls nevertheless presents a programme that embraces a range of composers: Charpentier (Prelude to the Te Deum, showcasing a Tuba that is very un-French and very un-Baroque!), Ernest Farrar (two pieces, both of which fit this organ like a glove), Rheinberger (Sonata no. 6 in E flat minor), Flor Peeters, Bach (Prelude and Fugue in B minor), Jesus Guridi (1886–1961), and the performer himself. David Halls’s clean, tasteful playing is exemplified by his interpretation of the Bach Prelude & Fugue, which is everything it should be on this kind of organ. The performer’s own Sound the trumpet which completes the programme is a melodically and harmonically attractive piece of great rhythmic vitality – most enjoyable!
THE USHER HALL ORGAN VOL II
John Kitchen plays the organ of the Usher Hall, Edinburgh · Delphian DCD34132
John Kitchen’s first recording on the refurbished Norman & Beard organ in the Usher Hall was made in 2004. Remastered in 2009, Sunday by Sunday reviewed it then, describing the contents as a ‘town hall programme’ complete with transcriptions of orchestral favourites. This second volume continues the pattern, with Jeremy Cull’s transcription of Hamish MacCunn’s The land of the mountain and the flood. Again, the organ’s Carillon is featured, this time prompting the inclusion of a number of works concerned with bells, starting with Cecilia McDowall’s Church bells beyond the stars (a refreshing, rhythmic toccata inspired by George Herbert) and including S.S. Wesley’s Holsworthy Church Bells and Bernard Rose’s Chimes. The big work to conclude is J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue BWV 582, preceded by three of the five movements of Widor’s fifth Symphony. Christopher Maxim’s
Toccata Nuptiale, receiving its third commercial recording, delightfully approaches ‘Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do’ as though it were the melody of a French organ toccata. Clifton Hughes has written a set of Dance Variations on ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’ with tango, waltzes, hornpipe and a rock and roll treatment that we are told is now an annual request by Usher Hall audiences, and one can hear why. John Kitchen plays with flamboyant and confident virtuosity.
CHRISTMAS FROM HEREFORD
Hereford Cathedral Choir / Peter Dyke (organ) / Geriant Bowen · Regent REGCD388
The programme on this excellent disc is divided into Advent, Christmas and Epiphany sections. It features a well chosen balance of the sort of seasonal music that everyone knows, choral favourites that will be familiar to choristers and enthusiasts, and also some compositions that might be rather less familiar, even to the more expert listener.
The best-known items include O little town of Bethlehem; O come, all ye faithful;and Hark! the herald angels sing. Among the choral favourites are The truth sent from above; Poston’s Jesus Christ the apple tree; Mathias’s Sir Christèmas; Mendelssohn’s Frolocket, ihr Völker auf Erden; Peter Wishart’s splendid Alleluya, a new work is come on hand; H.C. Stewart’s On this day earth shall ring; Howells’s Here is the little door and Warlock’s Bethlehem Down. The rarer items include Ledger’s Adam lay ybounden; two pieces by Richard Lloyd (recorded for the first time); and organist Peter Dyke’s quirky-but-catchy Three Kings. A mark of the quality of the singing of the choir is the performance of Paul Manz’s E’en so Lord Jesus, quickly come. This is a disc guaranteed to give much pleasure to the listener.
FOLLOW THE STAR: Carols for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany
Wakefield Cathedral Choir / Simon Earl & Daniel Justin (organ) / Thomas Moore · Herald HAVPCD 370
The boys and girls are the stars of this recording – though that is not to diminish the fine singing of the lay clerks, or the colourful organ accompaniments and solos. The sleeve notes state that this CD ‘seeks to bring to public attention some of the lesser known and unusual compositions and arrangements of the Christmas repertoire, whilst including favourite melodies every listener will enjoy’. Paul Trepte’s arrangement of People look East encapsulates this aim in a single piece. It is a highly imaginative treatment of the familiar melody, published by the RSCM – well worth buying
Rutter’s What sweeter music is sung with sensitivity; and John Gardner’s Tomorrow shall be my dancing day is rendered nimbly – complete with the percussion parts. The performance of Poulenc’s gorgeous but unforgiving Videntes stellam is especially notable. Appropriately, a piece by Kenneth Leighton (who was a boy chorister at Wakefield Cathedral) is included in the programme: O leave your sheep is a delightful piece that deserves to be better known. A warmly recommended disc.
The Choir of Chichester Cathedral / Timothy Ravalde (organ) / Sarah Baldock · Herald HAVPCD 379
The Advent ‘O’ Antiphons (sung in English) form the spine of the programme on this first-rate recording. The pieces that are placed around the antiphons are a fine balance of old and new. Patrick Gowers’s Ad te levavi has a haunting beauty. The music by Gibbons that is nowadays usually sung to the words O thou the central orb is a very welcome inclusion. Britten’s wonderful Hymn to the Virgin needs no introduction, but David Bevan’s Magnificat Octavi toni will probably not be familiar. Choral sections alternate with the plainsong, reflecting the composer’s expertise in the music of the Renaissance masters.
Another highlight of a disc that is of a consistently excellent standard is an ethereal performance of Joubert’s There is no rose. Mention must also be made of the various organ solos that enrich the programme yet further. The only aspect that some listeners might find not to their tastes is the rather particular way some vowels are pronounced (‘Come, thou long-expected Jesoos... From our fears and sins release oos’) – but one must accept that this is part and parcel of these polished performances. A very highly recommended release.
CHRISTMAS FROM BATH
The Choir of Bath Abbey / Marcus Sealy (organ) / Peter King · Regent REGCD 390
This disc is another excellent compilation of the old and the new. The boy trebles, girl trebles and men are all in fine voice and the organ sounds glorious – including its Cymbelstern and Glockenspiel! Pieces by Howard Skempton (Adam lay ybounden and There is no rose) are particular highlights and Malcolm Archer’s A little child there is yborn is tremendous fun – and irrepressibly jolly. Richard Shepherd’s A stable lamp is lighted is an interesting essay in Victoriana: it is affecting without being sugary. Thomas Hewitt Jones’s What child it this? is a melodically elegant setting. More contemporary in language, but no less accessible to the general listener is Gabriel Jackson’s setting of G.K. Chesterton’s poem The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap.
While the old favourites in the programme (Once in royal; It came upon the midnight clear; Unto us is born a son; Ding dong! merrily on high; God rest you merry, gentlemen; Good King Wenceslas, etc.) are likely to be responsible for most of the sales of this CD, there is much to delight the connoisseur. This disc deserves to sell out very quickly.
MIDWINTER: A Christmas Celebration
St Mary’s Cathedral Choir, Glasgow / Geoffrey Wollatt (organ) / Frikki Walker · OxRecs Digital OXCD-111
St Mary’s Cathedral is proud of its music tradition which embraces a more eclectic selection of styles than other cathedrals perhaps do. A reflection of this is found in the pieces in the programme that are accompanied on the piano, including the first two tracks: Bob Chilcott’s Mid-winter and John Gardner’s Tomorrow shall be my dancing day. The fresh, unpretentious sound of the voices suits these pieces wonderfully well.
The organ is not neglected, however, and puts in some solo appearances (Ireland’s The Holy Boy, Bach’s chorale prelude on ‘In dulci jubilo’ BVW 729 and, concluding the disc, John Cook’s Paean on ‘Divinum Mysterium’), as well as accompanying the traditional ‘congregational’ carols and Mack Willberg’s arrangement of Ding dong! merrily on high. Other choral pieces include Mendelssohn’s Frolocket, ihr Völker auf Erden; Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium; Paul Manz’s E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come; Sweelinck’s Hodie Christus natus est; and a rollicking west gallery carol, Hail! Happy morn. Recommended to anyone looking for a CD that has plenty of the familiar, but is also that little bit different.
AND COMES THE DAY: Carols and Antiphons for Advent
The Choir of Queens’ College, Cambridge / The Queens’ Chapel Players / Silas Wollston · Orchid Classics ORC 100027
This is perhaps the most ‘highbrow’ of the seasonal discs reviewed here, since it contains neither ‘congregational’ hymns nor pieces from the more populist end of the repertoire. The singing is clear, nicely balanced and expressive. The programme contains many pieces that will be familiar to – and much loved by – a wide audience, including There is no Rose (Joubert), Adam lay ybounden (Ord), the Matin responsory (adapted from Palestrina), A hymn to the Virgin (Britten), All this time (Walton), A spotless rose (Howells), Bethlehem Down (Warlock) and Benedicamus Domino (Warlock). But there are less familiar pieces, too, both ancient and modern: the Advent Prose opens the disc, followed by deeply expressive settings of the Advent Antiphons by Bob Chilcott (sung in Latin). Pieces by Charpentier, Pärt and Praetorius add to the delightful variety.
Conductor Silas Wollston also provides a composition of his own: I saw a sweet and seemly sight, a setting of an anonymous 15th-century text. This is a piece that cathedral choirs should take up! All in all, this disc is a joy from beginning to end and is particularly commended to those who like to take their Advent listening without ‘sweeteners’.
HODIE! Contemporary Christmas Carols
The Portsmouth Grammar School Chamber Choir / Oliver Hancock (organ/piano) / Sam Gladstone · Convivium Records CR024
Music is clearly an important part of the life of The Portsmouth Grammar School, given the standards of performance achieved on this disc – one could be listening to a cathedral choir. Indeed, it is no surprise that several members also sing in Portsmouth Cathedral Choir and Cantate, the Cathedral Youth Choir. While there are occasions when the youth of the tenors and basses is betrayed (and their youthful timbres are no bad thing!), the maturity of the sound that they produce is impressive and a testimony to the quality of the training that the pupils receive.
With music by (among others) Tarik O’Regan (Ecce puer), Eric Whitacre (Lux aurumque), Paul Edwards (No small wonder), Bob Chilcott (O little town), Will Todd (My Lord has come), Thomas Hewitt Jones (In the bleak midwinter), Richard Rodney Bennett (Coventry Carol), Malcolm Archer (Angels, from the realms of glory), and Alexander L’Estrange (Hodie!), the repertoire is of a standard that a cathedral or adult chamber choir would be proud to programme. The quality of the music-making on this disc is genuinely impressive.
THE ROAD TO BETHLEHEM
The London Oratory School Schola / London Oratory Brass / Tom Little (organ) / Lee Ward · www.london-oratory.org/schola-cantorium/147.html
As well as enjoyable singing and an attractive programme, this disc boasts The London Oratory Brass, who pack a real punch in the ‘congregational’ carols, bringing tingles that must be even more thrilling when heard live. Other items include E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come (Paul Manz), Adam lay ybounden (Matthew Martin – a very atmospheric piece, much more ambitious than Ord’s famous setting), What sweeter music (Rutter), The little road to Bethlehem (Head, in the composer’s own arrangement for tenors and basses), Tomorrow shall be my dancing day (Gardner), and I sing of a maiden (Hadley).
The Schola sings regularly at the Brompton Oratory, as well as daily in the school chapel, at concerts, on tour and for recordings. What fantastic musical opportunities the London Oratory School (which, incidentally, is a state school) gives to its boys! This disc is definitely worth hearing.
Daniel Moult plays the Hill organ of Arundel Cathedral · Regent REGCD434
It is surprising that this is the first solo recording of the restored William Hill organ at Arundel. The instrument sounds at its best perhaps with its choruses and reeds, especially in the reverberant acoustic, well demonstrated in music by Handel (W.T. Best arrangement), Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Stanford and Saint-Saëns. But Daniel Moult also shows his virtuosity in three more recent pieces which should attract extra purchasers for this disc: Derek Bourgeois’s Variations on a theme by Herbert Howells, Paul Patterson’s Brumba (a rumba written for Birmingham Town Hall) and Graham Fitkin’s Wedding, written for a friend’s wedding and driving to an exhilarating climax.
THE ENGLISH CATHEDRAL SERIES Vol XVII
Christopher Allsop plays the new Kenneth Tickell organ of Worcester Cathedral · Regent REGCD449
Elsewhere in this CMQ, William McVicker refers to the recent untimely death of Kenneth Tickell. Here is a recording of Tickell’s 2008 Quire organ at Worcester for which Christopher Allsop has chosen a quirky, idiosyncratic programme that, in its colourful way, splendidly matches the instrument.
There is music by Hugo Distler, much French music (Tournemire, Alain, Bonnet, Vierne and a transcription of Debussy’s Deuxième Arabesque), English and Welsh music (Somervell, Mathias, Bridge, and, in tribute to two Worcester organists, Donald Hunt’s Tomkins’ Trifle), and two pieces by Shostakovich, the Passacaglia from Katerina Ismailowa and, to conclude, a glorious transcription by Allsop himself of the Festive Overture – a brilliant demonstration of the prowess of organ and organist.
IN AN OLD ABBEY
British Organ Music · Paul Walton plays the organ of Bristol Cathedral · Regent REGCD431
There can be few more appropriate instruments for this collection of lesser-known British 20th-century pieces than the historic Walker organ of Bristol Cathedral. The two most substantial pieces on the CD are both receiving their first recordings: Jeremy Cull’s reconstruction of Elgar’s Second Organ Sonata from the five movements of Elgar’s Severn Suite for brass, and John Cook’s Five Studies in form of a Sonata. They are both, in effect, five-movement Sonatas formed from other pieces. There is music by Sir Walter Alcock (Toccata), Herbert Sumsion (Intermezzo) and Douglas Steele (Arioso). Basil Harwood provides the title track (In an Old Abbey, Op.32). The final track, Prologue, is a marvellous movement from Christopher Palmer’s assembly of pieces from four of William Walton’s WWII film scores, A Wartime Sketchbook, arranged for organ by Robert Gower. Paul Walton sounds very much at home with the romantic character of the music and the organ.
GREAT EUROPEAN ORGANS No. 87
Martyn Rawles plays the organ of Lichfield Cathedral · Priory PRCD 1090
There is similar British and Irish 20th-century repertoire on this disc recorded on Lichfield’s much rebuilt instrument – reworked most recently by Harrison and Harrison with a new Nave organ, and a return of the Choir organ to something approaching its William Hill 1908 specification. The 80 speaking stops provide ample opportunities that Martin Rawles exploits to the full, especially with quieter stops used solo or in combination.
The music, apart from Paul Spicer’s The Land of Lost Content, comprises entirely well-chosen arrangements of mostly-Edwardian orchestral music: Stanford arr. Alcock, Elgar arr. West, Delius arr. Fenby (On hearing the first cuckoo in Spring), Parry arr. Stockmeister, Holst arr. Ley, Elgar arr. Wills (Sospiri) and, to conclude, Brewer’s transcription of Elgar’s 1911 Coronation March that marked the transition to a post-Edwardian era. The organ is now well at home again with repertoire from this period, and with a wide range of tone colours to apply to orchestral transcriptions. This is a very satisfying disc.
THE CHURCH MUSIC OF JOHN SHEPPARD
The Collected Vernacular Works– Volume I • Academia Musica Choir / Aryan O. Arji • Priory PRCD 1081
This is an enjoyable disc, well sung by a choir that is composed of musicians in residence and choral scholars at Hereford Sixth Form College, where Aryan Arji is director of music. Even if, as the sleeve notes acknowledge, Sheppard’s Latin works are superior to his English church music, the vernacular works are fine nonetheless and well worth getting to know.
The recording includes the complete keyboard works of Sheppard (such as they are!), but no mention is made of them in the sleeve notes, other than their listing in the programme on the back of the CD box. It is a pity that the identity of the organist is not revealed, nor the author of the sleeve notes (and the picture on the front cover of the sleeve notes booklet is misidentified); but none of these niggles detracts from the enjoyment of the music.
Choral Music by E.W. Naylor • The Choir of Emmanuel College, Cambridge / George Lacey and Adam Mathias (organ) / Richard Latham • Regent REGCD426
Best known for the arresting eightpart motet that opens this disc (Vox dicentis: Clama), Naylor was organist of Emmanuel College, Cambridge from 1898 until his death in 1934. Today’s Emmanuel musicians present his works most persuasively, singing with great vigour when the mood calls for it. Naylor’s music might not be of the first rank, but it is attractive, worthy of performance and stands up well on a disc dedicated to it exclusively – which is certainly not always the case with minor composers. The excellent sleeve notes by Raymond Hockley make absorbing reading and contribute to the high quality of this release.
GREAT HYMNS FROM LINCOLN
Lincoln Minster School Chamber Choir / Charles Harrison (organ) / Aric Prentice • Priory PRCD 1104
The standard of singing is very high on this disc and it should be noted that it is the Lincoln Minster School Chamber Choir – not the cathedral choir. Diction is crystal clear and intonation precise. The range of the styles of the hymns is broad as the complete list reveals: Praise, my soul, the King of heaven, How great thou art, Christ triumphant, ever reigning, Father, hear the prayer we offer, When I survey the wondrous cross, Come, let join our cheerful songs, Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire (plainsong), Be still, for the presence of the Lord, Lo! he comes with clouds descending, O come, O come, Emmanuel, O Jesus, I have promised (Wolvercote), In Christ alone, The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended, O blest Creator of the light (plainsong), Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, At the name of Jesus (Camberwell), O holy city, seen of John, O thou who camest from above, King of glory, King of peace, Dear Lord and Father of mankind, All my hope on God is founded, and Shine, Jesus, shine. The excellent organ accompaniments put the singing first, and several tracks have the added boost of a brass quintet. Variety is further enhanced by some verses being sung as solos, and there are numerous occurrences of fine colourful alternative harmonies.
Convivium Singers / Neil Ferris • Convivium Records CR016
This recording presents Fauré’s much-loved Requiem in an arrangement for string quintet and organ by Michael Higgins. The vocal score associated with this arrangement, published by the RSCM, is reviewed in the current edition of Sunday by Sunday (no. 70). Choirs that want to give a performance with the accompaniment played on more than organ alone, but can muster only a small number of string players, will surely welcome this arrangement.
Following the Requiem, the remainder of the CD features more French choral music: a charming a cappella Ave verum corpus by Saint-Saëns (sung with fine control by the Convivium Singers), de Séverac’s exquisite little Tantum ergo, a setting of the same text by Fauré (arr. Higgins), Ave verum corpus by Fauré (arr. Higgins), and the Cantique de Jean Racine. This accompaniment of the last piece is also arranged by Michael Higgins for string quintet.
The Convivium Singers give good accounts of the pieces, and worthy of special mention are Johnny Herford’s baritone solos in the Requiem.
ORGAN PARTY VOLUMES ONE AND TWO
Kevin Bowyer plays the organs of Glasgow Cathedral and Lancaster Priory • Priory PRCD 1085 (Glasgow) and PRCD 1094 (Lancaster)
Hey, let’s party! The concept of a bench (the collective noun, surely?) of organists in party mood may be a little hard for some to grasp – but Kevin Bowyer makes a splendid attempt. Kevin’s Wikipedia entry rightly describes him as being known for ‘a prolific recording and recital career and his performances of modern and extremely difficult compositions’. His discography is impressive, but the title of these volumes, 'Organ Party’, belies the content; a collection of organ lollipops this is not. Right from track one of the Glasgow CD, we are grooving along with an excellent performance Guzzini’s Jazz Man Swing, followed in sharp contrast by Ad Wammes’s hypnotic Miroir. Some key suspects appear – Leroy Anderson and Iain Farrington share space on the Glasgow CD along with Giles Swayne’s Mr Bach’s Bottle-Bank: a witty working of the ‘ten green bottles’ tune which had me laughing out loud. Limited space precludes mentioning every piece, but on the Glasgow recording I must specially mention an uncredited transcription of Maxwell Davies’s Farewell to Stromness; originally for solo piano, this is a beautiful performance of this poignant piece.
Arthur Wills’s Fanfare opens the Lancaster CD, followed by a charming arrangement by Cyril S. Christopher of Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen. Lefébure-Wély, John Ireland and Garth Edmondson are also represented. Such is the contrast of tracks that the subtitle of both CDs could be ‘The Ultimate Organ Party Mix’; there is plenty for organists and organ aficionados to get their teeth into. Talking of weddings, if any organist is asked – as a colleague of mine was recently – to provide ‘funky modern’ organ music, these CDs provide an excellent starting point. The Mission Impossible theme is given a joyful romp on the Glasgow organ and the Star Wars theme on the Lancaster CD brings this party to a close.
HANDEL AND HIS ENGLISH CONTEMPORARIES
Robert Woolley plays the 1766 Thomas Parker Organ at St Mary and St Nicholas, Leatherhead • Regent REGCD382
Although reputed to be a very fine player, Handel wrote relatively little keyboard music, and not all of that is suitable for the organ. Thus, Handel’s music accounts for only about the first third of this disc – and includes arrangements of orchestral music. Nevertheless, every note speaks of both his genius and his urbanity. How very unfair of Robert Woolley to ask poor William Walond, John James, William Goodwin, Boyce, Starling Goodwin, Thomas Roseingrave, Stanley, Greene and James Nares to follow in Handel’s giant footsteps! But follow they do; and, if one accepts that their music belongs to an English aesthetic to which Handel’s music belongs only in part, they do not form a collective dust-cart following the Lord Mayor’s Show. Rather, they serve to remind us that English composition did not die with Purcell. Their music is melodious, graceful, elegant, and possesses a value all of its own.
Robert Woolley’s playing exhibits perfect taste and a real affinity with the music. His choice of the 1766 Thomas Parker Organ at St Mary and St Nicholas, Leatherhead, restored by Goetze and Gwynn in 2007, could surely not be bettered.
SIR CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD: THE COMPLETE ORGAN WORKS - 1
Daniel Cook plays the organ of Salisbury Cathedral • Priory PRCD 1095
Lovers of Stanford’s music will welcome with open arms Daniel Cook’s exciting playing on the glorious organ of Salisbury Cathedral, an instrument so appropriate to Stanford’s language. The generous acoustic supports, but does not cloud, the lines: indeed, the clarity of counterpoint is a feature of this recording and a tribute to the player, the sound engineers and old Father Willis himself. Those who are not so enthusiastic about Stanford will probably be of the view that some of the pieces on this disc are more inspired than others. Nevertheless, there is no denying the commitment and quality of Daniel Cook’s colourful and animated interpretations. This, the first volume in the series, features the Fantasia and Toccata Op.57; Sonata No.1 in F Op.149, Six Preludes Op. 88 and Sonata No.2 in G minor Op.151. Dedicated to Widor ‘and the great Country to which he belongs’, a Gallic influence pervades the second sonata (‘Eroica’); and this influence, together with the composer’s intention that the work should be a tribute to the sacrifices made by people of France in the Great War, inspired an imaginative and noble piece.
THE COMPLETE ORGAN WORKS OF HERBERT SUMSION, VOL 2 (final volume)
Daniel Cook plays the organ of St Davids Cathedral • Priory PRCD 1093
Unfortunately, Sumsion did not compose enough organ music to fill two CDs; so the programme on this disc is padded out with arrangements by Sumsion of music by other composers, and also with music by Elgar arranged by Herbert Brewer. The justification for the latter is that ‘the figures of Brewer and Elgar loomed large in Sumsion’s personal life and career’! Putting paucity of material to one side, the genuine Sumsion is worth hearing, though it does not really have the magic of his choral music. Nevertheless, Daniel Cook’s playing is superb. He handles stop changes effortlessly and shapes every phrase musically. Volume 1 was made on the Willis organ of Salisbury Cathedral. The St David’s organ, also originally built by Willis, proves itself to be a fine vehicle for Sumsion’s music, the composer’s Willis at Gloucester having given way to a very different Hill, Norman & Beard instrument in 1971.
FRENCH ORGAN SUITES
Works by Duruflé, Mihaud, Widor, Pâque • John Scott Whiteley plays the organ of York Minster • Boreas BMCD1301
While some listeners will prefer their French music on a Gallic organ, those happy with it served à l’anglaise will be well pleased with the virtuosity of John Scott Whiteley on the organ of York Minster. Dupré’s dazzling Prelude and Fugue in A flat opens the disc, followed by Trois nouvelles pièces by Widor, late works dating from 1934. Six petits préludes by M.J.L. Désiré Pâque (1912) are interesting pieces by an obscure composer. Milhaud’s Petite suite of 1955 is a welcome discovery. Finally, Duruflé’s Suite blows all that precedes it out of the water with its brooding Prélude, exquisite Sicilienne and dazzling Toccata, each of which John Scott Whiteley performs with mastery.
Unfortunately, the track numbers are wrong because the Dupré Prelude and its Fugue are tracked separately on the disc, but not in the sleeve notes.
THE INFLUENCE OF PLAINSONG
William Dore plays the organ of Ampleforth Abbey • Priory PRCD
The organ of Ampleforth Abbey is quite a beast! It has two main sections: the Transept organ (Pedal-Positive-Choir-Great-Swell-Solo) and the Antiphonal Organ (Pedal-Great- Swell, built on the extension principle). Both instruments are playable from a four-manual console that boasts no fewer than 122 drawstops. This organ can roar, but it can sing sweetly too, as William Dore amply demonstrates on this exciting disc. Jeanne Demessieux’s Te Deum opens the programme, followed by the same composer’s Twelve Choral Preludes on Gregorian Themes. The classically-inspired voicing of the Walker organ suits Demessieux’s rather sharp-elbowed music well. Tournemire’s Suite XXV from L’Orgue Mystique (In Festo Pentecostes) follows, and the disc ends with Philip Moore’s Five Sketches on Helmsley. Although the Moore Sketches are the only pieces on the disc not by a French composer, and neither are they based on plainsong, they sit well with that which has gone before on account of their pungent harmonies. William Dore’s connections with Ampleforth go back to his childhood. He clearly knows the instrument intimately and loves it. He gives us a disc that is well planned and masterfully played.
BILLY (Billy Neely)
A film by Paul O’Dell and Myriam Martin • Films des fontaines: DVD • firstname.lastname@example.org
In recent years, CMQ has reviewed CDs and books about the great boy trebles of the past, notably The Better Land series produced by Stephen Beet. One of those trebles was Billy Neely, ‘Belfast’s boy soprano’, whose real name was William Corkhill-Callin and who, for many years, did not reveal his early career to those he worked with or to his friends. This film, a taster extract of which can be found on YouTube, is a documentary interview with Billy shortly before his death in 2012. Retired to rural France, he gives a touching account of his singing career and proves to be an engaging raconteur, despite having to wear an oxygen supply through the interviews. There are many extracts from his recordings used as background music and, although this may be a DVD that you will not return to many times, it is a valuable record of a forgotten era.
THOMAS TROTTER: A SHROPSHIRE IDYLL
The organ of St Laurence, Ludlow • Regent Records REGDVD002 (DVD + CD)
A recording of English music recorded to mark the 250th anniversary of the fine Snetzler/ Nicholson organ in Ludlow Parish Church by such a world-class master as Thomas Trotter is a treat indeed. The usual DVD extras are here, a description of the repertoire by the recitalist and a demonstration of the organ by Ludlow’s own organist Shaun Ward. The expertise of Gary Cole’s recordings hardly need mention and the camera action is well done and very clear indeed.
The playing is quite superb and effortless, so effortless as to make the performer seem completely impassive. We organists are all taught to be economical with body movement and, as we are often hidden away in organ lofts, our body language is really irrelevant: we speak through the music. Thomas Trotter does this to such an extreme that his is more an aural performance than a visual one. Having recently finished watching BBC’s Young Musician of the Year where communicating with the audience is a key element, I wonder if organ recitalists are not really video animals? The accompanying CD of the same programme, ranging from 16th-century dances through Handel, Boyce, S.S. Wesley, Elgar and Walton to Michael Nyman, is worthy of many repeated playings.
THE COMPLETE PSALMS OF DAVID VOLUME 5
The Choir of Lincoln Cathedral / Colin Walsh (organ)/ Aric Prentice • Priory PRCD 1100
GREAT HYMNS FROM SALISBURY
The Choir of Salisbury Cathedral / John Challenger (organ) / David Halls • Priory PRCD 1098
The popularity of CDs devoted entirely to psalms or hymns remains high, and these two excellent CDs demonstrate good reasons why. Colin Walsh, organist laureate at Lincoln, brings a lifetime's experience to the organ accompaniments of the psalms and of course a detailed knowledge of the Lincoln organ - his accompaniments are imaginative but always at the service of the words. Aric Prentice and his choir are expressive and varied in their approach to each verse. This fifth volume in a new series from Priory covers Psalms 68 to 77. The chants chosen are mostly ones which one can imagine the choir might have been singing a century ago, which makes the two chants chosen for Psalm 74 stand out, being splendid, comparatively recent examples by Lindsay Gray (minor key) and Philip Marshall (major key).
Salisbury's new recording of 'great hymns' has something for everyone, ranging from Jerusalem and 'When a knight won his spurs' to 'At the name of Jesus' (warning - sung to Camberwell) and a joyous final 'Christ triumphant' including John Barnard's descant. Christopher Robinson contributes three excellent descants, and Christopher Gower a particularly effective one for Lasst uns erfreuen. Salisbury's acoustic, well captured by Priory, adds its own distinctive resonance.
ANTHEMS AND MOTETS OF THE ENGLISH ROMANTIC TRADITION
The Chapel Choir of St Peter's College, Oxford / Mary Ann Wootton (organ) / David Quinn and Roger Allen • OxRecs OXCD121
St Peter's College Chapel boasts a Father Willis organ of 1875 (enlarged in 1889 and rebuilt and restored in 2003); this recording sensibly concentrates on music written in the mid to late 19th and early 20th centuries. The disc opens with a fine performance of S.S. Wesley's Ascribe unto the Lord followed by Stanford's three Latin motets ]ustorum animae, Coelos ascendit hodie and Beati quorum via. At the centre of the disc are three big pieces: Stanford's For lo, I raise up (written in 1914 and as if prescient of the horrors about to come), Naylor's Vox dicentis: Clama and Bairstow's Blessed city, heavenly Salem with its colourful organ accompaniment written in the year that Bairstow went to York Minster. The young, mixed voices of the student choir blend well and have an enjoyment of the music that communicates strongly. The music has an easy flow - expressive but never over-weighty. This is a refreshing recording, worth considering as an alternative to the many cathedral performances of this repertoire.
JOHN SHEPPARD: SACRED CHORAL MUSIC
The Choir of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh / Duncan Ferguson • Delphian DCD34123
Sheppard's music is not so commonly found in service lists, and this disc is particularly welcome. It comprises the Missa cantate, plus hymns, responds and antiphons, including Gaude virgo Christiphera, Sheppard's only surviving votive antiphon, and the first recording of Adesto sancta Trinitas II. Sheppard, Informator Choristarum at Magdalen College, Oxford, was a near contemporary of Taverner, and his music has a similar level of complexity - and of musical rewards for overcoming its difficulties! The choir here sings magnificently, and especially the bright treble line of boys and girls who sound effortless in some difficult (and high-pitched) lines. The whole choir blends well but also allows the counterpoint to speak clearly. This disc is a notable achievement.
TUDOR CHURCH MUSIC
The Choir of Peterborough Cathedral / Richard Latham (organ) / Stanley Vann • Priory PRCD 938
If you were choosing just two composers for a disc headed 'Tudor Church Music' you would perhaps choose Byrd and Tallis, and probably not Batten and Dering as found on this disc. But the contrast between the music of Adrian Batten (Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral) and the continental influences on Richard Dering (study in Italy and employment in Brussels before returning to England) is fascinating. However it is not so much for the choice of repertoire as for the performances that this CD is so special, for it is a remastered version of an Argo 1962 recording of what was widely regarded at the time as the best cathedral choir in the UK. Stanley Vann was master of the music of Peterborough Cathedral from 1953 until his retirement in 1977. This disc is a splendid testament to the results of his choir training (and the choir sounds remarkably fresh and modern) along with some excellent solo voices and organ accompaniment by Richard Latham. There is also much to enjoy in the expressive and unexpected modulations in Dering's music such as Factum est silentium and Contristatus est rex David.
MUSIC FOR MEN'S VOICES
The Gentlemen of Liverpool Cathedral / Martyn Noble (organ) / David Poulter • Priory PRCD 1110
We regularly review CDs of upper voices, whether adults, boys or girls, but rarely men's voices alone, so it is a pleasure to welcome this recording. The main works come at the beginning and end, with Tallis's two sets of Lamentations to start and Duruflé's Messe cum jubilo to conclude. The 'con jubilo' Mass setting sounds particularly fine in Liverpool's huge space, with unison baritones singing plainsong melodies, which the organ surrounds with Duruflé's unmistakable harmonies that seem to glow in this warm acoustic. In between are ten short pieces (the Biebl Ave Maria rather longer than the others), ranging from John Dunstable to Francis Grier. Tallis reappears with If ye love me and Duruflé's with Ubi caritas. The choir knows how to use the acoustic to add colour, but also sings with precision and attack where needed to cut through it. A most enjoyable disc.
A PARRY COLLECTION
Organ works by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, 1848-1918 • David Goode plays the Hill organ of Eton College Chapel • Regent REGCD365
Hubert Parry was educated at Eton, and this recital of his music is given by the current organist there on the 19th-century William Hill organ in the college chapel. The organ has recently been restored to its original tonal specification, although, dating from 1885, would not have been known by Parry when he studied the organ as a schoolboy. Parry wrote lots of organ music, far more than we normally hear after service or in recital today. This disc includes all of his large-scale works for the organ and a selection of smaller chorale preludes. The largest is a nearly 15 minute Toccata and Fugue in G ('The Wanderer'). Named after Parry's yacht, the Toccata certainly does wander, extended Fugue receives an expansive performance, building to a glorious climax in Goode's performance. Parry's organ music was written late in his life, and even the shortest chorale preludes are worth the care and attention to detail that Goode gives them. Not quite the complete organ music (the disc has seven of the 14 chorale preludes that Parry composed in two sets), but with 70 minutes of music it is a generous selection and, for enthusiasts of Parry's music, essential listening.
THE MERTON ORGAN
Benjamin Nicholas plays the new Dobson organ of Merton College, Oxford • Delphian DCD34142
Merton's decision to commission a new organ from Dobson Pipe Organ Builders was a bold choice: the company is less than 40 years old and the Merton instrument is only its 'Op. 91 '. Furthermore, there is little precedent for UK commissioning of organs from American builders. But the result justifies the decision, with an instrument that fulfils Merton's requirements to accompany sympathetically the daily choral services, to have sufficient flexibility to accommodate the works of many eras and to honour the Chapel's ancient architecture. Nicholas's programme is strong on texture and colour, especially French with Messiaen, Vierne, Dupré and Franck. Even two of the three J.S. Bach titles are arrangements by Dupré and Duruflé. The third is the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, unexpectedly appearing midway through the programme and separating sensitive performances of Messiaen's Prière après la communion and Mendelssohn's Andante with Variations in D. Although Nicholas remains more associated with choir directing than playing (this is his first recording as a solo organist), his performance of Vierne's Carillon de Westminster to conclude the disc demonstrates just how technically assured a player he is.
Huw Morgan plays the organ of St Laurence, Catford • sfz music SFZM0513
Huw will be known to many readers as a composer, journalist and tutor for the RSCM's Foundation Degree in Church Music, as well as a reviewer of organ publications for CMQ. On this disc he plays the J.W. Walker & Sons extension organ at St Laurence, Catford, where he is director of music. The organ was built in 1969 to a specification devised by the late David Sanger, with bright, clear sounds particularly suitable for works of the north European baroque - and there are sparkling performances here of music by Buxtehude, J.S. Bach and Sweelinck. The rest of the disc is devoted to the 20th and 21st centuries, with Hugo Distler's charming Sonatina and the first recording of Einbrechendes Licht, a work by the Austrian composer Kurt Estermann which gives the album its title. Also included are two of Morgan's own compositions: Dialogues (2013), and the wonderfully atmospheric Adam's Fall (2010), a work including fixed electronics as well as live organ.
GREAT EUROPEAN ORGANS No.88
Michal Novenko plays the organ of the Mosteiro de Arouca, Portugal • Priory PRCD 1092
GREAT EUROPEAN ORGANS No.90
Gerard Brooks plays the restored organ in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, London • Priory PRCD 1099
Compare and contrast: early Portuguese organ music played on a Portuguese instrument, and late 19th and early 20th-century music by British organists played on a four-manual Rushworth and Dreaper-restored instrument. The Portuguese pieces are mostly by Carlos Seixas (1704-42) and Manuel Rodrigues Coelho (d. 1647). Toccatas and Batalhas abound with exciting figurations and strident colours. One has the impression that Iberian composers at the time tended to be more conservative in their sacred choral music and let their imaginations off the leash in their keyboard compositions. Seixas, who was admired as a composer by Domenico Scarlatti, might be better known to us and regarded as a more significant composer if most of his music had not been destroyed in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.
In contrast, the composers on the British disc are decidedly conservative. Gerard Brooks features the music of two previous Central Hall organists, William Lloyd Webber (1914-82) and J Arthur Meale (1880-1932), plus music by composers who taught at the Royal College of Music - Stanford, Coleridge Taylor, Ireland and Parry. But the opening piece is Alfred Hollins's Concert Overture: entertaining and colourful. Gerard Brooks, the current Central Hall organist, plays with intelligence and taste - he is an ideal exponent of this repertoire where understatement is often more effective than flamboyance.
Jazz and blues inspired works for organ • Philip Scriven plays the organ of Lichfield Cathedral • Regent REGCD304
Iain Farrington's seven-movement Fiesta! is the big piece here, Bernstein's Candide Overture probably the best-known - both are full of colour, rhythm and verve. But I am haunted by the gentler Blues Chorale Preludes (three very different chorale or spiritual tunes arranged by three different composers) and by Zsolt Gárdonyi's version of Slane in Be thou my vision. Gárdonyi also contributes Mozart Changes, taking as its starting point the theme of the last movement of Mozart's final piano sonata (in D, K576). Reviewers in Sunday by Sunday emphasize from time to time how suitable is the organ for music in jazz-influenced idioms. This entertaining CD provides welcome proof.
MUSIC AS PRAYER: The Theology and Practice of Church Music
Thomas H. Troeger
Oxford University Press: 89 pp. H/B 978-0-19-933008-9 £13.85
When the dust jacket reports that ‘music can be an act of prayer, a way of sensing the irrepressible resilience of the divine vitalities’ and given the subtitle, one might think that this is a deeply philosophical theological treatise. Far from it, for it is a delightful series of meditations, ideal for the bedside and an inspiration for private personal prayer, written in everyday language and often linked to Bible references.
The Revd Thomas Troeger, formerly Chaplain to the American Guild of Organists, contributed a monthly column to the AGO magazine The American Organist from 2008 to 2012. This book is a collection of these offerings and, whilst many of the meditations are organist related, the anecdotes and spiritual connections he makes with music, musicianship and worship are valid for all whose emotions respond to the power of music. With around 40 meditations in 80 pages, they are short and easily digested. Troeger is a professor at the School of Theology in Denver and, though not an organist himself, he makes many pertinent observations on the work of organists and choirs based on his own experience; indeed it is the personal insights which make this book particularly attractive. As one would expect from a respected author and hymn-writer, his prose is a delight to read and I can whole-heartedly recommend this book.
THE HAARLEM ESSAYS: Celebrating Fifty International Organ Festivals
ed. Paul Peeters
Dr J. Butz 472 pp. H/B 978-3-928412-15-5 £32.50
Essays about a Dutch organ competition from a German publisher might make you wonder ‘What is in this for me, a British organist?’ Well, the answer is – a great deal. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the book is in English. and secondly there is a wealth of information about 20th-century, premier-league organists and organ composition, together with a host of newly published photographs of both people and instruments. A 78-minute CD of competition-winning improvisations by Piet Kee, André Isoir, Hans Haselböck and others is also included.
The improvisation competition is at the heart of the Haarlem International Organ Festival, which has just passed its 50th jubilee year, and these essays celebrate that fact. The first section of the book is devoted to Haarlem – the place, the churches, the organs and the development of the festivals. The central section contains essays by various festival observers, including one fascinating interview with a famous stop-puller. Professional registration assistants are not common in the UK but are much needed on continental organs. Stop-pulling for a performer who is improvising requires a degree of knowledge of the instrument and anticipation which is frankly awesome.
Part two of the book looks at traditional repertoire from Byrd, Bach, Reger and Messiaen and links this to improvisational techniques.
There has never been a UK winner of this competition, which has always been dominated by Dutch, German and French organists. It is interesting to note that the RSCM’s very own Lionel Dakers was a finalist in the first competition in 1951 whilst he was assistant organist at St George’s, Windsor.
This is a beautifully produced book containing much of interest to organists and organ enthusiasts. I suspect it has been heavily subsidized by the various organ builders who seem to have advertisements in the back. The CD alone is worth £15; spend a little more and you have the book as well.
HANDEL’S MESSIAH: A RHETORICAL GUIDE
Corda Music Publication 217 pp. P/B 978-0-9528220-5-9 £30.00
Judy Tarling has spent her life as performer and teacher making historical style come alive, and especially through the application of classical Greek and Roman theories of rhetoric and oratory that were still studied in 17th and 18th centuries. Her application of such ideas is not confined to music and text: as a garden historian, her next book will be entitled Gardens of eloquence! She assembled her historical and musical research in an already highly-influential 2004 publication, The Weapons of Rhetoric, a Guide for Musicians and Audiences. Now she directs this approach at one particular work, Messiah, that, because of its text and music, and not least the documentation of its assembly, composition and reception, is particularly susceptible to such analysis.
As well as ideas from classical antiquity, Tarling applies to Messiah 16th and 17th-century texts written to help people to understand the Bible within a Protestant tradition. After a rhetorical analysis of Jennens’s biblical text, the music is examined for word-painting, repetition, questions and exclamations and other such devices before moving to a consideration of how performers can apply rhetorical techniques to their singing and playing. Having taken apart text and music and addressed the performer, Tarling considers the audience, the historically-informed listener, and looks at how Messiah was received within the context of contemporary ideas of ‘the sublime’.
This is not an easy book. It is densely written and with innumerable music examples (mostly of full score) which one wishes had been set to a wider margin and with a bigger stave size. But it is well worth the effort to read. The better one thinks one knows Messiah already, the greater the insights that are offered by this remarkable study.
SIR GEORGE DYSON: HIS LIFE AND MUSIC
Paul Spicer · The Boydell Press 450 pp. H/B 978-1-84383-903-3 £45.00
Every now and then one comes across an unexpected and pleasant surprise in book form. At first glance this is yet another musical biography, but within lies a compelling read. Paul Spicer’s fluent narrative style almost makes Dyson’s life story into a novel, where you cannot put it down because you want to read what happens next.
Conceived over many years and with invaluable help from Dyson’s family, he transports the reader back to the early 20th century and holds you in that era by using contemporary letters and reports. Especially poignant are the WWI letters; I guess that few CMQ readers will know that George Dyson wrote the definitive WWI guide to using hand grenades. Don’t let the musical examples make you think that these early chapters are full of academic musical analysis. They are extracted from concert programmes, because most of Dyson’s early music was lost and these themes are some of the only clues about his early compositions. Later chapters do contain some musical analysis and the book contains all that one would expect in a composer biography, such as work lists, discography and photographs.
Dyson was an extraordinarily intelligent and perceptive man with an analytical mind and financial acumen which made him a brilliant administrator, especially in his years as Director of the Royal College of Music. Thought by some to be a cold fish, Paul Spicer reveals that there was a great deal more to this man and also that his music is worth exploring. The story of Dyson allowing guitarist Julian Bream into the RCM (where there was no guitar tuition) without fee or exam is one of many stories which show his compassion for talented students.
A name known to few now, except perhaps church musicians, the flyleaf claims that ‘Dyson touched almost every sphere of musical life in Britain and helped to change the face of music performance education in this country.’ In terms of the latter, surely we need another Dyson now. Do read this marvellous book.
MUSIC, MODERNITY AND GOD: ESSAYS IN LISTENING
Jeremy Begbie · Oxford 261pp. H/B 978-0-19-929244-8 £35.00
‘Modernity’ here refers not to what music historians call ‘modernism’ at the start of the 20th century, but rather to the changes in attitude from ‘pre-modern’ to ‘modern’ occasioned by the Renaissance and Reformation. The book is written primarily for people interested in theology, to ask them to take music into account when considering theological ideas. But it also works the other way round and invites church musicians to think about the ways in which music and theology intertwine.
After an opening introduction, ‘Listening to Music’, come chapters on ‘Calvin and Music’ (including a comparison of the attitudes towards music of Calvin and Luther), ‘Bach, modernity and God’ (including an examination of John Butt’s Dialogue with Modernity discussing Bach’s Matthew and John Passions), ‘Rameau, Rousseau, and Natural Theology’ exploring the dispute between composer Rameau and philosopher Rousseau, and ‘Early German Romanticism’, taking as its starting point E.T.A. Hoffmann’s glorification of Beethoven’s instrumental music. The views of writers such as Nicholas Cook, Daniel Chua and Andrew Bowie are presented and studied in some detail.
Begbie quotes Daniel Barenboim writing of Edward Said, ‘Edward … understood the fact that every musical masterpiece is, as it were, a conception of the world. And the difficulty lies in the fact that this conception of the world cannot be described in words – because were it possible to describe it in words, the music would be unnecessary. But he recognizes that the fact that it is indescribable doesn’t mean it has no meaning.’ This welcome book helps us to understand how a piece of music can have a power and a meaning of its own that transcends any accompanying text or programme and that engages not just with the world but with God.
THE VOICE FOR LIFE GUIDE TO MUSICIANSHIP
Anthony Marks and Chris Fay · RSCM Press 200 pp. P/B F0120 £25.00 (affiliates £18.75)
It is difficult to overestimate the importance and usefulness of this new publication for choir trainers and conductors - and also for their singers, since, in addition to the printed 200-page book, there are no less than 163 pages of downloadable sight-reading tests and some aural tests arranged for each level and in treble and bass clefs, to print out and give to singers.
Andrew Reid's introduction explains that 'at the heart of Voice for Life is a requirement to sing both by ear and from notation, and a requirement to understand what is being sung. The activities in the workbooks ask students to sing, to listen, to read, to identify, to reproduce music; in short they emphasize good musicianship. At each level, the acquisition of musicianship and related skills is systematically assessed by means of targets.' But many choir trainers must have been thwarted by the range of work covered by each level of the Voice for Life workbooks. In this new publication, aural tests and sight-reading tests are treated in parallel, with at each level a description of the technical requirements, specimen tests, hints on how to prepare the singers, details of how to deliver and assess the tests, and actual test materials. Now, at last, choir trainers have specific exam materials that they can use with each singer, and the possibility of some consistency so that the achievement at a particular level by a singer in one church should be comparable with that at the same level in a different church.
The motivation and sense of achievement for the singers must be increased if professionally produced tests are given to them, for which they have been systematically prepared, and marked according to specified criteria.And that is just for the White, Light Blue, Dark Blue, Red and Yellow levels, assessed by each choir trainer. A similar process is applied to the three RSCM Awards (Bronze, Silver and Gold) showing how the requirements for these dovetail into progress through the five levels. For the Awards, material is given for mock exams, including the exact wording spoken by the examiners, that will enable candidates to be fully prepared and confident.
Choir trainers who work through and tick off the targets in the Voice for Life workbooks will now find their task much easier: they are given the materials they need to work at a higher and more consistent level, and will surely find higher standards achieved overall by their singers. But for choir directors who do not use such a methodical assessment process, but prefer an informal scheme or have singers who are intimidated by formal testing, there is still a wealth of advice and teaching materials to apply to singers singly and in groups.
There is inevitably repetition between the different levels. Some of the teaching advice may seem obvious, but for every occasion that I said to myself 'but of course, I don't need to be told that', there was at least one other to which I reacted, 'what a good idea!'. And different choir trainers will appreciate different things. For more experienced people it may be a box of resources to be dipped into and adapted as they see fit - but with the added advantage that the specific tests give a much better idea than ever before of what should be achieved.
Andrew Reid notes how sightreading skills are often neglected because of a perceived lack of time in rehearsal. Yet a combination of aural work (to develop musical memory) and sight-reading will save rehearsal time 'which can then be used to improve the choral blend, intonation, ensemble, phrasing and delivery of text and meaning.' It's a big claim if applied to this book, but well justified.
33 SPIRITUALS FOR UPPER VOICES [E/M]
arranged by Graham Buckland
S or SSA and piano
Bärenreiter BA7572 £15.00
Here is a useful collection, with the best-known spirituals (Deep river, O happy day, Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Swing low, sweet chariot, Were you there, Steal away, When the saints go marching in and many others), some lesser known, and one that has been ‘adopted’ as a spiritual, Amazing grace, with words by John Newton and music from Scotland or Ireland. All work well with unison voices and the piano part provided, but singers will want to add the extra idiomatic SA parts to round out the varied textures. Choirs already using the SATB 64 Spirituals a cappella from the same arranger (reviewed in Sunday by Sunday 60, March 2012) will find that these arrangements are compatible. The religious sincerity and fervour of Afro-American spirituals continues to appeal to young singers as well as adults: this is an excellent introduction to some of the best of them.
AVE VERUM CORPUS [E]
Two-part upper voices and piano
Boosey & Hawkes BH 12945 £1.99
Not to be confused with Will Todd’s earlier Ave verum corpus for mixed voices, this short, straightforward setting is taken from Todd’s Songs of Peace. A haunting melody (which would be a useful exercise in reading and pitching for a young choir, with rising octaves, sevenths, fifths and fourths within four bars) lies above relaxed piano figuration. The second verse adds a second part to the tune with lots of canonic imitation, and the end is simple and satisfying.
FEAR THOU NOT [M/D]
Five-part upper voices SSMezzoAA
Bärenreiter BA7411 £3.50
Jansson is a choral conductor, teacher and composer based in Uppsala, Sweden. The words of this little motet are taken from Isaiah 41.10, starting ‘Fear thou not for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God.’ Ostinatos and pedals give a sense of security and steadiness appropriate for the text, while the music describes a huge arch, starting with one part, expanding to five by bar 20,and growing in range and dynamic to a triple forte climax before subsiding again with the opening music and words – but, instead of contracting to a unison, it comes to rest on a five-part C major chord. Written for one of Sweden’s foremost female choirs, it demands a wide range: second altos are allowed optional higher notes where the music descends to E flat and C below middle C, but first sopranos need to ring out with top Cs on two occasions. For choirs able to tackle this, it would be a rewarding piece.
CANTATE DOMINO [E]
Unison or two-part and piano
Spartan Press TKM716 £1.60
This is a tuneful and catchy setting of English words, with ‘Cantate Domino’ interjected after each sentence. It is designed to be used flexibly and works in unison, or indeed for a mixed group with upper voices on top and men on the second part. Very easy and unsubtle, it should work under almost any circumstances.
FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE REMAIN [E]
SA and organ or piano
Oxford W175 £1.85
Archer cleverly combines two of the standard wedding texts in a commission for a very special wedding, that of the RSCM’s former Regional Music Adviser, Andrew Robinson, to Laura in 2011. ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love ...’ from 2 Corinthians 13 is added to the Song of Solomon’s ‘For love is strong as death ...’ to create an anthem about God’s love, suitable for general use as well as at weddings. The organ part and vocal lines (linked by musical motifs) have a relaxed and easy flow, building to a thrilling climax in what is overall a reflective piece.
James L. Montgomery
ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES [M]
SATB with divisions
Novello NOV294800 £1.75
This condensed and expressive anthem was a highlight of the Novello Book of Music for Lent and Easter two years ago. Now available separately, it has a bitter-sweet mixture of major and minor, appropriate for a setting of verses from Jesus’ prayer to his Father, as reported in Matthew’s Gospel. There is a firm but quiet confidence at the end on an F major ‘Thy will be done.’
THE SHADOW OF THY CROSS [D]
SATB with divisions
Novello NOV294877 £2.75
The Mealor fingerprints are in the music: slow tempo, repeated divisi chords, low basses and high sopranos, extremes of dynamics, and, it must be admitted, a powerful, overwhelming intensity of expression. This setting of G.A. Studdert Kennedy (‘Woodbine Willie’) was commissioned for a WWI Commonwealth centenary service, but would make its impact in Holy Week and at other services where Jesus on the cross is the focus.
James L. Montgomery
SOL JUSTITIAE [E/M]
SATB (optional S solo)
Edition Peters EP70602 £2.25
T solo, SATB, organ and processional drum
Edition Peters EP72643 £2.25
SATB with divisions
Edition Peters EP70603 £5.50
Followers of Jeffrey Skidmore’s Ex Cathedra choir will know the music of Philip Roth – he wrote his 40-part Earthrise for that choir, as well as Unborn reviewed here. Ex Cathedra have also recorded Sol Justitiae, which is a setting of a Latin hymn written by James Barmby whilst he was principal of what is now Hatfield College. The words depict a journey from darkness to light, which starts by addressing the sun of righteousness and finishes with the everlasting light which shines on those washed in the blood of the Lamb – particularly suitable for the ‘Kingdom’ season between All Saints and Advent Sundays. Homophonic, with a gentle lyrical flow and much repetition, it is moderately easy and singable, especially without the optional soprano solo (‘unseen and high up, if possible’).
Unborn, adapted from The Traveller, an oratorio that Roth wrote with Vikram Seth (and heard in Salisbury and Lichfield Cathedrals and Holy Trinity, Sloane Square) is described as ‘a processional introit’. The text is pantheistic, but sung as Ex Cathedra premiered it in a Christmas candlelight concert or service, the ‘single word of truth that brings peace’ will be Christianized and heard as referring to the Word. The choral writing is easy, the tenor solo and organ part less so. In all these pieces there is evidence of the composer’s experience of Asian music, including Javanese gamelan, in the melodies themselves and also in the way they develop by repetition and juxtaposition.
More tricky is the lively setting of the Jubilate written for the 2012 Festival of St Cecilia and subsequently recorded by the choir of St Paul’s Cathedral. The complete Latin text comes first, and then the sopranos/trebles sing it in English with a dancing ATB accompaniment. All voices combine to sing ‘for the Lord is gracious’ and come to rest on ‘everlasting / in aeternum’, before an exhilarating crescendo based on the opening ‘Jubilate Deo’. Although fast, rhythmic, with divisi and with plenty of leaps and sudden contrasts, the notes are easy to pitch and there is much repetition and doubling – for a good parish church choir it would be fun to learn.
SIX ANTHEMS [M/D?D]
SATB with divisi, mostly with organ
score and CD
Colin Smythe Ltd 978-0-86140-489-6 £15.00
This is a surprising publication: six anthems presented as a weighty 278-page book, complete with a CD of them performed by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge under Stephen Cleobury. As an added bonus, the music of an organ piece by David Goode is included, first in solo and then duet versions: Variations on a theme by Francis Warner, the same Francis Warner, poet and dramatist, who wrote the words for the six anthems. The whole publication and recordings are acknowledged as having been made possible by grants from an anonymous couple: certainly such a publication could not be commercially viable, and indeed it is not very practical for performance, with innumerable page turns, especially where there is one system, sometimes with just two bars, per page. Luckily the pieces are available separately for download (at £2.50 each) on the composer’s website, where the initial pages of each anthem are also reproduced after each relevant poem.
Treated as a study score rather than performance material, this is a handsomely-produced volume that will give pleasure to conductors and others who read the scores and listen to the CD. The anthems are titled by their intended use: Anthem for All Saints’ Day, Anthem for St Catherine’s Day, Anthem for St Cecilia’s Day, Anthem for St Peter’s Day (all SATB and organ), Anthem for the Visitation (unaccompanied) and Anthem for Christ the King (SATB, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones and organ). The music of the anthems with organ often appears driven by the organ part, although the vocal writing is always very singable. There is a strong musical imagination at work, inspired by the poems which lie at their heart.
THE OFFERED CHRIST [D]
SATB and organ
Boosey & Hawkes 979-0-060-12933-9 £2.75
A commission for the 2013 Southern Cathedrals Festival, this work celebrates the Eucharist in the most vivid fashion. There is a range of typical MacMillan choral writing including highly decorated individual vocal lines, big contrasts, tightly imitative counterpoint contrasting with homophonic movement and gorgeously lyrical phrases extending over a wide vocal range. The work starts with the sopranos/trebles; lower parts enter – altos, then tenors, then basses. After a four part ‘Taste and see how sweet the Lord is. Alleluia’, voices drop out from top down so that there is an ATB section, a TB duet and a final intense bass exhortation to ‘Bless him all ye angels, bless him all ye powers’ with an ever-intensifying Alleluia to lead into a final spectacular full-organ flourish.
CAROLS: FAMILIAR WORDS WITH NEW TUNES
The Christmas carols reviewed in this section and the next are a selection from a much larger collection considered for review: they are those that I think are of good quality, accessible, enjoyable and appropriate to church, school and secular choirs. The carols which follow are therefore my own warmly-recommended choices. Any of them will enhance your Christmas programme. If you are reading this review too late for your choir this year, please consider the recommendations for next year!
WHAT CHILD IS THIS? [E–M]
Thomas Hewitt Jones
S solo, SATB and organ
Oxford X545 £1.85
INFANT HOLY [E–M]
SATB and organ
Oxford X554 £1.85
THE PROMISE OF PEACE (Two short carols) [E–M]
SATB with divisions
Encore Publications £1.95
WATTS’ CRADLE SONG [E–M]
Charles Villiers Stanford arr. Philip Moore
SATB and organ
Oxford X548 £1.85
LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS [E–M]
SATB with divisions
Novello NOV293579 £2.25
Here are six particularly beautiful carols, none of which is really difficult for SATB choirs. It is hard to write both simply and effectively, yet all these composers have done so as they set traditional words to newly composed, gentle and appealing melodies, expressing wonder at the birth of the Christ Child.
Thomas Hewitt Jones has written a haunting melody for What child is this?, accompanied by organ and set for SATB choir and soprano soloist. It appeared in Carols for Choirs 5, but is now reprinted separately. Malcolm Archer has composed an imaginative and unusual melody for the familiar Infant holy translation of a Polish carol: verse one is scored for sopranos accompanied by organ and verse two for SATB unaccompanied. Tenors, basses and altos have a little divisi, particularly effective at the end in the lush chords.
A tender shoot, the first of Ashley Grote’s two carols published under the overall title of The promise of peace, uses the familiar text by Goldschmidt, ideal for Advent. Unaccompanied and constructed in a similar way to Elizabeth Poston’s Jesus Christ the apple tree, with a unison soprano verse followed by SSAA verse 2, SATB verse 3 and a soprano unison, this is most effective. Watts’ cradle song is the second of his carols, and is absolutely beautiful – with lovely, warm Warlock-style harmonies, most effectively written for a four-part unaccompanied choir. The same Isaac Watts text replaces the words of Golden slumbers in Stanford’s song, masterfully arranged by Philip Moore. Previously available in a version for upper voices, this will now be welcomed by SATB choirs. Although dedicated to the choir of York Minster, other choirs that are able to feature a pure-toned descant line will enjoy this beautiful arrangement.
Christine Rossetti’s Love came down at Christmas is given a superb setting by Richard Lloyd for unaccompanied choirs that can summon eight parts. As in all the pieces reviewed in this section, although the notes are not difficult, a rewarding performance will depend on meticulous intonation.
CAROLS: MEDIEVAL WORDS IN 21ST-CENTURY SETTINGS
WHEN CHRIST WAS BORN OF MARY FREE [E–M]
SATB and organ
Oxford X534 £1.85
I SAW THREE SHIPS [E–M]
arr. Paul Trepte
SATB and organ
Encore Publications £2.95
NOVA! NOVA! [M]
Encore Publications £1.95
ROSE OF SUCH VIRTUE [M]
Oxford X537 £1.85
THE TRUTH FROM ABOVE [M]
arr. Richard Lloyd
SATB and organ
Encore Publications £2.35
That master of melodic invention, Malcolm Archer, has set the 15th-century text of When Christ was born of Mary free with great ingenuity, mainly in 7/8 time with a lively organ accompaniment. This cheerful and imaginative setting does need singers and an organist with accurate rhythmic control – though it really is not that difficult! This carol will be particularly relished by school choirs and the young at heart.
Paul Trepte has cleverly arranged the ‘other’ tune to I saw three ships for SATB choir and organ. Although vocal parts are not difficult, this exuberant arrangement needs a confident and accurate organist. The last verse includes an optional part for the congregation/audience which would provide a great finale to a carol concert, and should guarantee a smile on everyone’s face.
Louis Halsey’s unaccompanied carol for the annunciation, Nova! Nova! (‘News! News! “Ave” is made from “Eva”’) is a great setting, probably inspired by medieval music. There is a variety of verse treatment, including SAA and TBB verses and a jolly chorus, all arranged superbly by an expert in effective choral writing.
The text of No rose of such virtue is familiar, but here with music composed most effectively by Alan Bullard for unaccompanied SSATB choir. Soli and tutti contrast in this gentle carol with spacious choral writing.
As the basis for The truth from above, Richard Lloyd has set the text of ‘This is the truth sent from above’ to a traditional English carol tune rather than the more familiar folk tune used by Ralph Vaughan Williams. As with other arrangements by Richard Lloyd, this is a masterful and effective setting for choir and organ, which may be used effectively in Advent and Christmas carol services. It could effectively replace Adam lay ybounden after the first lesson in traditional carol services.
All these carols are warmly commended.
A NEW HEAVEN: 16 contemporary works for mixed voices [mostly D]
SATB with divisions, with and without keyboard
ed. Simon Halsey
Edition Peters EP 72475 £12.95
This volume appears to be an anthology of contemporary anthems available separately in the Faber Music and Edition Peters catalogues. Idioms range from Jonathan Harvey to Howard Goodall, from profound complexity to tuneful simplicity, taking in all manner of influences from jazz to ‘holy minimalism’. Everyone will have their favourites. I was particularly taken with the dancing Gloria from Jonathan Dove’s Missa Brevis and the slow-moving chords of Antony Pitts’s Adoro Te. Despite the inclusion of Goodall’s The Lord is my shepherd, the pieces are mostly difficult. Particularly valuable are Simon Halsey’s commentaries on each piece. The volume is certainly a good introduction to the diversity of church music being written at present by living British composers.
CLASSIC ANTHEMS for mixed-voice choirs [mostly M]
SATB with divisions, with and without keyboard
Novello NOV294371 £12.95
In a sense this is the opposite of the anthology described above. All from a single publisher’s catalogue, but in this case all the music is by composers long dead, and the pieces can well be described as ‘classic’. Many readers will know all the material here, and indeed many choirs will own all or most of it. Alphabetically from Adolphe Adam (O holy night! in John E. West’s arrangement) to S.S. Wesley (Ascribe unto the Lord and Blessed be the God and Father), via Attwood, Bainton, Brahms, Elgar, Balfour Gardiner, Hadley, Handel (a four-part version of the ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus) and on through the alphabet, this would be a very useful volume for a new church choir starting off with no music in its library, or a secular choir wanting to add some of the most popular church anthems to its repertoire via one publication, which with 246 pages is undoubtedly good value for money.
MUSIC FOR REMEMBRANCE
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM [E–M]: Festival service for young voices
Upper voices with keyboard
Score with CD and CD-ROM
RSCM S0152 £25.00 (affiliates £18.75)
The RSCM’s festival services for young voices are an inspiration for worship in school or church. We will remember them offers ways to remember the realities of war, to pray for those affected by war and those who have died, and to give thanks for freedom and for God’s peace and love. The music ranges from an opening ‘gathering song’ (formed from a cleverly-combined medley of First World War songs) to ‘I vow to thee my country’ (Thaxted), from the spiritual ‘Joshua fit the battle of Jericho’ to two settings of the Binyon poem which gives the service its title, one of them easy but effective by John Madden and one slightly more complicated by Mark Blatchley. ‘Silent night’ has an arrangement combining English and German text. Many choirs will find John Barnard’s anthem treatment of ‘The Servant Song’ useful on occasions beyond the context of remembrance.
The CD includes demonstration and backing tracks and the CDROM has also the readings, a photocopiable music booklet for singers, an order of service for congregation and notes on the anthems for choir trainers. Separate copies of the book will be needed for director and accompanist, but all singers’ material is included along with permission to copy.
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM [E/M–D]
Anthology of anthems for remembrance
Mixed voices with and without keyboard
Novello NOV294811 £12.95
This is a useful compilation from the back catalogues of Novello and its associated companies. Some of the 14 pieces, such as Barber’s Agnus Dei, Bainton’s And I saw a new heaven, Tavener’s Funeral Ikos and Harris’s Holy is the true light, may be already in the libraries of choirs at whom it is targeted, but there are other gems, some dating back a good many years, for which this book is well worth acquiring, such as Jeremy Dale Roberts’ I heard a voice, from the 1954 Requiem by the then 20-year-old composer, and Ernest Bullock’s unison setting of Holy is the true light.
Among comparatively recent pieces are Graham Fitkin’s The Christmas Truce, John Tavener’s Exhortation and Kohima, Richard Rodney Bennett’s exquisite A Good-Night, Eric Whitacre’s Nox aurumque, Tarik O’Regan’s We remember them and Paul Mealor’s In my dreams for the Military Wives Choir (but SATB), an easier piece in a collection that is mostly far
more demanding. Elgar appears three times, with the anthem They are at rest, Ian Tracey’s arrangement of ‘We will remember them’ from Elgar’s little-known With proud thanksgiving and David Hill’s ‘Requiem aeternam’ arrangement
of Nimrod from the ‘Enigma Variations’.
Gabriel Fauré, ed. Michael Higgins
S, Bar soli, SATB, organ
Vocal score RSCM E0291 £5.99 (affiliates £4.49)
This vocal score is intended for use with Michael Higgins’s arrangement of Fauré’s Requiem for string quintet and organ. The full score and instrumental parts are available to purchase from RSCM Music Direct (order no. E0292). A recording of this edition, performed by the Convivium Singers under Neil Ferris, is reviewed in the September 2014 edition of CMQ.
The most important point about this score is that the accompaniment is not arranged for piano, but for organ. The organ part in the vocal score is not, however, the same as the organ part in Higgins’s arrangement for strings and organ. Thus, the accompaniment in the vocal score is designed for performance by organ alone – and this is where the
edition will prove particularly useful. Adapting the accompaniment for the organ is not without challenges, and different organists come up with different solutions when playing from the piano arrangements found in most vocal scores. This edition does the problem-solving for the player, making it plain which notes should be played on the pedals, for example – and at what octave. Nothing is especially difficult, though some organists may blanch at the double-pedalling called for in the first 30 bars of the Sanctus. Next time you are asked to accompany Fauré’s Requiem, do
bear this arrangement in mind.
CREATOR OF THE STARS OF NIGHT [M/D]
S solo, SATB and opt. organ
Oxford 978-0-19-340204-1 £1.85
CHRIST IS THE MORNING STAR [M]
SATB and organ
Oxford 978-0-19-340302-4 £2.20
Partly based on a plainsong Advent hymn, Creator of the stars of night by Alan Bullard was written in honour of a soprano soloist and her Minneapolis choir. Naturally, the solo is an integral and important part of the anthem and needs an experienced and sensitive singer. The choir (unaccompanied or optionally doubled by organ) accompanies the soloist; all singers need a sure sense of intonation to do the anthem justice. Performed well, this will be most effective.
John Rutter’s new Advent carol, Christ is the morning star, was written for the choir of Clare College, Cambridge. The composer wrote the text inspired by words of the Venerable Bede. This effective and accessible anthem for four-part choir is accompanied by organ. It enhances the available Advent repertoire for choirs.
THIS ENDRIS NIGHT [E/M]
SATB and organ
Oxford 978-0-19-340164-8 £1.85
THE BETHLEHEM STAR [M/D]
SATB with divisions
Oxford 978-0-19-339867-2 £1.60
GIFTS FOR THE CHILD OF WINTER [M/D]
T Solo, SATB with divisions
Oxford 978-0-19-339471-1 £2.20
SONG OF THE CRIB [M/D]
SATB with divisions
Oxford 978-0-19-339447-6 £2.20
Malcolm Archer’s setting of This Endris Night is certainly carol-like: a jovial melody in 7/8 time gives the 15th-century words a lift. The composer’s great gift for melody and accessible writing for ‘ordinary’ choirs is everywhere apparent in this jolly carol, which is an enjoyable romp for singers and good fun for the organist.
Bob Chilcott’s three carols are all unaccompanied. The shortest, The Bethlehem Star, sets words by Gerald Manley Hopkins and employs divisi soprano and bass. Gentle, sustained and meditative, it was written in memory of Alan Greaves, the Sheffield organist murdered on his way to midnight Mass.
The contemporary poet, Charles Bennett, has supplied interesting texts for Gifts for the Child of Winter and Song of the Crib. Both are unaccompanied and employ divisi in all parts, so would challenge most parish church choirs, but will be relished by the experienced choral societies to which they are dedicated.
EASY ANTHEM ANTHOLOGIES
THE BRONZE COLLECTION BOOK 2
Unison, 2-part and SATB with and without keyboard
RSCM B0392 £9.95 (affiliates £7.46)
Choir trainers with candidates preparing for Bronze Awards will already know this book, or will very soon. But it is much more that just repertoire for the Award. I’ve used the initial Bronze Collection (now Book 1) for many years as a useful source of repertoire for the whole choir. This applies all the more to the new Bronze Collection Book 2 as, although it has just 20 pieces, they are exceptionally well chosen. The net has been cast more widely than for Book 1 by allowing in on-RSCM copyrights. So Britten’s New Year Carol, Hurford’s Litany to the Holy Spirit and Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The truth from above are among the well-loved pieces joining compositions or arrangements by David Iliff, Simon Lole, Peter Nardone, David Ogden and especially John Barnard, whose contributions include an imaginative and sensitive arrangement of the spiritual Lord, I want to be a Christian.
Martin How’s Easter Greeting has the spirit of his popular Praise, O praise rather than the gentler feeling of his pieces in Book 1. Arrangements by Martin Sirvatka of I’m a goin’ up a yonder and by Harrison Oxley of Wood’s Mater ora filium are particularly welcome. Add Bach and Mozart, Purcell and Attwood, Wood and Woodward, David Sanger and Peter Skellern – this is a richly conceived collection, enhanced by a seasonal/thematic index, training notes by John Wardle and the complete Bronze Award syllabus.
THE NEW NOVELLO BOOK OF SHORT AND EASY ANTHEMS [E–E/M]
selected and edited by David Hill
SATB with and without organ
Novello NOV294393 £9.95
This is an inspired resource, with 37 pieces suitable as introits or short anthems. Some are unaccompanied, others have fairly straightforward accompaniment; most are in four parts but many have flexible voicing. They have been selected with a view to quick learning as well as musical and liturgical worth, and include interesting contemporary pieces and some less well-known 16th-century compositions. Composers born in the 1960s, 70s and 80s feature alongside pieces already published by Novello such as Richard Lloyd’s View me, Lord, Lennox Berkeley’s beautiful I sing of a maiden and Herbert Howells’s not so well-known God be in my head. John Tavener’s Mother of God, here I stand and Benjamin Britten’s Corpus Christi Carol also appear. There are pieces by cathedral and parish musicians experienced in producing effective and accessible music on limited rehearsal: Matthew Owens, Rupert Jeffcoat, Ashley Grote, James Davy, David Briggs, Martin Baker, Peter Miller and Jonathan Wikeley make significant contributions that stand alongside composers such as Tallis, Gibbons, Purcell, Bull, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner and Charles Wood.
Texts are appropriate for general use and for different church seasons and occasions. Above all, there is great variety. Through these short pieces, choirs can be introduced to a range of effective and varied styles. What a joy to find an anthem book by many composers with something new to say musically, rather than a collection of works by ‘house composers’ that often share the same style! David Hill has made an interesting and practical selection that deserves to be well used as a resource by cathedral as well as school and parish choirs.
SATB THEMES WITH VARIATIONS
BROTHER JAMES'S AIR [E]
SATB and keyboard
Oxford 978-0-19-337224-5 £2.15
CHILDREN OF THE HEAVENLY FATHER [E]
SATB and piano
Oxford 978-0-19-974728-3 £2.15
FAIREST LORD JESU [E]
German folk song, arr. Antony Baldwin
SATB and organ
Banks Music Publications ECS538 £1.50
CHRIST, WHO KNOWS ALL HIS SHEEP [E]
SATB and organ
Banks Music Publications ECS551 £1.50
COME HOLY GHOST, OUR SOULS INSPIRE [E]
Sarum plainsong, arr. Antony Baldwin
SATB and organ
Banks Music ECS567 £1.60
THE GIFT OF CHARITY [E/M]
SATB and organ
Oxford X526 £2.20
These six anthems all follow a simple formula in which the same tune is treated in different ways for each verse, usually with organ interludes. The very easy hymn arrangements of Wilberg, written for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, I find rather sentimental. Much of Brother James's Air is written in two parts and there is not a soprano note higher than the C above middle C! This tune is found in many hymn books and there are more interesting arrangements available such as those by Gordon Jacob or Malcolm Archer. Children of the Heavenly Father uses a simple Swedish melody for its theme. This hymn, apparently more familiar in America than the UK, is freely available on the internet.
Antony Baldwin's three arrangements are all easy. Fairest Lord Jesu is quite attractive, with a descant of alleluias in the last verse. His composed hymn tune to Christ, who knows all his sheep is straightforward, with two verses in unison and one in harmony. Choirs interested in performing this text should also consider a rather good setting of these words by Charles Wood included in Hymns Ancient and Modern New Standard and elsewhere, which works beautifully as an anthem. Come Holy Ghost is an effective, strophic setting of the plainsong Veni Creator Spiritus arranged in triple time, and with one verse harmonized for SATB - it is very straightforward with a descant of alleluias to enliven the last verse.
In a different league from any of the above is John Rutter's The Gift of Charity, a paraphrase of I Corinthians 13. Rutter's melodic gift and flair for attractive arrangement is apparent in this anthem, and although a little more difficult than the preceding pieces, this is something that will appeal to parish and school choirs. It is the star of this batch. Gordon Appleton
SATB ANTHEMS SERVING THE TEXT
HYMN TO THE TRINITY [E/M]
SATB and organ
Banks Music Publications ECS559 £1.50
CAEDMON OF WHITBY'S FIRST HYMN [M/D]
Encore Publications £2.25
LATE HAVE I LOVED THEE [M/D]
SATB and organ
Church Music Society CMS 044 £1.85
These three pieces illustrate sensitive setting of texts by contemporary composers. In only 34 bars, Christopher Rathbone sets with great awareness the traditional office hymn 'All hail, adored Trinity'. This is most effective and succinctly written for SATB and organ (a two-part version is also available). It would be an attractive introit or anthem for Trinity Sunday or for those churches dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
Tradition maintains that Caedmon of Whitby was the first English poet whose name is known. Dating from the seventh century, these words apparently came to him in a dream when he was looking after animals in Whitby Abbey at the time of St Hilda. Philip Moore has set them sensitively for unaccompanied choir. The singers need confidence and experience; the long lines in voice parts are attractive and the piece ends in a wonderful climax. I included this anthem some years ago in the repertoire of RSCM Voices North and can vouch for its effectiveness.
The well-known prayer by St Augustine of Hippo from his Confessions is set with great sensitivity for choir and organ by Harry Bramma, a past RSCM Director. The composer exploits the contrast between upper voices in four parts and men's voices; the straightforward organ part is integral to the anthem and registration instructions are detailed. Although the notes are not difficult to sing, this sensitive, gentle music requires excellent tuning from the singers. It would be effective in any church service, especially one with a theme of vocation, such as confirmation or ordination.
MUSIC FOR UPPER VOICES
THE LORD'S PRAYER [E/M]
Trinidadian Folk Song, arr. Gwyn Arch
SSA and piano
Banks Music Publications FM007 £1.90
AVE MARIA [E/M]
Giulio Caccini arr. Gwyn Arch
SSA and piano
Banks Music Publications FMOOl £1.60
HOW CAN I KEEP FROM SINGING? [E/M]
American hymn, arr. Gwyn Arch
SSA and piano
Banks Music Publications FM006 £1.60
COME, ALL WHO THIRST [E/M]
Luigi Cherubini arr. Gwyn Arch
SSA and piano
Banks Music Publications FM002 £1.60
Gwyn Arch's arrangements demonstrate his practical musicianship and experience in directing choirs. These four pieces from Banks 'Music for Female Choirs' series will be useful to directors of three-part SSA choirs. The well-known Trinidadian Lord's Prayer sets the words over a gentle Caribbean folk-style piano accompaniment. Ave Maria, attributed to Caccini, has only these two words, and has become known through recordings by popular singers. The informative notes tell us that it was probably composed by a twentieth-century Russian composer and is a pastiche. How can I keep from singing? is an arrangement of a popular American hymn; Come all who thirst, for three equal voices, is attributed to Cherubini. None of these pieces is difficult, but they are worth exploring if you are looking for 'light classics' for upper voice choirs.
QUANTA QUALIA [M]
SSAA, S solo and keyboard
Novello NOV293403 £2.25
I AM THE GENTLE NIGHT [E]
2-part voices, keyboard, opt. guitar
Novello NOV293513 £2.25
A CELTIC BLESSING [M]
SSA and piano
Novello NOV293623 £1.99
SALVATOR MUNDI [M]
SS and organ
Faber Music 978-0-571-53739-6 £2.50
Arranged for SSAA and organ or piano, Quanta Qualia needs a soprano soloist who can reach top D above the treble stave (the song was recorded by Hayley Westenra). Unfortunately no translation is given, but the text seems to mean 'My soul, wait! How great and wonderful will be the joys of the meeting'. This could be just the music to use before a church committee gathers!
Paul Mealor has written both words and music for I am the gentle night, a two-part song dedicated to the National Boys' Choir of Scotland, accompanied optionally by classical guitar with organ or piano. It is not difficult and I am sure that singers will enjoy it. Does the 'I' in the text refer to a supreme being or a lover? You can watch a performance on YouTube.
Craig McLeish has set in his Celtic Blessing the words 'May the road rise to meet you' for SSA. His attractive melody is first sung in unison, then harmonized, as the composer says 'to help the choir singing contrapuntal lines'. He has created a song that is both accessible and challenging.
Salvator Mundi, for SS choir and organ by David Bednall, has an idiomatic organ accompaniment, and melodies which the singers will enjoy. The composer exploits Baroque conventions such as the interval of a second resolving to a third. It would be an effective anthem during Passiontide.
THE GIBBONS HYMNAL: HYMNS AND ANTHEMS [E-M]
ed. David Skinner
Novello NOV294360 £8.95
This excellent volume collects the ten surviving full anthems by Gibbons, along with the 17 songs that the composer composed for George Wither's The Hymnes and Songs of the Church. Although some of the latter tunes are known today as hymns (Song 1 and Song 22, and also Song 9 which reappears as Song 34 or Angels' Song), this is the first modern publication to give Wither's texts beyond the first verse. The editor suggests sensibly that these might be useful as introits or elsewhere in the liturgy.
Of the full anthems, choirs that enjoy the few well-known ones (Hosanna to the Son of David, Almighty and everlasting God and 0 clap your hands) will certainly find many more to add to their repertoire, not least the very short, penitential 0 Lord, how do my woes increase and 0 Lord, I lift my heart to thee, with just 18 and 21 bars each. This is a useful, scholarly, practical and well-priced publication.
SORTIE from MESSE BASSE Op.30 [M/D]
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £7.00
Vierne’s Messe Basse of 1912 is a six-movement organ piece designed to accompany a said Mass. The Sortie is its finest movement and, in the words of Vierne’s pupil and biographer, Bernard Gavoty, ‘gives those, who never heard Vierne improvise, a very good idea of an improvisation at the end of Mass at Notre-Dame de Paris’. Written on two staves for organ or harmonium, David Patrick has separated the pedal part onto a third stave and transposed it down an octave in a couple of places. The toccata-like semiquavers are not as difficult as they sound in what would be an excellent, sparkling final voluntary.
SYMPHONY NO.5 Op.47 [D]
ed. Helga Schauerte-Maubouet
Bärenreiter BA9225 £26.50
Louis Vierne’s six organ symphonies follow a rising sequence of minor keys from no.1 in D minor up to no.6 in B minor (and the few sketches that have survived for no.7 are in C minor). Bärenreiter’s complete edition has so far included nos. 1, 2, 3 and 6, and now comes no.5 in A minor, the largest of them, and one that was notorious for the number of misprints in its original 1925 Durand edition. In this handsome volume the original edition, the composer’s autograph and an anonymous list of corrections preserved with the autograph have all be consulted. Details are given in the critical report (in English, French and German), and in an introduction which is able to explore the work’s genesis partly with reference to previously unpublished letters written by the composer. This new edition can now safely be regarded as the definitive one for all six symphonies.
PRELUDES AND FUGUES I
PRELUDES AND FUGUES II
Johann Sebastian Bach
ed. David Schulenberg
Breitkopf EB8801 and 8802 €24.80 each
These two volumes in Breitkopf’s complete Bach organ works in 10 volumes promise exceptionally well for the rest of the series. The most immediately obvious difference between these volumes and the Neue Bach Ausgabe is the inclusion of a CD-ROM with each volume, from which the user can view or print works of dubious authenticity and also secondary versions that can be compared with the principal versions including in the printed score. No longer is it necessary to have separately published critical reports, or more pages of detailed notes at the end of the score than there are of actual music. David Schulenberg, renowned as a performer as well as a Bach scholar (although on harpsichord, clavichord and fortepiano rather than organ), follows most modern scholarship in choosing where possible to follow a single source that can be traced back to the composer or his immediate circle, and listing divergences from that.
Volumes I and II include between them the complete Preludes and Fugues. In the first volume, the C major Prelude and Fugue BWV 545 illustrates the approach of the edition. Schulenberg describes how it survives in at least five distinct versions. The printed score give the ‘normal’ two-movement version, plus an additional trio movement inserted to form a three-movement work, plus a shorter early version of the prelude. In addition, on the CD-ROM appears the fugue of the same early version, since that fugue is only preserved in a source of uncertain authority, and a five-movement version of the work in B flat with extra second and fourth movements, the responsibility for which is even less certain. Organists will not need to throw away their NBA editions, but will certainly find enlightenment in having these new volumes as well.
NEARLY COMPLETE DURUFLÉ
OEUVRES POUR ORGUE / MUSIC FOR ORGAN [D]
Hal Leonard DF 16175 £13.90
Here is great news for organists: all the Duruflé organ works originally published separately by Éditions Durand in a single volume at a sensible price (three of the pieces included here each used to cost more than this entire volume). It is almost the complete Duruflé: his only organ music not published by Durand was a late Fugue sur le thème du Carillon des Heures (described in John Henderson’s Directory as ‘not in the same class as the earlier pieces’) and the Prelude sur l’introit de l’Epiphanie – a pity that couldn’t be included as it is shorter and much easier than his other organ music. What you do have, in reprints of the original editions, are the Scherzo Op.2, Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le thème du Veni creator Op 4, Suite Op.5, Prelude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain and the Méditation of 1964. Once upon a time these wonderful if very difficult pieces would have set you back £75: grab this collection and be grateful!
Subtitled ‘Five Peaceful Preludes and a Postlude’, this little Suite explores different hymn tunes associated with the feast of Pentecost. Samuel Webbe’s Veni, Sancte Spiritus will probably be the best known. There is a preponderance of tunes that may once have been popular, but no longer. At the end comes a setting of J.B. Dykes’s Veni Creator Spiritus along with the instruction that ‘the choir might be encouraged to sing the first verse of AMR 152 in unison here.’ A splendid idea – but Hymns Ancient & Modern Revised (1950) seems to have been the last mainstream hymn book in which the tune appeared. Nevertheless, we regularly play chorale preludes based on tunes that are no longer (if ever) found in our hymn books, and there is much to enjoy in all six short pieces: well worth exploring for an organist’s peaceful Pentecost.
FANTASIE Op.73 and DOUBLE THÊME VARIÉ [M/D]
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £8.00
Rousseau (1853–1904) studied with César Franck and subsequently worked with him for 15 years at Sainte-Clotilde. Acclaimed in his day, his music does not deserve the neglect into which it has fallen. John Henderson describes it as ‘of uniformly high quality’, and so it appears from these two pieces that David Patrick has combined in one volume. Memorable tunes set in an unrestrained way that displays its emotional heart on its sleeve may suggest the opera house rather than the organ loft, and indeed Rousseau was also noted as a composer of operas. I’m sure that any congregation would enjoy hearing either of these pieces after a service.
arr. Alexandre Guilmant
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £4.00
One might hear shades of Fauré’s Dolly Suite Berceuse in this music, even without knowing that the original Saint-Saëns piece was a piano duet. Guilmant’s transcription makes it sound, however, as if originally conceived for organ. Registration is given for a three-manual instrument, but it would work fine on two or even a single manual. Three minutes of relaxed Gallic charm.
ORGAN AND OTHER INSTRUMENTS
CATHEDRAL SOUNDS [E/M]
Charles Villiers Stanford
arr. Carsten Klomp and Heiko Petersen
Brass ensemble and organ
Bärenreiter BA11204 score and wind score £11.50
Bärenreiter’s enterprising ‘Organ Plus Brass’ series reaches its fourth volume with the surprising choice of five of Stanford’s choir and organ anthems, but Stanford’s choral writing transcribes well for brass and these are effective arrangements. Three of the anthems are the ‘hymns’ that Stanford arranged for choir and organ to follow his Op.113 ‘Bible Songs’: In thee is gladness, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty and O for a closer walk with God. The other two are How beauteous are their feet and Arise, shine. The main publication comprises a score for organ and brass with an inserted brass score (in C). The brass score is also available separately, as are parts for trumpets (in C), horn (in F) and trombones (in C).
PEDALLING FOR ORGANISTS: a complete instruction in pedalling illustrated with photographs
Anne Marsden Thomas
Cramer 90670 £15.95
This is a splendid book, with an abundance of exercises and illustrations. Particularly useful are the 178 indexed examples from ‘real’ pieces of music, ranging from Bach’s predecessors to Bonnet and Dupré (Howells is included in the composer list, but doesn’t seem to have made the final printing, perhaps for copyright reasons). There are lots of exercises for beginner organists, and the 37 chapters introduce technical features in a systematic way.
There is an awareness of stylistic issues, and discussion of the appropriate use of an articulated touch or a legato one or a mixture of the two. I grew up on Henry Phillips’s Modern Organ Pedalling and even in the 1970s was aware that its one-size-fits-all approach was becoming dated. It is fascinating to compare the different approaches to the same examples. In, for example, Bach’s ‘Great’ G minor fugue, at bar 57 Phillips treated the first of each pair of semiquavers as the bass line and made them quavers played toe-heel-toe-heel by the left foot whilst the right foot taps out the intervening notes staccato. Marsden Thomas treats it as a simple exercise in toe alternation.
There is much of value here for organists of beginner or advanced standard with material for study and, usefully, for sight reading. Order it quickly – the price increases to £18.95 after 3l December.
GETTING STARTED ON ORGAN IMPROVISATION: A new approach
This is a book for beginners. It assumes very little harmonic knowledge, starting for example by checking that the improviser can play scales easily and confidently in the five most common major and minor keys. In the early stages it concentrates on melodic improvisation, allowing harmonic understanding to develop in later stages. As such it will be very useful for players without a strong harmony and counterpoint background but who need to be able to improvise. It will provide the player with a range of ideas to call on and use as appropriate. Emphasis is also given to planning and practising improvisation to give confidence. There are many players whose improvising would grow in confidence, or indeed start for the first time, as a result of this encouraging book.
VOLUNTARIES OR PIECES FOR THE ORGAN [E/M]
Arcangelo Corelli adapted by John Marsh
ed. David Patrick and John Collins
Fitzjohn Music Publications £12.00
John Marsh (1752-1826) was inspired by hearing, as a young man, the playing of John Stanley, and went on to compose some 324 organ voluntaries, 39 symphonies and much more. A considerable part of his output was written for performance in Chichester, including in the cathedral where he may have been assistant organist. Corelli is sometimes described as the first composer widely renowned for instrumental music, and his pieces appeared in many transcriptions (including one by J.S. Bach). Marsh adapted 28 pieces as voluntaries, and his extensive introduction is reprinted in full, where he discusses earlier adaptations by Billington and Miller which were for pianoforte or organ. Marsh emphasizes that his selection is of pieces ‘well adapted to the organ’ and in a style suitable for church use, ‘with a view to assist the young organ player’. The music is tuneful, polished and graceful; editorial notes by David Patrick and John Collins will illuminate its performance, whether by Marsh’s young organ player or a seasoned recitalist.
THE SECOND FAGUS COLLECTION OF VOLUNTARIES FOR MANUALS: 29 miscellaneous pieces from 18th to 21st centuries [E-M/E]
This anthology ranges from Handel and Greene to such Fagus stalwarts as Stephen Burtonwood and Ronald Watson, via Wesley, Sullivan, Karg-Elert, Elgar and much more. Paul Edwards contributes three particularly pleasing pieces, including a pastiche 18th-century voluntary as if providing a link between the earlier and later pieces collected here. For an organist building up a repertoire of manuals-only pieces, this book would provide a useful range of pieces in different styles.
WITH VERY EASY PEDALS
AIR FROM ‘BROOK GREEN SUITE’ [E/M]
arr. Michael Dawney and Geoffrey Atkinson
Michael Dawney’s arrangement was first published by Oecumuse, and is now reissued with some unnecessary awkwardnesses on the organ removed by Geoffrey Atkinson. Holst wrote Brook Green Suite for string orchestra for his pupils at St Paul’s Girls School at Brook Green, Hammersmith, London. It was one of his final works. The Air has a wistful, elegiac feel and transcribes well for organ.
OXFORD HYMN SETTINGS FOR ORGANISTS: EPIPHANY: 20 original pieces on hymns for Epiphany, the Baptism of Christ and the Transfiguration [E/M-M/D]
ed. Rebecca Groom te Velde and David Blackwell
Oxford 978-0-19-339345-5 £10.95
This is the second volume in OUP’s eminently practical new series for organists, and maintains the standard of excellence set by its predecessor. The 20 pieces cover widely-used tunes, from Be still through Greensleeves, Kings of Orient and Wie schön leuchtet. Many will not be limited to strictly seasonal use. All are by contemporary composers, written in a variety of styles, ranging from quiet contemplative to rousing postludes. The idiom varies from slightly Baroque to unfrighteningly contemporary.
Of particular note are the settings of two worship songs, Regular readers will know my views, but Be still and Shine, Jesus, shine are two of the best. Ashley Grote’s Prelude on the former is utterly charming. The tune is rhythmically modified, with a neat twist to traditional diatonic harmony. Shine, Jesus, shine, set by David Blackwell, is an exciting postlude, using largely 3+3+2 quaver groupings as the main accompanying figure. There is a more sedate middle section, acting as a trio to the main section.
James Biery’s Aria on Greensleeves provides a handy alternative to the well-known setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
As with the previous Advent and Christmas volume, these compositions have brought a fresh perspective to this important musical form. The book should form a basic part of every parish organist’s library.
FRANZ SCHUBERT FOR ORGAN [mostly M/D]
arr. Erich Benedikt
Doblinger (U.E.) 02 489 £17.95
One’s first inclination on seeing this volume is to ask ‘why?’. Then one starts playing the transcriptions and the answer comes – because the pieces chosen work so well on the instrument, so idiomatically in the arrangements by Erich Benedikt. This may not surprise readers who sometimes play an arrangement of Schubert’s ‘Death and the maiden’ quartet before funerals; indeed the first four of the 14 pieces in this collection are arrangements from other string quartet movements. There follow a little-known piano movement, a song from Winterreise, a ‘trio’ transcription of a three-part vocal piece, and then five transcriptions from Schubert’s sacred music including what must be the best-known piece here: the Agnus Dei from the Mass in G. For recital use, the most important piece may be a transcription of the sketches of a B minor Andante from Schubert’s last symphony (in D, D936A), from short-score sketches that were only discovered in 1978 and that are almost completely worked out. Here is a piece of mature, idiosyncratic Schubert awaiting performance.
MASTERS OF THE QUEEN’S MUSIC
Peter Maxwell Davies
Chester Music CH81290 £5.95
This latest offering from the outgoing Master of the Queen’s Music is a substantial, generous work that shows Maxwell Davies’ undiminished compositional energy and reaffirms his lifelong commitment to the organ. Commissioned for the 2013 City of London Festival and first performed at St Paul’s Cathedral by Simon Johnson, Capstone makes full use both of the breadth of the instrument’s palette and the building’s spacious acoustic. From the opening grand crescendo, through a series of arching phrases anchored over strong pedal points, mercurial contrapuntal gestures and moments of stillness, to the triumphant return of the opening gesture that finally melts away into the furthest corners of the building, this is a commanding work of great depth that demands serious respect from organists and listeners.
THE WILD REEDS [D]
Chester Music CH80795 £9.95
Just as the outgoing Master of the Queen’s Music produces a fine new work for the organ, so does the new incumbent of the post. The Wild Reeds was commissioned by Thomas Trotter and first performed by him at Birmingham City Hall in 2013 to mark his 30th year as the city’s organist. The title calls to mind two works written for Michael Bonaventure in the early 1980s, Ettrick Banks and Wild Mossy Mountains, and this new work does indeed retain a sense of wide, remote landscapes, though the tonal language is a little more forgiving and the textures are less fragmented. The work is a set of six variations on a theme inspired by eastern European folk music for outdoor instruments: parallel harmonies and ecstatic figurations abound but ultimately this is a delicate, touching work that will satisfy experienced organists and audiences.
MORE CONTEMPORARY IDIOMS
PETER’S MIRACULOUS CATCH OF FISH [M]
Reading the composer’s preface to this work, the phrase ‘the piece was first started … when I was at school and was about thirty bars long’ did not initially inspire confidence, but further exploration reveals a charming and well-argued piece. Dissonance abounds but is well controlled; mysterious chords alternate with muscular counterpoint to create a colourful exploration of the biblical tale of the title. This would be a fine piece for liturgical or recital use.
A FANSYE [M/D]
Doblinger (U.E.) 02 497 £11.95
This reviewer has long since been an advocate of the music of the Innsbruck-based Kurt Estermann, and I am pleased to see this new addition to the catalogue. This work was composed in 2010 to mark both the 500th anniversary of the Van Covelens instrument at Alkmaar and also the 450th anniversary of Innsbruck’s Ebert organ, and joins the canon of new music that explores the possibilities of historical instruments. As the title suggests, it takes the form of a 16th-century keyboard ‘Fancy’, taking delight in ‘deforming’ (as the composer puts it in his preface) the conventions of the genre structurally, harmonically, figuratively and rhythmically. Great fun!
VOLUNTARIES WITH PEDALS
FANTASIE-SONATE AND TWO PRELUDES Op.83 [M/D]
Edition Dohr 11422 (U.E.) £12.95
Hesse’s Op.83 begins with two short preludes, one in E flat major, the other in C minor. Both are interesting, not difficult, and useful as voluntaries. The Fantasie-Sonate is a totally different kettle of fish. Written as a continuous movement, it divides into five sections, some of which could be played separately, though this would do a degree of violence to the concept of the work. Christian Vitalis, the editor, comments that Hesse ‘strives to resemble Bach but incorporates contemporary influences’. This fine work will be well worth the practice needed. A two-manual organ will do, but the bigger the better.
SYMPHONIC PIECE [D]
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £8.00
The Swedish organist Harald Fryklof might well be better known to church musicians if he had not died in1919 at the age of 36, just a few months after he became organist of Stockholm’s ‘Great Church’ Storkyrkan. David Patrick describes Fryklof’s admiration for the harmonic imagination of Reger and the classical purity of Nielsen. This piece is certainly ‘symphonic’: the opening is dramatic, and then unfolds by contrast between this and ‘pastorale tranquillo’ sections and a ripely romantic Adagio. But overall it is surging, exciting drive of the opening material that wins through and brings the work to a majestic conclusion.
LEICHTE ORGELWERKE (EASY ORGAN WORKS) [E]
ed. Hans-Peter Bähr
Dr J. Butz BU 2627 15.00€
There are 28 pieces of varying length, conveniently arranged in groups of keys. The shorter items, often only a page long, are useful as easily-read gap-fillers for those of us whose improvisational skills are less than admirable. The usual collection of Versets, Marches, pieces for Communion and Sorties makes up the book, some more attractive than others. The longer items are more satisfying to play, but don’t expect the fireworks of the major well-known works. I particularly liked the longer Verse on page 42 - the pieces are unfortunately not numbered – and the Sortie on page 12. This is a handy collection for the pianist turned organist and useful to have around.
Dr J. Butz BU 2615 13.00€
This is a pleasant addition to the earlier books (Collage, Mosaik and Contrasts). The composer explains that he has written in a ‘broadly romantic’ idiom; the pieces are well suited for use as voluntaries, for teaching and for recitals. Of the six, the opening ‘Trumpet Tune’ has a good, strong melody and is certainly not run of the mill; ‘Prelude on an old Irish Tune’ is a very likeable essay on St Columba. This book is worth having on the console.
HYMN PRELUDE ON THE PASSION CHORALE (Galatians 6.1)
MEDITATION AND VARIATIONS ON ‘PICARDY’
Fagus-music.com £3.00 and £5.00
Trevor Webb reviewed Stephen Burtonwood’s Meditation and Two Preludes on the Passion Chorale in CMQ, March 2014. As it did for J.S. Bach, the chorale attracts the composer back for fresh treatments, in this case a ‘Hymn Prelude’ starting quietly but with a crescendo over 12 bars to the main part of the piece, which is a fortissimo statement of the chorale tune (‘Largo e maestoso’) with thick chords (much doubling between RH and LH and between LH and pedals) in the composer’s reharmonization. The fortissimo remains until a suddenly quiet, five-bar coda. Galatians 6.1 is cited on the music (a verse which includes ‘in a spirit of gentleness’) and one wonders whether there is a personal message contained within the music – no programme note or other hint is given. But if you have a context within your Holy Week music for such an approach, then do play it!
The Meditation and Variations on ‘Picardy’, also a tune that tends to inspire gentler treatments from other composers, is here presented ‘Lento maestoso’ and ‘dramatico con espressione’ and fortissimo to start, and the same to finish except that it is now triple forte. There are two quiet variations, including an attractive one with a quasi-canonic 4-foot pedal melody, but the overall effect is dramatic and bold, not to say aggressive.
TWO SCOTTISH PIECES: Celtic Elegy and A Tribute to John Hope, Trumpeter
Here are two well-written and effective pieces. The Celtic Elegy has a wistful lyricism, with a touch of anguish in its central section. The Tribute to John Hope is a rollicking trumpet tune, disturbingly catchy, that deserves to become popular.
THREE PIECES: Scherzo Symphonique Concertant, Jubilant March, Prelude and Fugue in G minor
ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £10.00
Faulkes composed some 800 organ pieces, of which around 500 were published. Now much neglected, his music is often described as sentimental/ However, for this little collection, David Patrick has chosen three pieces to which that description could not be applied. The Scherzo has a forward momentum that carries one along with it. The Jubilant March is what its title says – I will add this to my collection of pieces to suggest for wedding marches where ‘something different’ is requested. The fugue looks rather dry at first, but has some delightful episodes and a ‘big’ last 20 bars that would demand applause.
OXFORD HYMN SETTINGS FOR ORGANISTS: ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS [M–M/D]
ed. Rebecca Groom te Velde and David Blackwell
Oxford 978-0-19-339233-5 £18.95
There are 38 original pieces. The stated aim of this new series is ‘to provide quality music based on well-known hymn tunes for church organists’. There are pieces specially written by composers from Great Britain and the United States, and for all parts of the liturgy. The book is essentially practical, and covers a wide selection of familiar tunes for the Advent and Christmas period. Being specially composed, there is plenty of exciting material to work through.
It is difficult to restrict oneself to a few items for special mention; ones that struck me, because of their diversity of style, were Alan Bullard’s Stille Nacht, James Vivian’s In dulci jubilo and David Bednall’s Forest Green – but this is where it is difficult to stop. What pleased me most was the great variety of styles: some approaches are more conventional, such as David Thorne’s trio on Noël; others are unexpected takes on familiar tunes, such as Rebecca Groom te Velde’s God rest you merry – Dance. Somehow the whole book felt quite different from what I expected: it is definitely a volume to have on the console this Christmas season.
18TH-CENTURY ENGLISH ORGAN MUSIC: A GRADED ANTHOLOGY [E–M/D]
compiled and edited by David Patrick
Oxford University Press Vol. 1: 978-0-19-338919-9, Vol. 2: 978-0-19-338916-8, Vol. 3: 978-0-19-338917-5, Vol. 4: 978-0-19-338918-2 £9.95 each
For a long time, David Patrick’s complete editions of the music of 18th-century organists have given us scholarly collections from the works of a wide variety of composers, some more obscure than others. Quite a few of the 65 pieces in these four volumes will, I am sure, lead players to those complete editions.
The books are graded. One problem with music of this genre is that often it looks easy to sightread, but, for an authentic and accurate performance, even the simplest pieces need proper preparation; those here are no exception. The introduction to each volume is of great help. The pieces cover a wide range of composers, with some familiar
names – Handel, Boyce, Hook, Dupuis for example – and others less familiar: Broderip, Garth, Burney, Linley, to name a few. Wherever you look, there is plenty that will please as voluntaries and in concert, and also that is ideal for filling up those uncertain gaps whilst waiting for a tardy bride.
Beautifully produced as usual, this collection is a worthy addition to the many collections of 18th century English organ music published since C.H. Trevor’s pioneering books.
SIX VOLUNTARIES [E]
Edward Kendall (attrib.) ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £8.00
Not be found in the OUP volumes, these voluntaries were published by Kendall while he was organist at Falmouth, and date from about 1775. The editorial notes provide useful information, which will help in performance. The music is attractive, pleasant if predictable, and a pleasure to play.
ANTHOLOGIES WITH PEDALS
ENGLISH ORGAN MUSIC OF THE 18TH AND 19TH CENTURIES [M–M/D]
Edition Peters EP72533 £7.95
The book contains 17 pieces drawn from the Peters organ catalogue, including some material from the ‘Tallis to Wesley’ series; I could find no duplication with David Patrick’s books. The composers are Alcock, Burney, Boyce, Greene, Stanley, Wesley and Walmisley.
Alcock’s Voluntary No.10 is in C.H. Trevor and the second item by Greene is the well-known piece in C minor. The four Stanley voluntaries are selected from Opp.5, 6 and 7. The three Wesley pieces include the familiar Air usually paired with the Gavotte. The two pieces by Walmisley are Prelude in E minor and Prelude and Fugue in E minor. Both require pedals, the fugue in particular demanding a good pedal technique.
GERMAN CHORALE PRELUDES OF THE 17TH AND 18TH CENTURIES [M]
Edition Peters EP72532 £7.95
This useful book has 32 preludes by many different composers of the period. Ten require pedals, the part usually being straightforward and not always printed on a separate stave. The majority cover only one or two pages, making them handy for filling up liturgical gaps. All of the names will be familiar: Pachelbel, Walther, Telemann and Buxtehude to mention a few, thought the preludes are likely to be less known.
Isaac van Vleck Flagler, ed. Jens-Michael Thies
Butz Musikverlag 2580 s15.00
Flagler (1844–1909) was an American organist who studied with Batiste and Merkel in Paris and Dresden. One of the founders of the American Guild of Organists, he had a distinguished career; his organ music was popular in services and concerts in America and England. The style is of salon music, being in the Romantic tradition with good melodies and what the editor describes as ‘a sound structural technique’.
The 12 pieces provide good material for services and for lighter recital moments. There are few technical difficulties and a modest two-manual instrument will do them justice. I agree with the editor when he hopes that this music, ‘so agreeable for listeners and performers alike, will again be heard in services and concerts’.
ENJOY THE ORGAN 2 [E/M]
ed. Karl-Peter Chilla
Bärenreiter BA11208 £11.50
The second book in this enjoyable series is much the mixture as before. The only piece I recognized was the Gossec Tambourin; the remaining ten range from Walther to Stanford. The latter, Prelude Op.101, No.1 is the hardest, with a much trickier pedal part than the rest. There is a good variety of styles, from the decidedly lighthearted Communion sur Bellini by de Vilbac to a more solid Praeludium und Fuge by Walther.
LES CHAUSSETTES ROUGES [D]
Cantate Domino 3100 £5.95
Cantate Domino 3101 £6.80
PASSACAILLE IN G MINOR [D]
Cantate Domino 3102 £7.55
FANTAISIE ET FUGUE SUR LE NOM B.A.C.H. [D]
Cantate Domino 3103 £12.10
YOROKOBI (PIÈCE JOYEUSE) [D]
Cantate Domino 3105 £5.95
Lionel Rogg’s self-reinvention continues apace, with an energy he has shown throughout his long career: as well as being a peerless recitalist and perceptive teacher, he has in later years produced a corpus of excellent compositions, of which these five works for organ are the latest examples. As with his students, Rogg demands a secure technique from those who wish to play his music: all these pieces are challenging to play, but are largely tonal and will be good material for recitals. Moments of repose are few and far between, but excitement abounds, from the mighty climaxes of the Passacaglia and B.A.C.H. settings to the rumba rhythms of the quirky ‘Red Shoes’ and other dance rhythms in Boléro. My personal favourite is Yorokobi (Japanese for ‘joy’), a work of irregular rhythms, additive melodies, grace and charm.
VOLUNTARIES WITH PEDALS
TRISTRAM REMEMBERED [E]
PER ORGANO MOLTO PICCOLO [E]
animus £5.50 and £4.00
Tristram refers to a statue in Halifax Minster of a beggar with an alms box. Of the four pieces, Herschel’s Romp is an allegro, mostly in two parts, for manuals only. Aeolian Chorale is also for manuals only whilst Meditation introduces a few pedal notes towards the end. The pedal part for A Tune for Tristram is more ambitious, though the ‘Nobilmente’ tempo makes it easy enough for the novice organist.
The little three-movement suite Per organo molto piccolo was written for a two-rank single-manual organ and derived from early Italian instruments with just an 8ft principal and a 4ft stopped flute. The three very pleasing movements are Cantique, Il flauto mobile (so called because it can be played an octave lower on the flute) and Dance of the tritone.
FOUR NOVELTIES FOR ORGAN [M]
The four are Danse des clochettes by Rebikov, Marsch der Aethiopier (Arthur Bird), Water Nymph (Ethelbert Nevin) and Gavotte de la Dauphine (Scotson Clark). Ideal for a wedding if congregational chatter makes the practice worth while, these little pieces will at least cheer up the choir and organist. Marsche der Aethiopier is an oddity by reason of its registration, opening with Swell 16ft and 2ft accompanying a right-hand 4ft flute. Water Nymph is from the same set as Narcissus (also available from animus).
VARIATIONS OP.36 [D]
Elgar arr. Adrian Self
Op.36 is, of course, better known as the ‘Enigma Variations’. Adrian Self has made a notably successful transcription, and lovers of Elgar should find much enjoyment here. Some variations are harder than others; those who are asked to play ‘Nimrod’ regularly might like to try this transcription for a change. Performance of the whole is a recital task, but individual variations can be effective voluntaries.
SEASONAL COLOURS [M]
Organists need an endless supply of seasonal music, and these eight pieces take us from the purple of Advent to the red of Pentecost. The composer’s comments are important, because the preludes were written to help good pianists ‘come to terms with playing the pedals and controlling the resources of even a modest organ’. His aim of isolating each problem is well met, so the player can concentrate on one thing at a time, for example a moving manual part over relatively static pedals and vice versa. The largely tonal or modal style results in attractive and approachable music, which will be of considerable use to the pianist turned organist.
THREE PIECES FROM
PARTITA OP.37 [M]
Sigfrid Karg-Elert arr. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £5.50
For most of us, acquaintance with Karg-Elert’s music is probably confined to the Chorale Preludes, so these three pieces come as a welcome alternative. The Partita was written for harmonium and translates well to the organ. The first is Sarabande, then Gavotte and finally in this set Loure. Effective on the smallest of instruments – a single manual will do – all three will be good voluntaries.
PRELUDE AND FUGUE IN A FLAT [D]
Charles Macpherson, ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £7.00
Charles Macpherson (1870–1927) is not to be confused with (Charles) Stewart Macpherson, who was a contemporary whose theoretical works were the mainstay of the basic training of many a musician. Little of his slender output for the organ is known today, apart from the Andante in A Little Organ Book in memory of Hubert Parry. The fine prelude leads to an equally splendid fugue, both needing a large instrument and a lot of concentrated work, but well worth it.
Chester Music CH82302 £12.95
This is a welcome reissue of a significant early work for organ by the late Sir John Tavener. Mandēlion is a substantial piece lasting 25 minutes, composed for the 1982 Dublin International Organ Festival: its name translates literally from Greek as ‘handkerchief’ but, as Tavener writes, also has significance in iconography as a ‘shroud’ and, as such, is a meditation ‘upon the changing and distorting images of the face of Christ’.
Alongside the strong influence of Greek Orthodoxy and Ikons, Mandēlion features many other familiar Tavener tropes: chant-like melodic figures, deep drones and contrasting textures and dynamics in close juxtaposition. This is music from Tavener’s early period, however: virtuosic, often harshly dissonant, uncompromising and sometimes brutal as well as ecstatic – genuinely moving music of great strength and power, and essential material for any serious fan of contemporary organ music.
Antony le Fleming
Encore Publications £6.95
My first encounter with Antony le Fleming came nearly two decades ago when I was assistant engineer on a recording of his choral works. His music struck me then as eloquent, literate and satisfying for listener and performer, and I’m glad that this new work shows that he has retained this subtlety and refinement well into his seventies. The stylistic influences of his teachers, Herbert Howells and Malcolm Arnold, are strong and Paean is infused with a grandeur and liveliness that makes it a fine choice for a festal voluntary or recital work.
ST ANDREWS’ SUITE [M/D]
Boosey & Hawkes 979-0-060-12869-1 £8.99
This new work was composed for the 600th anniversary of the University of St Andrews in 2013. It is in three short movements following a fast-slow-fast pattern: the first is a grand quasi-toccata featuring oscillating triads in the manuals and bell-like figures in the pedals; the second, a lyrical, folksy two-voice meditation for manuals that features MacMillan’s trademark grace-notes; the final movement starts off as a fugue but develops, via a strong melodic pedal line, into a return of the ideas of the opening movement. A very welcome new work that, through its idiomatic writing and gracious melodies and harmonies, would reward organists and audiences alike.
DREI PRÄLUDIEN UND FUGEN [M/D]
Margaretha Christina de Jong
Butz Musikverlag BU2593 s15.00
Margaretha Christina de Jong is a much-garlanded Dutch composer, recitalist and organist of the Niewe Kerk in Middelburg. This set of three pairs of preludes and fugues ‘on songs of praise and thanks’ is strongly inspired by Baroque styles, as well as the neo-baroque compositions of Mendelssohn. All three pairs are conventionally tonal, in the praise key of F major and are suitably triumphal, satisfying pieces that would make a useful addition to an organist’s library of voluntaries.
SONATA No.4 in C major [D]
Alan Gray ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £9.00
This is the last of Gray’s Sonatas, and as fine as the other three already re-issued by David Patrick. It begins with an Allegro, which is not too demanding until the octave pedalling in the last 20 or so bars; a grand movement. Next is Andante maestoso ma non troppo lento. This is harder with plenty of pedal work. The tempo increases from bar 36. The Finale is everything a Finale should be: lots of fireworks and excitement. If you have only time enough to learn one movement this should be it.
INTRODUCTION AND PASSACAGLIA [M/D]
Alan Gray ed. David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £6.00
Alan Gray (1855–1935) was director of music at Wellington College and, for 37 years, organist of Trinity College, Cambridge. This piece is only one of the many compositions he wrote for the organ and for choirs. In D minor, it begins with a short introduction; the Passacaglia which follows is text-book in its treatment of its Andante theme. There is the traditional increase in pace, density of texture and complexity of part-writing, and a pleasing contrast of all three between bars 98 and 129. The best introduction to Gray’s music for organ is, I think, the 24 Short Preludes, if you can find a copy. After them, this Passacaglia would be a good place to start. As John Henderson says in his Directory of Composers for Organ, ‘none of these pieces could be described as truly great but several make useful voluntaries.’
DREI HEITERE ORGELZYKLEN (Orgelwerke Band 2) [M/D]
Butz Musikverlag BU2553
Which, being interpreted, means you will have bought Variations on a theme of Paganini, Seven Improvisations on Yankee Doodle and Sherlock Holmes Suite. Andreas Willscher (b. 1955) makes his intentions plain in his introduction, describing these pieces as ‘cheerful and amusing organ music’, and in this he is certainly successful.
The Paganini Variations take the well-known theme. There are ten variations and a concluding toccata; most are quite short, very sight-readable and with only a few requiring simple pedals, though Variation 9 is for pedal solo. In this case the solo is very easy, calling for alternate toes plus a three note chord at the end.
The improvisations on ‘Yankee Doodle’ are great fun. Described as ‘played by several organists’, the grandiose Marche Pontificale would make a good concluding voluntary if you think you could get away with it. Valse musette is the ‘Organiste titulaire on the evening of 14th of July in Périgueux’; next is a homage to Fats Waller, the best of the set. There is Very simple, for an ‘Old lady who had some piano lessons in her youth’, a moderately difficult pedal solo for a cathedral organist with two broken arms, a Communion in the spirit of Messiaen, and the variations end with Thema fugatum quasi Toccata. This would be happy end to a concert, and individual movements could be used as voluntaries if you have the nerve.
The Sherlock Holmes suite takes four stories, beginning with a depiction of a dull, foggy day in The hound of the Baskervilles. The best movement is next, John Hamish Watson’s Rag, well worth working up for a concert. Reverie, Holmes’s violin, is pleasantly attractive, and the suite ends with a fugue based on the letters SHE, which is not as hard as it looks.
TOWN HALL ORGANIST Book 1 [M/D] and Book 2 [D]
animus £6.50 and £5.00 respectively
These pieces are by a former organist of Bolton Town Hall, Arthur Jones (1869–1961), who gave more than 1,080 recitals during his career, most of them on the four-manual organ originally built by Gray & Davison and designed by W.T. Best. In the first book, Nautch Dance is followed by Nocturne, Chansonette and Fantasia on Irish Airs. The four could be a concert programme in themselves. Of the four, Nocturne has a long passage requiring thumbing of a counter melody, which can be awkward if the distance between Swell and Great is big; the last item, the ‘Fantasia’ will take some learning.
The second book is given over to one work, an arrangement of Rossini’s overture L’Italiana in Algeri. Given the current fashion for performing arrangements of large-scale orchestral works, this could well be the centre piece of a recital, but a comprehensive organ is needed. It is mostly only moderately difficult as far as the actual notes are concerned; the difficulties arise in the mechanics of registration. Short of a nimble assistant or better, a sequencer, this will be hard to pull off, though no doubt a great success with the audience.
ORGAN MUSIC FOR MICHAELMAS
VOX ANGELORUM: ANGELS IN ORGAN MUSIC [E/M]
ed. Andreas Willscher and Hans-Peter Bahr
Butz Musikverlag 2466 €24.00
This is an entertaining and varied volume of liturgically useful music, themed around angels, from the prolific publishing house of Dr Josef Butz. The collection contains music from the nineteenth century to the present day, though nothing is stylistically challenging: there are interesting contributions from Tournemire, Mulet and Langlais alongside a good arrangement of Franck's evergreen Panis Angelicus; some sentimental works by Edwardian British and American composers; some Wesley and Mendelssohn; and a charming Angel's Song by Christopher Tambling. There are works for manuals-only, gentle music appropriate for communion, and some energetic festal works too.
Banks Music Publications 14069 £5.00
This suite by Frederick Stacken, first performed by the composer in 2011, takes its inspiration from the three biblical archangels, with one movement devoted to each. 'St Gabriel' begins quietly, reflecting the mystery of the annunciation, before gaining momentum as a cross between a toccata and a chaconne; 'St Raphael' is serene and gentle throughout; and 'St Michael' is a vigorous toccata-battaglia. Each movement stands alone, or the set may be played in recital as a whole. The outer movements require a sound technique, but the musical interest is strong and offers much scope for colour and excitement.
PARTITA ÜBER 'UNÜBERWINDLICH STARKER HELD, ST MICHAEL' [M]
Edition Dohr (Universal Edition) 13767 £4.95
The story of St Michael continues to be a rich source of inspiration for composers of organ music, such as Frederick Stacken (see above) or Nicholas O'Neill, whose toccata Dum Committeret Bellum is well worth seeking out. This partita, composed in 2012 by the German organist Walter Gleissner, (born 1931) is based on a melody from a Dutch collection printed in 1614. The musical language is muscular (reflecting the steadfast saint of the title), reminiscent of Hindemith; each short movement is full of character, and would suit a strong Baroque instrument. An excellent recital work.
VERY BRITISH [M-M/D]
Butz Musikverlag BU2550 €14.00
This book follows on from the collection of ten pieces by Christopher Tambling from the same publisher, (British Album), and contains eight items which will be suitable for a range of different occasions. The music is all approachable. Some pieces are quite sight-readable; some will need work, especially the Toccata from the final item in the book, an interesting Prelude, Interludium and Toccata on a theme by Edward Elgar. The theme eventually proves to be the tune best known as Land of Hope and Glory, appearing in various guises before its last airing as the pedal part in the Toccata. Of the other pieces A Prelude for Evensong is a pleasure to play, as is Romance. I particularly enjoyed the 7/8 Trumpeting Tune (an intriguing take on a well-used form), March and the 5/8 Scherzo. This is a book well worth having in the library.
VICTORIAN ORGAN ALBUM [M-M/D]
ed. John Scott Whiteley
Butz Musikverlag BU2595 €16.00
I am ashamed to admit I was a great decrier of Victorian organ music in my youth, perhaps the result of having been brought up on Stainer's tutor. Advancing years have helped me discover what delights there are hidden amongst the music of that time. This collection of ten pieces has music by composers ranging from S.S. Wesley to Elvey, Smart, Hopkins and Hollins, to name but a few. There is much interesting music here. If you have tried Tambling's patriotic variations on Land of Hope and Glory turn to Barnby's Commemoration March, which is founded on themes from his Victoria - Our Queen. There is a splendid Con Spirito in D by Smart, a worthy addition to the many postludes he wrote. There is a long and very pleasant Andante Pastorale by Charles Edward Stephens, and an elegant Allegretto grazioso by Berthold Tours. With its well-written music and familiar style, the collection should give considerable pleasure.
PARTITA ON A SOMERSET CAROL [D]
Banks Music Publications 14073 £5.95
This is a fairly early work, composed in 1975 for a carol concert in York Minster's Chapter House, for an organ having only six stops. I have not yet identified the tune, which opens the work in a setting for manuals only. There are nine variations in all, of varying complexity and making considerable demands on technique. The Finale is particularly difficult. As is usual with Jackson, the musical language is also demanding. If you like a technical and intellectual challenge then this is the piece for you.
FIVE SKETCHES ON HELMSLEY [M/D-D]
Banks Music Publications 14072 £5.50
Decidedly dissonant, this is strong meat which, to my ears, owes much to the stylistic influence of Francis Jackson. There are five pieces which look easy enough but in fact make considerable demands on the player; for example, the complex chords in the last section of the first piece are hard to read and will cause a few headaches. Probably the easiest is the fourth, largely because it is an Andante and because the overall style is more conventional. Overall, it is an interesting work, which will give player and listener plenty to think about.
TWO ORGAN SUITES [E]
Trumph www.trumph.se T048008 122kr
These suites are based on traditional Swedish folk dances. The composer explains that they can played on a one-manual organ, and gives suggestions for the performance; there is a great deal of flexibility. The melodies are simple, marked 'Polska, in the style of a minuet', and the biographical notes explain their nature in detail. Suggestions are made for suitable registration.
'RARE AND UNKNOWN'
FOUR CENTURIES OF RARE AND UNKNOWN ORGAN MUSIC VOLS 1 AND 2 [E/M]
ed. Wolfgang Lindner
www.schola-editions.com SC8750 & 8753 €26.95 each or €4 7.00 for the two
Among a number of volumes of organ music sent for review by Schola Cantorum are these two and, unusually for this publisher, they have a preface in English. Unusual also are the very high production standards with supremely clear music on quality paper.
The musical content is variable in quality as one might expect - rare and unknown organ music is usually unknown for a reason! Most of the music is playable without pedals, most is of Grade 5-7 level difficulty and some is sight-readable.
Many of the composers represented (mainly eighteenth century) will be names known to organists, such as Telemann, Kellner, Kuhnau, Kirn berger, C.P.E. Bach, Arne, Alkan and Beethoven. Some will be less well-known, such as Hurlebusch, Hiller, Gattermann, Doles, Matheson and Witte. A particular surprise is to find a Fugue in A minor B.144 by Chopin. This (and the Beethoven Prelude in F minor Wo055) are not transcriptions of popular pieces but, like everything in these volumes, original keyboard works. In the case of Chopin's two-part fugue, not an early student work but music dating from 1841, it is a curiosity that would probably never be played except that it has Chopin's name attached to it. For some undisclosed reason the editor has added a pedal part that occasionally obscures the LH part. The only twentieth-century music is a communion piece by Jean Giraud and several short pieces by the editor Wolfgang Lindner, a retired organist and musicologist in Münster.
Lovers of obscure music will delight in these volumes. There is music here for both church and concert that will please the ear of an audience, and some which will perhaps only appeal to the curiosity of the performer.
Edward Elgar ed. Edward Tambling
Butz Musikverlag BU2566 €14.00
This book has ten pieces, a mixture of the well-known and less familiar. Some, such as Nimrod, Salut d'Amour and several others, will be familiar from other publications, though naturally having changes in approach. Less familiar are 0 salutaris hostia, Ave verum corpus, Sonatina, Sospiri and Contrasts, The Gavotte A.D.1700-1900. This is a useful addition to the available range of Elgar transcriptions. All are carefully and faithfully done, and suit their new medium.
THREE NOCTURNES [M]
Frederic Chopin arr. Serge Ollive
Trumph www.trumph.se T072004 164kr
I have always shied away from requests to play Chopin on the organ: there is so little that transfers with any degree of authenticity. Serge Ollive has adapted No.2 from Op.9 and Nos.1 and 3 from Op.15. The first and last work quite well, and sound quite convincing; both are technically straightforward and, given a sympathetic acoustic, will be happy on the smallest of two manual instruments. I was not quite so convinced by the repeated note figure and the semiquaver agitato section in No.1 of Op.15, but this may be a personal reaction because I found them awkward to deal with. The arrangements are certainly skilfully done and well worth a try.
THREE DEBUSSY TRANSCRIPTIONS [M-M/D]
Claude Debussy arr. Serge Ollive
Trumph www.trumph.se T072003 164kr
The three pieces are Clair de Lune, Nuages (No.1 from Nocturnes) and Prélude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune. As with the Chopin transcriptions, this is music which does not lend itself readily to performance on the organ, but these pieces come off well. A well-equipped organ is highly desirable, as is a resonant acoustic.
VARIATIONS SYMPHONIQUES [D]
César Franck arr. Serge Ollive
Trumph www.trumph.se T072006 164kr
Playing major orchestral works on the organ has become fashionable, harking back to the days when access to orchestral concerts was difficult, the organ providing the most convenient way of hearing such music. This transcription of Franck's composition is not for the faint-hearted. Much of it looks quite reasonable, but to carry off the colours and grandeur of style will take some doing. Dare I say that for most of us it would be best enjoyed on one's own in a suitably darkened building.
PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION [M/D]
Modest Mussorgsky arr. Serge Ollive
Trumphwww.trumph.se T072005 323kr
This is not the first transcription for the organ of Mussorgsky's work and whether it is easier or more difficult than others I cannot say. It is already quite well known as a recital item, and this transcription is, for the most part, eminently playable. The double pedalling in 'The Ox Cart' will need work, but is helped by the slow tempo, and the unhatched chicks and Samuel Goldenberg may provoke a few unorganist-like asides. It is all worth trying and there is no reason why individual movements cannot be used in a recital or as voluntaries. In the present international climate one might perhaps try 'The Great Gate of Kiev'.
All these editions from Trumph are excellently produced as usual, with strong spiral binding and a thick cardboard back cover which helps the copy to sit well on the music desk. The Mussorgsky volume has six colour reproductions of some of the pictures.
EINE KLEINE NACHTMUSIK [M/D]
Mozart arr. Heinrich E Grimm
Butz Musikverlag BU2556 €14.00
Whilst the Romanze has appeared in some collections of wedding music, this is, I believe, the first transcription of the whole work. It makes an excellent piece of organ music, being comfortable to play and feeling very idiomatic. There are naturally plenty of problems to overcome, but nothing that practice will not solve. The Romanze is the movement to learn first, the outer movements presenting the greatest challenges. With the advantage of being something which most listeners will already know, it would make a good recital piece; the individual movements could also be used as voluntaries.