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.
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.
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!
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.