Organ Music, December 2015

EPIPHANY

THE MAGI [M/E]
Philip Underwood
fagus-music.com £12.00
This ‘Fantasy on Epiphany Carols’ is in what the composer describes as ‘a neo-baroque style’. For each of the seven movements a pattern of figuration is established to accompany the Epiphany hymns and carols, a pattern which continues fairly predictably, but with occasional deft tonal side-steps, and often with charm and grace. The movement titles tell a story: The Wise Men follow the Star – The Star – Meeting with Herod – Mary and the Baby (Lullaby) – The Wise Men offer their Gifts – The Warning – Rejoicing. The piece may be performed therefore as a narrative suite – but each movement is self-contained for use as a voluntary (indeed movements 5 and 7 are also published together for £6.00). The music is always well-conceived for the organ and would work well on any two-manual instrument.
Julian Elloway

MANUALS ONLY OR WITH EASY PEDALS

BEST LOVED MELODIES Volume 2 [E]
arranged and edited by Christopher Tambling
Dr J. Butz with pedals BU2664 €14.00; manuals only BU2665 €12.00
Sadly we have to include Chris Tambling’s obituary in the current (December 2015) issue of CMQ. These volumes are good examples of his passion for music, wide-ranging tastes, ability to communicate and enthuse others, and practical arranging skills. None of the twelve pieces was originally composed for the organ, but all are often requested in church. In the introduction, each piece has a brief paragraph sketching its background and significance. Composers are Bach, Beethoven, Elgar, Franck, Handel, Humperdinck, Parry, Purcell, Rachmaninov, Schubert and Wagner. Readers may be able to guess the most likely piece for each (Handel has two). In the case of Jesu, joy of man’s desiring, Jerusalem and Nimrod (disclosing three of the titles) the arrangements in the with-pedals volume are far easier – without sounding thinned out – than more commonly found versions.

MINIATURE ALBUM: Ten pieces for manuals only [E/M]
Robert Jones
Dr J. Butz BU2657 €13.00
These are what some would call ‘character pieces’ including a Cortège, Siciliano, Klagelied [‘Dirge’ or ‘Elegy’], Spiritoso, Sarabande and Scherzetto. Other pieces are based on hymn tunes: ‘Ein schottisches Lied’ on Brother James’s Air, ‘Trumpet Minuet’ on Hereford, and ‘Reflexion’ on Rockingham. Finally, there is a ‘Postludio (in stile classico)’ which is either manuals only or with an optional easy pedal part. It is a useful, strongly characterized collection.

A COLLECTION OF ORGAN PIECES BY 18TH AND EARLY 19TH CENTURY ENGLISH COMPOSERS [mostly M]
edited by David Patrick
Fitzjohn Music Publications £12.00
This publication may not have the snappiest of titles, but the contents (for manuals only) are carefully selected, and would fill a gap in many an organist’s library. There are four pieces by John Stafford Smith, organist of the Chapel Royal from 1802 to 1836 and better known today for his glees. Other composers, with one piece each, are Timothy Essex, William Flackton, Barnabas Gunn, William Hine. John Humphries, James Martin Smith and John Watts. There is also the first modern publication of a Voluntary and Fugue in D minor by Henry Heron, organist of St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge until his death in around 1795. As so often, these English composers made up for the lack of pedals on their organs by developing a fiery and virtuosic style of keyboard writing. There are biographical notes on each composer and a useful introduction to registration and ornamentation.

AN EASY HANDEL ORGAN ALBUM: original works and arrangements [E/M]
George Frideric Handel
edited by Daniel Moult
Bärenreiter BA11213 £12.50
Handel’s publisher, John Walsh, published several of Handel’s instrumental works in organ solo arrangements. Four of his arrangements of organ concerto movements are included here. Following the spirit of those and other contemporary arrangements, Daniel Moult has arranged four pieces from Water Music suites, four from The Musick for the Royal Fireworks, and four other single pieces including the Pifa (Pastoral Symphony) from Messiah and ‘See the conquering hero comes’ from Judas Maccabaeus. Then there are five Handel harpsichord movements that work well on the organ (and instrumental designations could be fluid at the time) and, not least, three original barrel organ transcriptions by Handel’s assistant John Christopher Smith.
That amount of excellent music would make this a recommended volume in itself. But there is more: three pages of general notes on fingering, pedalling, articulation, notes inégales, tempi and registration (including a discussion of the stop lists of St Paul’s Cathedral and Covent Garden Theatre at the time) are followed by nine pages discussing each piece and with numerous performance suggestions. A huge amount of learning is worn very lightly. The publishers have been generous throughout, even with the indexes where after a normal contents list there is a separate index with the pieces arranged in order of technical difficulty. Three of the pieces have very easy pedal parts, optional in two of them.
Duncan Watkins

LONGER WORKS

TOCCATA XIII [M/D]
VOLUNTARY FÜR WILTEN [M/D]
Peter Planyavsky
Doblinger 02482 £11.95 & 02483 £12.50
Here are two further offerings from the Austrian composer Peter Planyavsky (b. 1947) following closely on the heels of his excellent Toccata Mauritiana reviewed in Sunday by Sunday Issue 74 (September 2015). Planyavsky has proved himself adept in the past at assimilating and re-imagining historical forms, and puts this ability to good use again with these new works. Toccata XIII follows the formal model of Georg Muffat’s twelve toccatas, alternating free, rhetorical sections with bound, polyphonic passages and is a fine modern take on Muffat’s work. A solid manual technique is required (pedal-work is minimal); an appreciation of registrations appropriate to Muffat’s era will bring this music to life.
Voluntary für Wilten is a voluntary in the literal sense of being ‘spontaneous’ – like Toccata XIII it is built from a series of contrasting short sections, some fugal, some free and rhetorical, some highly structured. Again this is an effective, literate piece with bold harmonies and gestures, and would make an excellent recital or liturgical work.

ZEIT UND LEBEN (TIME AND LIFE) [D]
Jürgen Essl
Doblinger 02488 £15.50
Doblinger as a publisher has long had a reputation for fostering works of literacy, depth and originality while eschewing pastiche and facile music: Jürgen Essl (born in 1961 and currently professor of organ at the Academy of Music in Stuttgart) is a composer who epitomizes this ethos. This work was composed in 2011 for the inauguration of the new organ at Speyer Cathedral: it is in four contrasting movements, each incorporating and developing an historical melody (such as a Georgian Easter chant), and each of great harmonic and rhythmic complexity. This is a substantial work that would require detailed preparation, a strong technique and a large instrument with a broad tonal palette, but would be greatly rewarding for both performer and attentive listener.

7 VERSETTEN ZU LEONHARD LECHNER: ‘DAS HOHELIED SALOMONIS’ [M]
Herbert Lauermann
Doblinger 02498 £11.95
Herbert Lauermann (b.1955) is a teacher and composer based in Vienna who has a broad portfolio from small instrumental works to large-scale operas and cantatas; his style allies strong dissonance with rigorous structure and a bold expressiveness. This work consists of seven short Versets that were originally intended to alternate with the six movements of Leonhard Lechter’s Song of Solomon of 1606, picking up various tonal and thematic elements from the original. While the music would be most effective in this original configuration, this set would still make a striking and varied recital work, benefiting from thoughtful registrations.
Huw Morgan

ROBIN MILFORD

SHORTER ORGAN WORKS Volume 1 [E/M]
SHORTER ORGAN WORKS Volume 2 [M]
TWO HARVEST MEDITATIONS [M]
animus £7.50; £7.50; £4.00
How good it is that animus should have republished these long out-of-print works by the gentle but sad Robin Milford, who never recovered from the death of his son, and took his own life in 1959. The shorter pieces are ordered by difficulty, with the easiest in Volume 1. Best known must be the Chorale Prelude on ‘St Columba’, which used to appear in wedding music collections and which opens Volume 2. Most extraordinary is the Op.115 (his final opus number) Chorale Prelude on ‘Rockingham’, darkly chromatic and with a snake-like counter-melody that might represent the demon that was soon to overcome him. Also dating from Milford’s final months is a Prelude for organ on ‘O Filii et Filiae’ (Op.114) that appears to be receiving its first publication.
The Harvest Meditations are based on Wareham (as in ‘Rejoice, O land, in God thy might’) and more surprisingly on a phrase from the Coventry Carol combined with a Somerset folk tune. Never predictable, even when the music appears at its most straightforward, the various pieces in these three volumes bear out Ralph Vaughan Williams’s claim that if he wanted to show a foreigner ‘something worth doing which could only possibly come out of England I think I would show him some of the work of Milford’.
Julian Elloway