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.