O HIMMLISCHE FRAU KÖNIGIN – FANTASIE [E]
Edition Dohr 13776 £6.95
The melody of this ‘Fantasia for manuals’ is from a hymn, ‘O himmlische Frau Königen’, that is unlikely to be known by Sunday by Sunday readers. But it is an attractive and memorable tune that starts as if it is going to be ‘St Columba’, and will certainly feel familiar to any listener by the end of this piece, as the melody weaves its way through the six characterful movements. Graap has not only had a distinguished career as a church musician, but also as a teacher of church musicians and organists. He certainly knows how to write technically easy music that does not sound simple. The preface and note about the composer are in German and English – it is a pity then that there is no translation of the German tempo marks.
See also the manuals-only Sonata da camera included in Sanders’s Vier Orgelcomposition reviewed below.
Edition Dohr 12681 £9.95
The German composer and recitalist Walter Gleissner (b. 1931) is a regular with Edition Dohr and this new offering shows his characteristic thoroughness of form and compositional literacy. The six miniatures are intended as liturgical fillers but could easily be played as a complete set: they inhabit a post-Hindemithian tonality and are easily accessible, although they would require thoughtful registrations and tempi. The Meditation on Psalm 91 and the Finale are particularly satisfying and more substantial than the other movements.
ACHT KOMPOSITIONEN (EIGHT COMPOSITIONS): Collected Organ Works, Vol. 4 [M]
Butz Verlag BU2613 £11.50
Edition Butz caters for the seemingly bottomless appetite amongst German parish organists for collections of character pieces such as this offering by Andreas Willscher (born in 1955 in Hamburg). There is much to commend the set – the works are tonal, literate, approachable and technically easily within the reach of most organists. Standing out from the collection is a Toccatina in Seven (reminiscent of Rutter’s similarly-titled work), an exuberant fanfare, Trompettes d’Argent, and an atmospheric Pie Jesu (one of three Requiem movements).
SEVEN ORGAN PIECES IN ROMANTIC STYLE [M]
SUITE CARACTERISTIQUE über ‘Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman’ [M]
Margaretha Christina de Jong
edited by Albert Clement
Butz Verlag 2640 £13.00 and 2623 £9.00
Margaretha Christina de Jong’s music features heavily in Dr J. Butz’s catalogue, and for good reason: like Willscher, reviewed above, she is adept at providing character pieces for organ that are accessible and effective for organist and listener alike. These two volumes are typical of her output: a neo-romantic tonal style, works of different lengths and moods to fulfil different needs, and technically achievable. I particularly enjoyed the fanfare from the Seven Organ Pieces in Romantic Style: punchy and fun to play and hear.
THE REVD MUSTARD HIS INSTALLATION PRELUDE [M/D]
St Rose Music Publishing SRO100057 £6.95
Nico Muhly has a growing reputation as a composer: this comparatively slight offering seems somewhat incidental to the main body of his work and may be of primary interest or use to those in the parish of East Barnet, for whose rector’s installation this toccata-style prelude was written in 2012. A steady rhythmic grip will be required to keep the perpetual motion semiquavers convincing, and some imaginative registration will help maintain the listener’s interest.
PARTITA MAURITIANA [M]
Augustinus Franz Kropfreiter
Doblinger 02499 £11.95
The Austrian composer Kropfreiter is best-known for his Toccata Francese to which I (and I suspect many other organists) was introduced by Peter Hurford’s excellent 1986 recording. Born in 1936 and still prolific, Kropfreiter has composed numerous works for organ all of high quality, this Partita from 2000 being particularly strong. It is based on the plainsong for the feast of St Maurice (the entire plainsong is helpfully included in this handsome edition) and takes the form of an Organ Mass. The music is by parts muscular and limpidly fluid, with exciting strong harmonies and plenty of scope for imaginative registration. A fine liturgical or concert work.
Boosey & Hawkes 979-0-060-12873-8 £10.99
The Ad Wammes phenomenon continues with this new (2012) collection of four character pieces. As we have come to expect, they are titled quirkily (the first three are ‘Play it cool!’, ‘The messenger on the hill’ and ‘Rejoice’), rhythmically complex and atmospheric. Players will need to be on their game to maintain rhythmic coordination between the hands, but the final movement, ‘Passacaglia’ is a more sedate, moody affair and offers a more forgiving technical introduction to Wammes’s music.
DAS LEBEN IST EBEN NICHT EINFACH NUR SCHWARZ ODER WEIß [D]
Doblinger 02481 £13.95
The technical conceit of Austrian composer Schmidinger’s work is simple: the hands play the same figures simultaneously, one hand on white keys only, the other on black (the pedals mixing the two). The effect takes a moment or two for the ear to grasp; thereafter, through exuberant rhythms and figurations, the piece becomes most engaging and exciting. A strong technique, clear head, and imaginative approach to registration is required to play the work convincingly, but recital audiences may well thank you for your efforts!
OXFORD HYMN SETTINGS FOR ORGAN
Volume 3: Lent and Passiontide
Volume 4: Easter and Ascension
Oxford 978-0-19-339347-9 and 978-0-19-339346-2 £18.95 each
Trevor Webb was enthusiastic about the first two volumes is this series (Sunday by Sunday 70 and 71). Although volumes 3 and 4 were not received in time for reviews to appear before Lent and Easter, organists who enjoyed the first volumes and purchased these latest ones will have been well rewarded. These are all well-structured compositions rather than ‘hymn-fillers’. Keys are chosen to match those frequently found in hymn books, but it would be a pity just to use these pieces (and inevitably adapt their length) to extend a hymn and fill a gap. I particularly enjoyed the pieces that confound expectations such as David Blackwell’s Pastorale on Gerontius with a gentle 9/8 canon that at the end slips from Dykes into Elgar, and Michael Bedford’s Meditation on Easter Hymn that is quiet throughout. ‘Easter Hymn’ and ‘Passion Chorale’ are the only two of the 62 hymns that have two settings, the second Easter Hymn being a wildly rhythmic treatment by Philip Moore. A New Commandment, The Servant King, Alleluia no. 1, Jesus is Lord and a ‘Jubilant Dance’ on Our God Reigns provide coverage of hymns and songs that have more recently become established, alongside the hymns traditionally associated with these seasons.
RHAPSODY ON TWO SOUTHERN HARMONIES [M]
Bernard Wayne Sanders
Edition Dohr 11375 £7.95
This 2001 transatlantic offering, from the increasingly ambitious Cologne-based publishing house Dohr,is an exuberant fantasia on two Southern American hymn-tunes or ‘harmonies’ from the early 19th century. Sanders, born (in 1957) and educated in America, but active as a church musician in Tuttlingen in southern Germany, shows admirable compositional and idiomatic control in a piece that would suit a festal service or lighter recital.
VIER ORGELKOMPOSITIONEN (FOUR ORGAN COMPOSITIONS) [M]
Bernard Wayne Sanders
Edition Dohr 14204 £24.95
Hot on the heels of the volume reviewed above comes this substantial collection of pieces written by Sanders in 2012 and 2013, which round out the picture of this interesting composer. A gently rocking D major Cradle Song is disturbed by a substantial B minor section, eventually side-stepping into B flat major before a welcome return to the tonic and opening melody. Classical forms are common in the Prelude, Recitative and Fugue and several movements of a manuals-only Sonata da camera (written for an instrument with just two stops, 8 and 4 foot) that includes Ricercare, Scherzo and Rondo; but conventional opening bars are often delightfully led astray by quirky rhythms and irregular metres. The most substantial piece is a series of Seven Propositions based on the ‘I am’ sayings of Christ in John’s Gospel, treated with a light touch in the form of a suite in classical French style.
THE EBOR ORGAN ALBUM: seven pieces for seven decades [E/M – M/D]
Banks Music Publications 14080 £9.95
ECHOES: A tribute to Alan Spedding [E/M – D]
Banks Music Publications 14079 £8.95
The Ebor Organ Album celebrates the 70th anniversary of the York & District Organists’ Association. Echoes is a tribute to a much-loved organist of Beverley Minster who died in 2013, of whom Simon Lindley writes that ‘if there were a category of Honorary Yorkshireman, Alan would be well and truly up there at the head of the roll-call.’ It is not surprising that, of the five Yorkshire-based composers represented in Echoes, four also appear in the Ebor Organ Album.
Andrew Carter kicks off the Ebor album with a jolly Dance for Joy, full of what he describes as ‘harmonic mischief’ and a ‘pedal part even I could manage’. In Echoes, his Cantilena ‘in fond memory of Alan Spedding’ has a quiet resignation in its flowing melody. The section marked ‘Wittily’ is, one suspects, a reflection of part of Spedding’s character, something found in other pieces here that try to encompass different aspects of the man. Francis Jackson contributes a canonic Echo ‘remembering Alan’ and a gentle Arietta for Ebor, whilst Philip Moore similarly has a more strictly composed Theme & Variations ‘In memory’ and a reflective Prelude on Horsley in the Ebor collection that should be heard where organs play in Holy Week. Most demanding of all is John Scott Whiteley’s Elegiac Rhapsody (‘in memory of my friend’) that builds to an impassioned climax – ‘Tutti, senza reed 32’ with L.H. ‘Tubas 16.8.(4)’ – at its centre. In contrast his Carillonette on Merton is a tightly-written ‘nutshell version of the traditional perpetuum mobile carillon’.
Simon Lindley contributes a Dr Spedding’s Galliard based on the Dowland tune adapted by Martin Shaw that appeared in English Hymnal for the ‘Litany of the Passion’. The Ebor collection has pieces based on the hymn tune ‘York’ by Nigel Holdsworth and Peter Moger, and Frederick Viner’s Bagatelle that is a more substantial piece than its title implies.