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.