EASY ORGAN MUSIC
ENJOY THE ORGAN 3 [E/M]
Bärenreiter BA 11209 £11.00
Sunday by Sunday has enthusiastically reviewed the first two volumes (SbyS 65 and 70) and it is good to be able to continue the recommendation for this third one. As before, the selection is unusual, quirky even, but delightful. It opens with a Batalla Imperial by Cabanilles complete with optional separate ‘tambourin’ part that, as with several other pieces, has an easy pedal part but needs nimble fingers. Two movements by Albrechtsberger are manuals only and a Vanhal Sonatina is for manuals or with optional pedals. The remaining pieces are all with pedals. Schumann’s Op. 70 Adagio for horn and piano works well transposed down a semitone as an organ solo. Then we come up against an Offertoire by Batiste. As John Henderson says in his Directory, ‘if you think Lefébure-Wély’s organ music is vulgar then think again for that of Edouard Batiste is worse’ – well, here’s a chance to decide for yourself. Chilla’s arrangement of Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine is excellent, and in C major! Finally, there is the Yon Toccatina with the left hand arranged in quavers throughout – awkward to play if you have learnt the original, but perhaps easier if you are playing it from this volume for the first time. All in all, a wide-ranging, imaginative and cleverly arranged collection.
TROIS PIÈCES (Three Pieces) [E–E/M]
RSCM CH65 £4.75
The first piece is for manuals only, a Chromatic Fantasy that will need careful fingering in places to observe the legato marking and would be a good teaching piece as well as being absorbing to listen to. The second piece, Contemplation, is only a little less chromatic than the first, and is manuals-only until an easy pedal part in the last 17 bars. Finally there is a short Hommage with a 14-bar pedal part in minims, mostly alternating feet a fourth or fifth apart, before a final pedal D extending through 14 bars during which the music winds down until coming to rest on open fifths. The music of all three is calm and contemplative, with single 8-foot stops; Contemplation and Hommage need two manuals.
HYMNS FOR ORGANISTS
HYMNS AMAZING [E/M]
Kevin Mayhew 1450453 £19.99
Fifty hymn tunes are presented with an introduction, standard harmonization, alternative harmonization, interlude, last verse harmonization and then a short piece based on the hymn. It is those short pieces that are most useful – described by the composer as intended as ‘preludes, postludes, interludes and processions, or to play the choir out before the final voluntary.’ They have a considerable range of approaches, seen in their movement titles such as Trumpet tune, Gavotte, Berceuse, Sarabande, Variations, Humoresque, Musette, Fanfare, Fugato, Ground bass, Tuba tune, Scherzetto and so on. Many organists will be pleased to have these ideas for different treatments of hymn tunes.
THREE IMPROMPTUS [M]
Fitzjohn Music Publications £9.00
Published in 1911, thirteen years after the triumphant premiere of his Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, these distinctive pieces make one wonder how Coleridge-Taylor would have developed as a composer if he had not died from pneumonia the next year at the age of 37. The outer pieces both have rousing final climaxes and would be good concluding voluntaries, but perhaps more striking is the middle one, with a single-bar ostinato E, E flat, D, G repeated mostly in the bass line throughout much of the piece.
arr. Gwilym Beechey
Banks Music Publications 14075 £3.50
Yes, it is the first movement of Fauré’s Dolly Suite, and a performance would doubtless evoke a smile from those in the congregation who remember Listen with Mother on the radio. But the arrangement is well made, to the extent that it feels as though it might originally have been written for organ. Perhaps something to play before the service next Mothering Sunday?
FOUR ROMANTIC PIECES [M]
arr. Geoffrey Atkinson
These are arrangements of four of the Five Romantic Pieces for piano published after Parry’s death. In some the piano origins are apparent, such as the repeated chords in the left hand in Romance (subtitled ‘Forget-me-not’) and some of the energetic accompaniment in A Caprice, a movement that reminds one of Mendelssohn. Elsewhere it is Schumann who comes to mind, rather than the Brahms who is more often cited in discussion of Parry. But Parry had his own distinctive lyrical voice, heard also in the opening Sonnet and concluding Solitude, and these charming pieces could be varied and individually-characterized voluntaries.
Fitzjohn Music Publications £7.50
More English romanticism, written at the turn of the century and first published in 1901 – by a composer whose name may look familiar but was unrelated to the (Charles) Stewart Macpherson who wrote harmony and counterpoint books as well as composing. The Macpherson published here is the one who wrote the Andante soavamente e dolce in the Little organ book in memory of Hubert Parry and who later became organist of St Paul’s Cathedral. His Fantasy-Prelude is discursive, ruminative as the title might suggest, building to a monumental climax about half-way through. Numerous themes appear and reappear, with an inner ‘felt’ musical logic rather than any imposed structure, and there is effective, quiet colouring called for on Swell and Choir.
SONGS WITHOUT WORDS [E/M–M]
fagus-music.com £8.00 and £10.00
Songs without words are subtitled ‘Three quiet pieces’ – four-minute pieces (more or less) that could well be mood setting before a service. They are dedicated to Carson Cooman, organist at Harvard University, who also commissioned Gaze’s Sonatina. Cooman has commissioned pieces from many composers including Michael Finnissy, Jo Kondo and Peter Maxwell Davies; Nigel Gaze has responded to the commission with a piece that is more closely argued, more ‘gritty’ in a way, and quite substantial at about 15 minutes for its three movements. The strong opening motive – a rising sequence of repeated quavers – reappears in the last movement, offsetting a rather jolly jig. This is an inventive and satisfying piece.
SEPT OFFRANDES (Seven Offerings) [E–M]
FINAL (Finale) [M/D]
RSCM CH64 £8.00; CH66 £4.75
The seven ‘offerings’ were written by Bédard separately over a period of six years for his wife, the organist Rachel Alflatt. All are technically easy except for number 6, a theme and six variations, the fifth of which is a 6/8 dance with a jaunty pedal solo. The other pieces all have titles that convey their individual characters and often give a clue to the performer as to how to approach them. Bédard writes attractive melodies, developed far enough to make their mark but not overstaying their welcome – if anything, these short pieces leave one wanting more.
The ‘Finale’ is 111 bars of post-service voluntary, which apart from two bars of repose, keeps going with a brilliance and (in semiquaver passages) a frenetic determination towards its goal where, in the last bar, D minor turns into major.
AN IRISH PHANTASY [M]
Fitzjohn Music Publications £7.00
Eleven pages marked f are followed by a final page of ff, but the opening forte is contradicted after just four bars by a change to Choir with flute stops – so the apparent lack of dynamic changes may be attributed to Wolstenholme’s blindness and his use of an amanuensis to notate the score. The piece takes a page or so to get going, but then after two silent bars a delightful jig appears and the music mostly dances its way to the end. It is music of charm and happiness despite an E minor key signature – which, seemingly inevitably, becomes E major about three quarters of the way through. It is a piece that helps one to understand why the composer was so acclaimed in his lifetime.
SHORT ORGAN ANTHOLOGIES
A ROMANTIC SKETCHBOOK [M]
Paul C. Edwards
More Wolstenholme appears in this volume which concludes with his Allegretto in F which the composer recorded in 1913, a recording to which Paul Edwards refers in his editing. The first piece is an arrangement of a piano piece by Charles-Valentin Alkan, a Canon between left hand on Great and right hand on Swell that also fills in the harmonies – the pedals simply provide a one-note-per-bar underpinning. The other three pieces are from less well-known composers and organists may well wish to buy this volume for these ‘discoveries’. William Crossley’s Sketch in B flat is apparently the only organ composition of this Cheshire organist; it survives from having been published in The Organist’s Quarterly Journal in 1870 – the source for this new publication. Its title presumably triggered this volume being called a ‘sketchbook’. The Organist’s Quarterly Journal, this time in 1887–8, also provides the source for a Sonata no. 1 in G by Lancashire solicitor Edward Townshend Driffield, the second movement of which is reprinted here. Finally, there is a Chant Idyllique by the south London stockbroker Ernest Halsey, published in The Western Organist in 1907. All these pieces are charming rather than profound, and well worth performing when something less demanding is appropriate.
LIVERPOOL LOLLIPOPS [M–D]
Church Organ World Publications COW-2015-003 £20.00
This ‘collection of music by Organists of Liverpool Cathedral’ contains seven pieces by current or former organists, deputy organists and organ scholars of Liverpool Cathedral. Several pieces are dedicated from one organist to another, Shean Bowers and Ernest Pratt both to Ian Tracey, and Ian Tracey to Noel Rawsthorne. Rawsthorne’s own Celtic Lullaby is the stand-out piece in the anthology – easy, memorable and affecting, effortlessly demonstrating how ‘less is more’. At least two pieces prove to be based on well-known tunes. Ernest Pratt contributes a Pastorale that takes the Dutch tune that Charles Wood used for ‘King Jesus hath a garden’ and ‘pastoralizes’ it with a 6/8 time signature. Shean Bower’s Toccata based on The Old Hundredth needs a good manual technique but would be a show-stopper delivered with confidence. Ian Wells has written a Carol for organ that sounds like a genuine carol tune (perhaps it is?). Daniel Bishop’s Reflection (or Reflections as in the contents list) is contemplative rather than mirror-like. Lewis Rust (Noel Rawsthorne’s assistant for some 20 years) has written a rather four-square Little Prelude for Beth, i.e. for Beth Rawsthorne, that would be effective if played slightly tongue-in-cheek – an approach which the deadpan ending seems to encourage. Ian Tracey, one assumes the compiler of the volume, opens it with an Aria that has a soaring melody that develops with the feeling of an improvisation. As with other pieces here, it is modest in intent, and pleasing in its rather conventional way.