MANUALS ONLY OR WITH VERY EASY PEDALS
SIX CONCERTOS Op. 13 [E–M]
Fitzjohn Music Publications £11.00
Six attractive ‘concertos’ for solo organ are presented with a helpful introduction by David Patrick and a section on ornamentation by John Collins. Matthew Camidge was organist of York Minster, as were his father and his son – between them they held that position for over 100 years! The music, intended by the composer ‘to imitate the style of music … of Handel and Corelli’, is tuneful and characterful with minuets, marches and ‘gavottas’, striking opening movements and substantial fugues. The player will need to decide whether to play an octave higher the occasional notes that are too low for a modern manual compass, or omit them when the upper octave is already in the music, or use pedals (16ft played an octave higher than written). There are also a few low notes marked in the original edition to be played by pedals, mostly semibreves or longer.
TEN VOLUNTARIES [E OR E/M]
David Patrick and John Collins
Fitzjohn Music Publications £9.00
The editing is exemplary, perhaps more than the music deserves. Even if played faster than the editorial metronome marks, it can seem a little dull (or sometimes clumsy) compared with that of the slightly earlier John Stanley or William Boyce, or indeed Maurice Greene, whose assistant Porter had been at St Paul’s Cathedral. But the fast movements bounce along in a jolly sequential manner and all are short enough not to outstay their welcome. Very few notes are outside a modern keyboard range, although pedals could occasionally be used with benefit.
Novello NOV166463 £6.99
FANFARE – PROCESSIONAL [M]
Novello NOV166485 £6.99
CRADLE SONG [E/M]
Novello NOV166507 £5.99
PRELUDE: TE LUCIS ANTE TERMINUM [E]
Novello NOV166496 £5.99
Thomas Hewitt Jones
Novello NOV166474 £6.99
These five short works are all extracted from the excellent Little Organ Book from the Organists Charitable Trust, edited by Martin Neary and first published by Novello in 2010. This is a wonderful resource of 11 mainly new works by British composers, all of moderate difficulty and well-defined character. Iain Farrington’s Bluesday is full of delicious harmonies, with a bold climax framed by a gentle beginning and ending. David Bednall’s Fanfare is a joyful work that would be a good recital opener or festival voluntary, with a chance to unleash the big reeds. The simplicity of the title of Howells’s Cradle Song belies a richness and warmth that make this a moving miniature. John Rutter’s evening prelude from 1979 on the plainsong hymn Te lucis ante terminum is tender and clear, with some surprisingly plangent harmonies. Thomas Hewitt Jones’s Carnival is an outburst of festivity and bravura. All these pieces are very much worth playing, though organists interested in more than two of them would be better served purchasing a copy of the original anthology which is still very well priced (Little Organ Book, Novello 9781849386814 £9.95).
FOUR PSALM PRELUDES
Trevor Webb reviewed the second Psalm Prelude in 2010, ‘a noble piece that captures the spirit of the text’, and the third in 2013 (Sunday by Sunday 67), ‘almost inevitably a Howellsian feel … a piece well worth performing’. Now all four are gathered in one volume. Nos. 2, 3 and 4 are marked with various sorts of Lento and all move to a strong and disturbing climax before a quiet ending. Well worth performing indeed, if on separate occasions.
FANTAISIE ÉLÉGANTE – OFFERTOIRE [M]
Edition Dohr ED 14207 £10.95
German by birth, Georg (Georges) Schmitt (1821–1900) was a prominent member of the Parisian organ community, most notably from his time at the church of St-Sulpice where, as organiste titulaire from 1850 to 1863 he was instrumental in the commissioning of the famous Cavaillé-Coll instrument. This well-balanced and stylish work from his 1881 collection Nouvelle Méthode élémentaire et progressive d’Orgue et d’Harmonium would be a good voluntary or recital work, particularly for those interested in late nineteenth-century French organ music.
DIE NACHT IST VORGEDRUNGEN [E/M]
Edition Dohr (Universal Edition) 16387 £9.95
HYMNUS UND SEQUENZ [M]
Edition Dohr (Universal Edition) 16435 £7.95
German composer Lothar Graap (b. 1933) has enjoyed a distinguished career as a church musician; now Edition Dohr have taken on the championing of his compositions. This partita in five movements from 1972 on Jochen Klepper’s poem ‘The night will soon be ending’ is in a pleasant, tonal, neoclassical style, within the technical reach of most organists looking for something slightly off the beaten track for their repertoire.
The organ works of the prolific Walter Gleissner (b. 1931) are no stranger to the new music pages of this publication: this pair of movements based on the Pange Lingua plainsong offer useful liturgical material in an approachable, neo-baroque style. As ever with Gleissner, polyphony is well managed and literate; clear registrations on a baroque instrument will allow the music to sing.
An unexpected addition to the Fagus catalogue, this Toccata is apparently the only known composition by Bélier, who was organist of Pontoise cathedral until his death in 1938. But what a delightful and useful piece it is, especially for an organist with a good manual technique but whose pedalling is perhaps not quite so strong! The French toccata-style manual parts sparkle happily under the fingers. Pedals, apart from a few straightforward interjections, have a 10-bar phrase that, 60 bars later, is repeated, and then just before the end reappears a third higher. Meanwhile, nimble fingers need to rattle off sequential patterns of semiquavers that are nothing like as difficult as they sound.
INTRODUCTION AND PASSACAGLIA [D]
John Scott Whiteley
Banks Music Publications 14078 £6.50
A few readers will have played and many more heard the Passacaglia that John Scott Whiteley wrote in 2009 as ‘a memorial to Princess Diana’. The theme, based on letters in her name, is repeated 28 times, each sharply characterized and with descriptions that obviously relate to its inspiration, starting ‘tenderly’ and moving through ‘glittering softly’, ‘suddenly alive’, ‘with a sorrowful twist’, ‘alone, unsettled’, and many more including a ‘quasi rumba’, ‘bluesy’ and ‘quasi polka’, building to a huge climax before subsiding and concluding ‘with tears … and joy’. The composer (and organist emeritus of York Minster) last year added a 54-bar Introduction with an arresting opening that gradually finds its way towards the start of the passacaglia theme – but there are interruptions to this, one of which is marked ‘pavoneggiarsi’ (‘to show off, strut about’).
THREE PIECES: SCHERZO SYMPHONIQUE; MEDITATION; MARCHE SOLENNELLE [D]
Fitzjohn Music Publications £7.50
Of these three, the piece that I shall be returning to is the Marche solennelle where, for all Renaud’s study with César Franck and Delibes, it is the shadow of Lefébure-Wély that looms large. The ‘solennelle’ of the title is similar to that of Rossini’s Petite Messe. A big final climax ends with three octave E flats above a pedal tremolo E flat and D, all with a crescendo hairpin! Of the other pieces, separate but all written in the same year, 1888, the Scherzo Symphonique needs to be taken at a quick pace if not to sound ponderous and the wistful Meditation has charm.
LE POISSON MAGIQUE [D]
Novello NOV166287 £4.99
British composer and pianist John McCabe died in 2015. This work is an early one and published now for the first time. It dates from 1964, a rich year for his organ music also including the Johannes-Partita, Nocturne and Prelude. Le Poisson Magique is a meditation on the painting of the same name by Paul Klee and takes the form of a free passacaglia in two alternating tempi. A solid technique is required to tackle some of the more complex polyphonic passages but as ever the rewards with McCabe’s music are broad and deep.
Wilhelm Hansen WH32881 £25.95
MITTEN WIR IM LEBEN SIND [D]
Schott ED 22806 £6.99
Organ music makes up only a small part of Danish composer Peter Bruun’s (b. 1968) varied output. Nonetheless, Vuggesang (‘Cradle Song’) from 2016 is idiomatically and sympathetically written for the organ: a series of five variations on Luther’s hymn Vom Himmel hoch that affords variety of texture, colour and mood. A clear head is needed to negotiate some of the rhythmic complexities, but this is a fine work for the Christmas season that will reward performer and listener.
Another work to celebrate the life of Martin Luther is the German composer Enjott Schneider’s 16th Organ Symphony, from which this movement is extracted. Mitten wir im Leben sind (‘In the midst of life …’) is a funeral march requiring a large instrument and generous acoustic; the score also calls for a ‘funeral bell’ – a ‘long metal bar or metal plate struck with an iron hammer’ – which, if employed successfully by an enthusiastic assistant, would serve significantly to heighten the drama of this fine piece.