Reviews of organ music, December 2017

ANTHOLOGIES

BEST OF BRITISH [M]
Christopher Tambling
ed. Hans-Peter Bähr
Dr J. Butz BU2833 16.00€
Chris Tambling left two organ works when he died in 2015 that were intended to be part of bigger volume of his organ works. This volume from Butz-Verlag starts with those two, March: Anchors Away! and Elegy, followed by eight pieces previously published by Kevin Mayhew. As an introduction to Tambling’s approachable style and zest for life expressed in his music, this is an admirable collection. The finale, a Sortie in six (in 6/8 time) comes in the middle; the book ends with an Intrada – I imagine the composer being delighted by this reverse ordering. I would have loved to see the expression on the face of the Hon. Mrs Pleydell-Bouverie when she heard the solo Tuba flourish at the start of the Processional ‘on her ninetieth birthday’.

THE OXFORD BOOK OF CHRISTMAS ORGAN MUSIC FOR MANUALS [E/M–D]
compiled by Robert Gower
Oxford 978-0-19-351767-7 £12.95
With 28 pieces for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, this handsomely produced volume is excellent value for money. Christmas, as one would expect, has the majority of the pieces, but there are seven for Advent. Just two are designated for Epiphany – but plenty of the supposedly Christmas pieces will be played then. The music falls into three categories. There are arrangements by Robert Gower of three classic choral pieces: Berlioz’s ‘Shepherds’ Farewell’ from L’enfance du Christ, Bach’s ‘Bereite dich, Zion’ from Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s ‘For unto us a child is born’ from Messiah. There are original pieces or arrangements for manuals of original pieces by 15 composers mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of these are by little-known organists (indeed there has been considerable detective work and searching of archives). Included are some real discoveries, such as the energetic Wachet auf chorale prelude by Jacob Friedrich Greiss. The volume also contains an arrangement of Bach’s trumpet and organ version of Wachet Auf (BWV Anh. 66) where the right hand has to cover trumpet and both right and left hand of the original (left hand now has the pedal line), resulting in one of several pieces that are at the higher end of the difficulty range.
            The third category – pieces published for the first time – is the highlight of the volume. Owain Park (How still we see thee lie) and Rebecca te Velde (Meditation on ‘Veni, veni, Emmanuel’) both have atmospheric intensity. The others are light-hearted – Malcom Riley combines two carol melodies in the music and in the title of I saw three ships in Sussex; Matthew Owens ends his Toccata on Good King Wenceslas ‘con abbandono’; Alexander Hawkins has huge fun with Jingle Bells in a treatment that looks as if conceived for jazz piano but works on organ. These five pieces make the volume well worth purchasing by organists who usually use pedals as well.

ORGAN MUSIC FOR ASCENSION OF CHRIST, PENTECOST AND TRINITY [M–M/D]
ed. Andreas Rockstroh
Baerenreiter BA 11237 £23.50
Organists who like to choose voluntaries appropriate to the liturgical season may well already have benefited from earlier volumes in this series, four of which have been reviewed here over the past eight years. The pattern remains the same with this final volume. The 27 pieces are almost all based on chorale melodies, many of which are little-known in English-speaking countries, and written by 19th and early 20th-century composers who, with one exception, are equally little known here – especially once one realizes that the Wagner is Franz Wagner, and the Mendelssohn is Arnold Mendelssohn (son of a second cousin of Felix). The exception is Sigfrid Karg-Elert, represented by his Ascensiontide Jesus Christus herrscht als König from Op. 15. Of the rest, perhaps the best-known name is Max Gulbins with his Pfingsten (‘Pentecost’) and a Chorale Fantasie for Pentecost Komm, o komm, du Geist des Lebens. As with previous volumes, there is much to be enjoyed among the pieces, whether or not the chorale melody is known.
Duncan Watkins

TUTORS

GETTING STARTED ON THE ORGAN THREE
Corinne Hepburn
animus £6.50
It is nearly 12 years since the first book appeared and was enthusiastically reviewed in these pages, including ‘Let us hope that more volumes will follow soon.’ Since then we have had Getting started on the Pedals, then Getting started on the Organ Two, Getting started on Organ Improvisation, and now this book Three. It incorporates elements of all the previous ones including pedalling and improvisation, as well as developing a proper focus on preparing detailed fingering and hand positions. The pieces make important teaching points, and are all composed by Corinne or Josephine Hepburn. Particularly interesting are the ‘further listening’ suggestions after each piece. So at the start a Méditation sur Veni, Emmanuel is accompanied by the suggestion of listening to the slower movements in La Nativité du Seigneur for Messiaen’s creation of a feeling of ‘time and space’ and Le Banquet Céleste, as well as Andrew Carter’s contrasting approach in his Toccata on ‘Veni Emmanuel’. A piece called Miroirs (lots of inversions and retrogrades) has a listening suggestion of Ad Wammes’s Miroir. The thoughtful notes (like those in the other books) encourage pupils to explore on their own as well as within formal lessons.
Julian Elloway

GRADED KEYBOARD MUSICIANSHIP: BOOKS ONE AND TWO
Anne Marsden Thomas and Frederick Stocken
Oxford 978-0-19-341193-7 and 978-0-19-341194-4 £14.95 each
There have been many keyboard musicianship tutors over the years, and here now is one for the 21st century. The areas covered are not new – the core skills of figured bass, score-reading, harmonizing, transposing and improvising remain as ever. But the language used, the examples chosen and above all the structure of each book are imaginatively rethought. The eight levels, corresponding to ABRSM grades and therefore ranging from pre-grade 1 to pre-diploma, have five lessons in each, and each lesson includes the five skills – presented in an integrated way. So, as each key is introduced, the transposing and harmonizing examples utilize these, leading at the end of each lesson to improvising exercises derived from the preceding tasks. The structure makes the books suitable for private as well as directed study, and either used alongside conventional organ or piano lessons, or as an intensive keyboard musicianship course.
Stephen Patterson

MANUALS ONLY

FULL ORGAN PIECES: Second Set (manuals only) [M]
William Herschel
ed. David Baker and Christopher Bagot
Fitzjohn Music Publications £9.00
As with the first set of 12 pieces, reviewed in SbyS 81 (June 2017), this second set was left incomplete by Herschel. Despite the absence of one missing and three incomplete pieces, the remaining eight are well worth playing. As before, they are quick movements with sparkling textures that require nimble fingers. Unlike the first volume, however, half the pieces are in minor keys, giving more variety within the collection.

THREE WEDDING PRELUDES [E/M]
Alan Smith
animus £3.00
These straightforward pieces are based on hymn tunes frequently sung at weddings: Slane, Brother James’s Air, and Praise my Soul. But of course not only at weddings – so this could be a useful volume of three hymn preludes for use throughout the year. The first two need a two-manual instrument

TWENTY VOLUNTARIES (SET 2) [mostly M]
John Marsh
ed. David Patrick and John Collins
Fitzjohn Music Publications £13.00
After publication of Marsh’s arrangements of Handel and Corelli, we now have 20 of Marsh’s own compositions. As well as the expected ‘slow introduction followed by lively main movement’ pieces, there are Preludes and Fugues, and also single-movement voluntaries with frequent stop changes. The edition is exemplary with helpful general introduction, notes on individual pieces, and Marsh’s own original Preface. These 20 wide-ranging pieces, dating from the last decade of the 18th century, are well worth exploring.
Duncan Watkins

CHRISTMAS ORGAN MUSIC

FANTASY ON ‘GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN’ [M/D]
Harold Britton
Fitzjohn Music Publications £5.50
The indefatigable Harold Britton, civic organist of Walsall for over 40 years and now in his 94th year, has written a substantial Fantasy based on the tune of ‘God rest ye, merry’. There is a serious, almost reflective central section before a long, controlled build-up to a canonic treatment of the theme (Tuba, etc.) underneath toccata-like figuration and then a triumphant final statement over a requested 32 ft. Reed pedal.

FANTASY-IMPROVISATION: GAUDETE! [M]
Alan Smith
Fagus-music.com £8.00
THREE CHRISTMAS VOLUNTARIES [E]
Alan Smith
animus £3.50
The ‘Gaudete’ tune found in Piae Cantiones is given a rhythmically exciting treatment with irregular and alternating metres that will keep organists on their toes, and an audience delighted. Fantasy-Improvisation is an apt description of a piece that turns in unexpected directions. The Three Christmas Voluntaries are all short and for manuals only. The bell patterns in Duo: Ding Dong! Merrily on high, and the gentle Meditation: Es ist ein’ Ros’ entsprungen may be expected treatments but not the 5/4 rhythm of Impromptu: We three kings – these are Magi with a spring in their step.
Duncan Watkins

VOLUNTARIES

PAEAN [M]
Philip Moore
Novello NOV166782 £5.99
This cheerful piece by Philip Moore is another work extracted from the Organists’ Charitable Trust Little Organ Book. As ever with one of the UK’s finest composers of ‘traditional modern’ organ music, the work is literate, idiomatic and pleasing to the ear. Making only moderate technical demands, yet being full of colour and character, this would be an excellent voluntary or recital work for any organist.

IN MONTE OLIVETI: MEDITATIONS Op. 335 [E]
Herbert Paulmichl
Doblinger 02-509 14.45€
The music of evergreen Austrian composer Herbert Paulmichl (b. 1935) has featured in these review pages before, and this latest offering is very much in character: strongly devotional and solidly neo-early-baroque in harmony and form. The 15 short movements form a Böhm-esque partita on the Passiontide folk/hymn tune In Stiller Nacht that would make a fine meditative work woven into a penitential liturgy.
Huw Morgan

3 ORGAN CHORALES [D]
Sunleif Rasmussen
Wilhelm Hansen WH 32895 £15.95
This is the only published work for solo organ by Rasmussen (b. 1961), though an earlier piece (A Light is Lit, 1993) is scored for organ with electronics. As with all his music, the titles of these three ‘chorales’ (perhaps better described as fantasias) – Breaking Waves, Flying Storm and Summer Morning – suggest a strong connection with the landscape of his native Faeroe Islands. Spectral harmonies combine with rushing manual figurations to create exciting, virtuosic, music that is satisfyingly characterful.

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… ERNEUERN SICH STÄNDIG UND BLEIBEN SICH SELBST TREU [D]
Helmut Schmidinger
Doblinger 02-467 16.95€
Helmut Schmidinger (born in Austria in 1969) was commissioned to write this feisty work, whose title roughly translates as ‘… renew themselves constantly and remain faithful to themselves’, in 2007 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Oberösterreichische Ferngas AG, an Austrian energy utility. Schmidinger translates ‘Ferngas’ into notes (F-E-D-G-A-E flat), a melodic cell from which most of the thematic material is derived. Despite its rather unusual origins this is a festive and exciting work, though one requiring a sure technique and a good ear for registration and colour.
Huw Morgan