Paul Whiteman, Whithorne, Whittaker, reads my concise Grove, but not a trace
of Percy Whitlock (1903-1946). It's certainly not a name I would mention
to non-organist friends (the majority!): it isn't that they would be critical;
simply no glint of recognition. Yet these same music-lovers could well respond
positively to such a piece as Fidelis from the Four
Extemporisations played as a Voluntary before Cathedral Evensong.
Perhaps the moral is that we organists who love to listen to, and play,
Whitlock's music should campaign on his behalf - and yes, there is a Percy
If musical advocacy be required then look no further than this present CD,
which contains The Plymouth Suite (played at St. Andrew's Parish Church,
Plymouth), together with the Five Short Pieces, Four
Extemporisations and Seven Sketches, performed at the Brangwyn
Jennifer Bate presents the 21 tracks involved with the utmost charm and sympathy,
painting in the colours of each exquisite miniature with a rainbow of
registrations, and glorying in the robust trumpetings of Paean and
Fanfare. There is a taking nimbleness in the notoriously tricky
Scherzo and Chanty; flying fingers for Divertimento,
and the virtuosic Toccata - quite the equal of many of more celebrated
French examples of the genre.
So if you are an adventurous music-lover try this CD. I don't think you'll
be disappointed. Organists will assuredly love it, and (dare I say, speaking
personally?) perhaps learn from it as well.
and a review of the same disc by Rob Barnett:-
Although in the same series (and bargain price bracket) as the other two
ASV QUICKSILVAs this is the only one of the triptych to be dedicated to the
works of one composer. Whitlock has come in for quite a bit of attention
over the last decade or two. His 1937 symphony for organ and orchestra was
revived by Graham Barber and the BBC Welsh SO at St Asaph Cathedral and this,
in turn, seems to have lead to at least two other concert revivals the latest
of which was this summer (1999) at York Minster. The same artists recorded
the piece at the Minster and this is due to be issued on CD by AMPHION RECORDINGS
There have been several small label recitals dedicated to Whitlock's organ
works. Sadly his orchestral works have been neglected. There were a number
of suites and overtures - possibly light in character (he was for many years
a sort of 'composer in residence' at Dan Godfrey's Bournemouth).
Whitlock is also much associated with Devon's 'other capital' (Exeter claims
pride of place), Plymouth. Plymouth's St Andrews Parish Church (next to the
Guildhall, off Royal Parade) was the venue during the early 1980s for a
collaboration between Bob Auger and Ms Bate in which she played the
Plymouth Suite (1937) - contemporaneous with the symphony though
lighter in tone. The suite is in five movements: a casual allegro
risoluto, a recessed and suitably distant Lantana (so very
self-effacing), a jolly shanty called Carillon, Salix - an
exercise in English reserve though in touch with the British pastoralists
(principally Finzi) and a final and flighty Toccata in the spirit
The other three sets of pieces were recorded more recently and not in Plymouth.
The Five Short Pieces (1929) include a jaunty
Allegretto, a Holstian (Walking Song or Marching Song)
Folk Tune, a Finzian Andante Tranquillo, a Christmassy Scherzo
(perhaps Malcolm Arnold had some of the sound-character of this piece
in mind when he wrote his own, and sweetest, of Organ Concertos) and a Paean
complete with blasting tuba tune.
The Four Extemporisations (1933) start with a Carol
(complete with hints of Danny Boy) which achieves both dazzle
and subtlety, a Divertimento of Elgarian moth-wing texture, an understated
Fidelis and a brightly-lit Fanfare.
The Seven Sketches on Verses of the Psalms include another
Finzian piece (Postlude), a Dvorakian Duetto, a fragile and
etiolated Plaint, a chipper Exultemus, an Elgarian
Preambule, a low key Intermezzo and a concluding Sortie
which suggests the brilliance of the new-born light.
Excellent notes by Malcolm Riley of the Whitlock Society (note his Thames
The present album is dedicated to the memory of sound-recordist Bob Auger
with whom Jennifer Bate has worked.
An attractively priced (bargain range) issue with some of the most attractive
music of the three recitals. We need to hear more Whitlock.