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Music for Organ: Volume 5: Organ Music by Manchester Composers.
John E. ELLIS (b.1943) Variations on ‘Veni Emmanuel’ (2002)
Norman COCKER (1889-1953) Interlude*, Paean*, Angelus*, Trio*, Cradle Song** [* 1922; **1927]
Ronald FROST (b.1933) Passacaglia for the birthday of St. Ann’s (1979)
Ernest TOMLINSON (b.1924) Three Lyrical Pieces (1958)
Douglas STEELE (1910-1999) Chorale Prelude – On Gibbons’ ‘Angel’s Song’ (1947)
David ELLIS (b.1933) Vetrate di Ricercata (2002)
Ronald Frost (organ, St. Ann’s Church, Manchester)
Recorded in November 2002, January, February and July 2003.

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Subtitled "Organ Music by Manchester Composers", this is a desirable, varied and outstandingly interesting disc.

The most serious and most extended piece is David Ellis’s ‘Vetrate di Ricercata’, in three movements. It is dedicated respectively to Mendelssohn, specifically his work for J.S. Bach and therefore contrapuntal, to Karg-Elert, Impressionist as one would expect but updated Impressionism (the work dates from 2002), and to the Liverpool organist Cyril Colvin, Ellis’s one-time mentor. Overall, ‘Vetrate di Ricercata’ is of considerable virtuosity and is a test of Mr. Frost’s experience and technique*.

His own Passacaglia, composed in 1979, begins with a "tone row" derived from dates in St. Ann’s history, but the treatment is tonal with a joyful climax. The variations by John Ellis – no relation of David – are fairly simple workings of a well known Advent hymn with just a few astringent harmonies to remind us that this, too, dates from 2002. The seventh and last variation, the longest and marked Fantasie, begins contrapuntally and ends in appropriately triumphal mood.

Douglas Steele (1910-1999) was basically a miniaturist and usually gentle in invention, as is this chorale prelude. Both Norman Cocker and Ernest Tomlinson are best known for lighter music and this CD does not alter that perception of either. Cocker was a cinema organist as well as Organist of Manchester Cathedral, whose memory is kept alive by the cheerful ‘Tuba Tune’. This, for once, does not figure here and it is good to hear something else by this Yorkshire-born musician**. Four of the five movements date from a published collection of 1922 and are delightfully shaped miniatures; ‘Cradle Song’ (1927), unpublished, is much longer, but equally tuneful. Ernest Tomlinson has said many times that the tune is the main thing, the starting point of any composition, and so it is here - incidentally he has had much experience as an organist. The three pieces are titled ‘Quiet Prelude’, ‘Rondoletto’, deliciously lilting, and ‘Paean’, appropriately joyful.

Mr. Frost deals dedicatedly with this diverse repertoire and, as one would expect from one who has been at St. Ann’s for upwards of a quarter of a century, clearly knows his way about the St. Ann’s organ, a major rebuild of which he supervised in 1995-6. The booklet includes its specification.

Recording excellent; strongly recommended and not just to organ buffs!

* A comprehensive analysis of each movement is given within the booklet.

** It is on Dunelm Records’ DRD0166 "The Inaugural Recital".

Philip L. Scowcroft

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