Sonata 1 in C sharp minor Op. 5
Four Extemporisations: Carol, Divertimento, Fidelis,
Peter HURFORD (born
Suite: Laudate Dominum: Processional, Rondo da Chiesa, Meditation,
Scherzo, French Carol, Exurgat Deus
Published Organ Works: Angelus and Trio, Interlude & Paean, Tuba
Three Preludes on Welsh Hymn Melodies: Bryn Calfaria, Rhosymedre,
Basil Harwood was born in Woodhouse, Gloucestershire in 1859. He was a pupil
of Carl Reinecke (1824 - 1910) in Leipzig. Reinecke was a prolific composer
writing operas, concertos, symphonies and some splendid chamber music. Harwood
mainly wrote for the organ and the church. Some of his organ music was innovative
for the day. I remember struggling with a piece which was for left hand and
pedals only. To my mind, he is the British equivalent of Rheinberger (1839
- 1901) who wrote 20 organ sonatas himself. Harwood was organist at Ely (1887
- 92) and at Christ Church, Oxford (1892 - 1907) and died in London in 1949.
The organ sonata used to be a popular medium but it has fallen into neglect
by composers in recent times and this is partly due to some pretty inept
compositions in this genre. Many organists felt that they had to compose
for their instruments but often the results were poor. A brilliant organist
does not guarantee a brilliant composer.
Harwood's Sonata No 1 in C sharp minor, Op 5 is a really good piece
and Leeds Town Hall Organ does it proud. The opening movement allegro
appassionato is very well conceived; the andante is melodious
and can you work out the similarity to a hymn tune. The brief maestoso
leads to the obligatory fugue which form is so predictable that it
slightly spoils this otherwise excellent work.
How well I remember playing the organ music of Percy Whitlock when I was
a boy. I still treasure Oxford University Press's edition of the Five
Short Pieces. Whitlock had a short life (1903 - 1946) but the Four
Extemporisations are a good introduction to his music which has a pastoral
folk-song-like idiom at times in which shimmering heat on pleasant meadows
is often evoked. The Carol is very beautiful and Simon Lindley's
registration is expertly judged. The Divertimento movement sounds
a little confused as if brain and fingers are not quite together.
Fidelis is another pastoral piece and the famous fanfare ... famous
to serious organists ... but fanfare? At times I felt I was in North Africa!
Peter Hurford was born in 1930 and studied at RCM and at Cambridge. In 1958
he became Master of Music at St Albans. He is a very fine organist and, like
Harwood, has written for the king of instruments and for the church. His
Suite: Laudate Dominium is in six movements and while it may not be
strikingly original it is well-written and enjoyable. A few parts of the
work are, in fact, rather ordinary and there are one or two blemishes in
the performance. Hurford's music seems to be looking back and is therefore
not a product of its time.
The pieces by Norman Cocker (1889 - 1953) are most rewarding. I did find
Lindley's staccato in the Tuba Tune a little excessive. Vaughan
Williams's Three Preludes on Welsh Hymn Tunes are not striking either
but the recording engineer, who is excellent throughout this CD, excels himself
at the magnificently controlled crescendo at the end of
Hyfrodol, a glorious tune if ever there was one.