Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

LEO SOWERBY (1895-1968) works for organ and orchestra David Craighead (organ) David Mulbury (organ)   The Fairfield Orchestra/John Welsh rec New York City May 1994 NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559028 [70.29]

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Classic Concerto (1944)
Medieval Poem (1926)
Pageant (1931)
Festival Musick (1953)

Sowerby's most famous (or perhaps, more accurately, least obscure) composition is the overture Come Autumn Time which Solti conducted with the Chicago SO during the 1980s. Before that the music had dropped from orchestral programmes for many years and still struggles to make headway even in these times of more catholic tastes in which people are recapturing the romance of the first half of the century.

Sowerby, born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, became a devotee of the organ and many of his compositions are for that instrument. The Classical Concerto is in three movements: snappy, dreamy and in the finale echoing the string writing of Vaughan Williams (Partita and Concerto Grosso). The Medieval Poem is in a more challenging language with suggestions of Hovhaness (the wandering trumpet tune at 1.55) and Delius (his Dance Rhapsodies). This Delian impressionism is intensified by the solo voice of soprano Rita Lilly. The 1931 Pageant I found predominantly rather drab but the three movement Festival Musick is a different proposition with its clashing harmonies, Waltonian brass, and quiet chorales. Unfortunately my copy of the disc must have been defective as the music disappeared in the middle of the last movement (track 8). Approach with caution. My copy may have been an isolated blip but in the circumstances I must give a low star rating despite a disc that was largely of most promising calibre.


Rob Barnett

(due defective part-missing track)


Rob Barnett

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