Organ music of Jennifer Bate
Jennifer Bate (organ)
GUILD GMCD 7209
Many members know Jennifer Bate as a remarkable organist whose celebrated
recordings of Messiaen's organ music are milestones in this composer's
discography. She has also recorded a lot of British organ music, most outstanding
being her six CDs, recorded some years ago for UNICORN.
Bate is also a composer of no mean achievement as the present release
demonstrates. Her organ music may not be as startlingly innovative as, say,
Messiaen's but it is superbly crafted, colourful, quite effective though
it may not always be easy to play. It is clearly the work of a composer who
has a deep understanding of the instrument and who knows how to bring the
best out of it.
The short and brilliant Toccata on a Theme of Martin Shaw was
written in 1972 and was Jennifer Bate's first published work; a piece that
should find a permanent place in the organist's repertoire of short virtuoso
works either as recital opener or encore.
Introduction and Variations on an Old French Carol (1982) is
"a miniature demonstration of the tonal resources [of the organ]". The five,
concise and contrasted variations display the instrument's numerous resources
and, as such, the piece might have been titled "A Young Person's Guide to
We are not told when the Four Reflections were written nor
if they were written as a set. However these four pieces (Reverie, Norwegian
Barcarolle, Cantilena and Pastoral Palindrome) are quite enjoyable
and have become a favourite of mine.
Homage to 1685 won the prize, sponsored by The Carnegie Trust
in 1985, for a composition to celebrate the tercentenary of Bach, Handel
and Domenico Scarlatti. Originally the suite had six movements and we are
not told what happened to the two movements dropped in the meantime. The
first movement Moto Perpetuo based on the well-known BACH motive is
followed by a lively Gigue on a Theme of Scarlatti. The slow movement,
which does not seem to borrow any material from any of the three composers,
is just content to sing along and is then followed by a Postlude on a
Theme of Handel (in fact the so-called Harmonious Blacksmith)
which brings the work to a brilliant conclusion. This superb piece is by
far the most ambitious work in this collection and should be eagerly taken-up
by organists willing to explore some new repertoire. Many of Jennifer Bate's
works were either written for or prompted by friends. This is the case with
Il Filatoio, An English Canon (or Canone Inglese per la
Festa di Garbagna to give it its full title) and the simple, yet deeply
This release closes with yet another example of that much favoured organ
genre, i.e. a set of variations. The Variations on a Gregorian Theme
are based on a plainsong for Vespers, first Sunday in Advent
Conditor alme siderum. There are six contrasted variations of which
the last is a homage to Percy Whitlock "deliberately imitating the way he
wrote". A quite effective piece.
I believe that Jennifer Bate's music should appeal to organists willing to
investigate some new, accessible repertoire but the quality of the music
is such that it should also appeal to anyone simply enjoying well-crafted,
colourful and tuneful music. This is not only for organ buffs! Needless to
say Jennifer Bate's performances are superb and receive a beautiful recording.
Well worth investigating.