Aureole etc.




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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Lammas

Humphrey CLUCAS (b.1941)
Urbs Beata (2000)
Suite (1993)
Passacaglia (1998)
Sinfonietta (1994)
Toccata (2000)
Credo (1990)
Adoro Te (1994)
Three Plainsong Preludes (2000)
Qui Lux Es (1988)
Robert Crowley at the organ of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban
Recorded: Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban, October and November 2002
LAMMAS LAMM 151 D [66:08]



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Humphrey Clucas’s lifelong connection with the Cathedral choir tradition (he was a lay vicar of Westminster Abbey until 1999) has a lasting impact on his career as self-taught composer. He composed a good deal of choral music (several settings of both Evening and Morning Canticles), some of which has been available on a United disc released several years ago, and of organ music, most of which he wrote in the last twenty-five years or so.

The present release usefully presents an interesting selection of organ works composed during the last fifteen years, since the earliest one featured here Qui Lux Es dates from 1988 and the most recent ones (Urbs Beata, Toccata and Three Plainsong Preludes) date from 2000. The common denominator here is that all pieces are based, in one way or another, on various plainsong hymns or fairly familiar tunes. The plainsong tune Christe, qui lux es seems to ‘obsess’ the composer quite consistently, for several pieces here are based on it, not least the concluding item Qui Lux Es, but also in the Prelude of the Suite of 1993 as well as in the final section of the choral work Lux Hominum.

Clucas displays a great deal of imagination and invention in his handling of the plainsong tunes. From this point of view, Urbs Beata, based on Blessed city, heavenly Salem is particularly inventive and resourceful. The contrasted variations include, among other, a fleeting Scherzo of great verve. The five-movement Suite of 1993 again makes extensive use of several well-known tunes: variations on Christe, qui lux es, an impromptu on Tonus peregrinus, a Nocturne on Rorate coeli in which the hymn is eventually transformed into a "slightly spectral waltz", a Scherzo on Dies irae and the final set of variations on Veni Creator Spiritus.

In spite of its title, the Sinfonietta of 1994 also uses several tunes, though not necessarily plainsong hymns. Indeed the Prelude has Tantum ergo as its second subject whereas the Chorale is based on the German hymn-tune Soll’s sein. More surprisingly, though, the concluding Toccata is based on the Welsh folk-song Suo-Gân, generally considered as a lullaby.

Robert Crowley has already recorded the Passacaglia of 1988 (Lammas LAMM 103 D, to be reviewed shortly). The Coventry Carol is used here as the second theme. At the climax of the work, the carol’s theme becomes a sort of cantus firmus, to grand effect indeed. The Passacaglia is one of the finest and most impressive pieces here.

The remaining items (Toccata, Credo, Adoro Te and the Three Plainsong Preludes) are all shorter, but none the less quite attractive in their own right. Definitely, the sort of stuff that deserves to be popular among organists. I particularly enjoyed the preludes.

Clucas’s organ music is superbly crafted and very attractive, though it may not be that easy to bring off satisfactorily. Needless to say that Robert Crowley’s impeccable readings are a joy to listen to. Magnificent recording throughout. A most welcome and rewarding release on all counts.

Hubert Culot



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