Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Samuel WESLEY (1766-1837)
Organ music by Samuel Wesley: Organ voluntaries, Short pieces

Voluntary in C minor, Op.6 No.3 (1805-1818)
Largo [2.31]
Moderato [3.38]
Voluntary in C, Op.6 No6
Largo e maestoso [2.52]
Andante largetto [6.30]
Voluntary in G minor, Op.6 No.9
Largetto [2.05]
Quasi fantasia [2.52]
Moderato [9.10]
Voluntary in A, Op.6 No.11
Largetto maestoso [3.55]
Allegro commodo [5.25]
Voluntary in F, Op.6 No12
Slow [2.00]
With spirit but not quick [3.20]
Moderately slow [2.55]
Voluntary in B flat for Thomas Attwood
Moderately slow [2.00]
Lively [2.25]
Allegro [5.15]
From twelve short pieces (1812)
No.8 in F [1.17]
No.9 in F [2.25]
David Herman (Organ)
Organ by Harrison & Harrison, 1962,
Recorded: 8-10 July 2002, Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, England.


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Samuel Wesley was an outstanding composer of his time and most of his characteristic works were written for the organ. The sincerity of his organ music is evidenced by his enlargement of the structure of the 18th century Voluntary. He also developed its expressiveness and transformed the weaknesses of the instrument of those times into strengths. As the well-written booklet inform us, by that time the organ had two main limitations. ‘First the absence of a pedal organ, even if some instruments had pull-down pedals, or couplers, for the lowest notes; second, the absence of a tonally distinctive character for the divisions other than the Great. It was essentially a one-manual instrument, in spite of a second, and occasionally (as in the Portuguese Embassy Chapel) a third manual.’

Wesley was an enthusiast of Bach’s music, which he pioneered in England and like him, he was an excellent organist. He had never been appointed to a church post as organist. Bach’s influence is quite strong in these works. Their range is not limited to organ alone but covers a broad spectrum. He wrote music for orchestra, chamber music, quartets, voice and keyboard.

Wesley composed over 100 works for solo organ. The Op.6 was composed between 1805 and 1818. The Voluntaries have a sonata-like dimension and form. They are the ancestors of Mendelssohn’s organ sonatas. The pieces performed on this CD ‘exploit the nature and soul of the organ in a way no English composer had done before him.’ By the time Wesley composed his Op.6 his style was ‘plain; chromaticism of the melodic line; harmonic subtlety, mastery of contrapuntal techniques, fondness for theme and variations, use of dotted rhythms, unisons, dramatic contrasts.’ The Twelve Short Pieces are in the form of brief preludes. Wesley took ‘the various tonal aspects of the 18th century instrument that was available to him, and used them as vehicles for 2-part studies: Full with the trumpet, cornet, etc. The most striking feature of these polished, concentrated miniatures is the integrated use of chromaticism.’

Herman’s playing is neat and quite expressive in general. The registration at the flexible Harrison & Harrison organ is effective and well managed. What is missing is any real sparkle and momentum. This would have helped convey the different characters of the sections. His playing is a little too matter of fact. Some sections are less musically cohesive and the phrasing needed to feel a little more expansive. Occasionally the bass line is not clear enough and with the heavy pedal registration the sound creaks. This is something that the recording technician could have moderated. The ornamentation is could have done with being crisper, freer and more expressive.

Christina Antoniadou

Notes on this recording

Redcliffe Recordings

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