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Sounds Contemporary
Alan RIDOUT (1934 Ė 1996)

Suite Bretonne (1989)
Christ Preaching at Cookham Regata (1988)
Passacaglia (1971)
Two Pictures of Graham Sutherland (1967)
Scots Suite (1994)
The Night Watch (1981)
Humphrey CLUCAS (born 1941)

Passacaglia (1998)
Bernard ROSE (1916 Ė 1996)

Improvisation Einífeste Burg (ca. 1960)
Chimes (1974)
Passacaglia (1983)
Robert Crowley at the organ of All Saints Church, Margaret Street, London
Recorded: All Saints Church, London, no date
LAMMAS LAMM 103 D [71:12]

The late Alan Ridout has the lionís share in this collection of British organ music, quite deservedly so for this prolific and versatile composer wrote many substantial works for organ. Some of these were available on disc several years ago, in magnificent performances by Allan Wicks (on WEALDEN WS 209, published in 1984, nla and sadly not re-issued in CD format at the time of writing). So, the present release rather puts the balance straight again. Robert Crowley has chosen works of quite different character from various periods of Ridoutís composing career. Indeed, the earliest pieces recorded here, Two Pictures of Graham Sutherland (Path in the Wood, Thorn Head) date from 1967. Originally, Ridout composed a triptych (Thorn Head, Path in the Wood, The Bow) inspired by some of Sutherlandís paintings. The complete set was recorded by Allan Wicks for the WEALDEN disc mentioned above. For some reason, only two movements were published by O.U.P. (this despite the original three-movement set being magnificent). These pieces are superbly crafted, as is so much of Ridoutís music, and clearly demonstrate his mastery and feeling for the organís possibilities.

The Passacaglia of 1971 is a deeply serious, intense piece of music, a "study in crescendo" (the composerís words) slowly building-up to a shattering conclusion.

All the other pieces were composed during the last decade of Ridoutís life and clearly demonstrate the variety of the composerís approach. Both Suite Bretonne, subtitled Le Tombeau de Jean-Claude Legat, and based on Breton melodies noted down after hearing a recital given by Legat, and Scots Suite are Ė on the whole Ė more straightforward, though they also brilliantly exploit the instrumentís colouristic possibilities. I do not know any of Stanley Spencerís painting, so am unable to tell how Christ Preaching at Cookham Regata relates (or not) to that painting. This is, however, another brilliant piece, full of invention and packed with many unexpected touches.

 

The Night Watch is by far the longest and most substantial work here. It is, of course, inspired by Rembrandtís celebrated painting still to be seen at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It is a long, slow, brooding processional building-up to a tense climax before dying away quietly. Incidentally, one is now sure that there was originally nothing nocturnal in this huge canvas. Anyone who has seen it has noticed that the painting has now been partly cleaned (a small patch in a bottom corner) clearly showing that the scene actually takes place in daylight. This, however, has little impact on oneís appreciation of the painting and of Ridoutís powerful musical response to it.

Humphrey Clucasís Passacaglia of 1998 was written for the present player, as were Ridoutís Suite Bretonne, Scots Suite and The Night Watch as well as Roseís own Passacaglia also heard here. Besides the eight-bar Passacaglia theme, Clucas also weaves the Coventry Carol into the music.

Bernard Rose was known as a distinguished scholar and one of the leading choir trainers of his generation. He was President of the Royal College of Organists from 1974 to 1976, though Ė curiously enough Ė he only composed the three short pieces recorded here. The Improvisation "Einífeste Burg" is a perfect encore. Chimes, based on the chimes of Magdalen College, Oxford, is a brilliant study in palindrome. Passacaglia started its life as a short test piece for the FRCO examination which the composer later expanded considerably. Its ten variations on the theme (again based on Magdalen Collegeís hour chimes) unfold with increasing excitement, culminate in a short fugal section and the whole work ends with a powerfully affirmative conclusion.

In short, a most welcome release, superbly played by Robert Crowley and magnificently recorded. By the way, do not be put off by its collective title, for this is truly contemporary music, but not of the experimental kind that turns the organ into a noise-producing engine. Ridoutís admirers will be delighted while others will find much to enjoy here. Warmly recommended.

Hubert Culot



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