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Twentieth Century Organ Music
Benjamin BRITTEN

Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Vittoria [6'13]
Voluntary on 'Tallis' Lamentation' [3'44]
Prelude to 'They Walk Alone' [3'09]
Village Organist's Piece [3'02]
Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998)

Preludio al Vespro di Monteverdi [3'39]
John LAMBERT (1926-1995)

Organ Mass [21'30]: Kyrie eleison [1'07]; Christe eleison [1'42]; Kyrie eleison [3'06]; Sanctus [2'07]; Osanna [1'29];
Agnus Dei I [2'48]; Agnus Dei II [4'00]; Agnus Dei III [5'10]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)

Master Tallis's Testament [6'57]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)

Three Preludes on Welsh Hymn Tunes: Bryn Calfaria [4'06]; Rhosymedre [4'02]; Hyfrydol [2'54]
Timothy Bond, organ
Rec. St Wolfgang, Schneeberg, Germany, October 2003. DDD
REGENT REGCD205 [58'50]

This interesting release presents John Lambert's little known 20 minute Organ Mass, a work from the mid-1960s at the heart of a programme of English 20th century organ music, the remainder written between 1920 and 1946. Timothy Bond, a long-time lecturer at RCM and specialist in contemporary music, plays with commitment, flawless technique, a nice sense of harmonic tension, and a superb ability to project sometimes highly complex forms.

Clearly Bond's wish to champion John Lambert's work is the main raison d'être for the recording. Lambert, himself one time organist at St Vedast-alias-Foster in London and composition student of Nadia Boulanger, composed essentially avant-garde music for a huge variety of forces. His Organ Mass, roots firmly in the ethos of Stockhausen and Boulez, is characterised by an ever-expanding canvas both in terms of length and in terms of development, serial elements, the use of specific 'blocks' of sound (trills and chordal trills feature heavily for instance), considerable use of monody and near monody - shades here of Les Corps Glorieux of Messiaen - and a challengingly complex rhythmic and harmonic language. Timothy Bond proves an ideal interpreter; whatever your feelings about this school of composition, this work clearly deserved a first-rate recording, and this it has received. In addition, Bond's first-rate programme notes add hugely to the experience.

Also of considerable interest on the CD are the first recordings of 3 (actually 2) 'new' organ works of Benjamin Britten. These have been discovered and edited by the performer and the composer Colin Matthews. The short Voluntary on 'Tallis's Lamentation' and the 2 versions of the very static and beautiful Prelude to 'They Walk Alone', part of the incidental music to a play, will I think become popular repertoire items on these shores.

My only concern about this CD is the organ Timothy Bond has chosen to record. A large-ish - 3/56 - Jehmlich organ from 1998, this follows the now rather tired formula of essentially neo-classical choruses - Hauptwerk and Positive - plus a large Schwellwerk with pseudo-French reeds, all housed in a modern, in this instance strikingly ugly but Werkprinzip-dictated, case and with ultra rock-steady winding, perhaps from Schwimmer regulators, though this is speculation. Tonally it is characterised by an excellent consistency of voicing, and at 8', especially the flutes and strings, it sounds quite beguiling, aided by the large and warm acoustic. The 4' principals and the upperwork however are hard and unyielding. The character of the organ seems to match Lambert's music perfectly, and to a lesser extent Britten's and Tippett's also. However it seems quite wrong for both Howells and Vaughan Williams - isn't Hyfrydol rather slow incidentally? - and I don't agree with Timothy Bond that the voicing of the instrument serves optimally the lyrical tendencies in the music. The disc, I feel, could and perhaps should have been recorded in the UK.

If you are interested in 20th century English organ music this is an essential purchase. One could suggest that less than an hour of music seems a bit stingy, but Bond's programming is so strong that one can listen to this at one sitting without it outstaying its welcome.

Chris Bragg

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