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Margaret Wegener
Dingley Dell
West Drive
United Kingdom
Phone: 01691 662616

Margaret WEGENER (b.1920)
A Sympathy with Sounds - Choral Music by Margaret Wegener


I sing of a Maiden (Sasha Johnson Manning, sop)
The Annunciation Carol

The Virgin's Song (Sasha Johnson Manning, sop)
The Blessed Virgin's Lullaby
Mary Lende me Thy Swete Child

The Christchild Carol (Sue Tyson, sop)
The Holly
Dans Cette Etable

A Sympathy with Sounds (Sue Tyson, sop)
Adoro te devote
Christ our Passover
The Beatitudes
Confitemi Domini
Saviour of the World
As truly as God is our Father
Since I am coming to that Holy Room
I am the Light of the World
Nunc Dimittis

Chudleigh's Company/Patrick Larley
Alan Horsey (organ)
rec. Christ Church Oswestry, 28 Feb 2004. DDD
TAPE THAT 4054A23A 05302 11 [69:17]

Margaret Wegener was educated at London University College and made her career in teaching (1945 to 1980). Throughout that time, and since, she has maintained composition as a counterpoint to the rest of her life or perhaps vice versa. She has held offices of organist and choral director at churches in Peterborough, Canterbury, London and North Wales. Her music is published by OUP, Da Capo, RSCM and Musica Arioso.

There are more than one hundred works ranging from school music to major pieces for chorus, soloists and full orchestra, from songs to church music as well as instrumental music. Her music has been much admired by John Rutter, Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells. These three figures, together also with Bax, Holst, Warlock and to some extent Hadley and Delius, mark out the stylistic territory encompassed by her music.

On the clear evidence of this disc and her previous Musica Arioso disc of songs, Wegener has a natural sympathy for the human voice. She does not call on it to do anything awkward or violent. She knows its limits.

I have already commented on the fine CD of her songs Music to My Listening. This disc has a mix of choral with (10) and without organ (9). In four of the pieces there is a solo for soprano. Seventeen of the nineteen pieces are to religious texts some of those being of a mystical slant. These pieces were written between 1951 and 2003 although most are from the period 1985-2000. The earliest is The Christchild Carol of 1951 to words by G K Chesterton with A Sympathy with Sounds (a choral cantata to words by Cowper, Oldham, Browning and Milton) dating from 1961 and written for the Oswestry Choral Society. The most recent, 2003, include The Holly a setting de la Mare and The Annunciation Carol.

The contours of her themes and their treatment have an ease and eloquence that places her writing in the English pastoral mainstream. Her concern is with beauty, melancholy, the English countryside, devotion, the stone church, the warm breath of the choir rising in the cold chancel and the mystical-historical nexus that links our today with the Medieval yesterdays of England's island-dwellers. While written over a long period her music is eloquent. There appear to have been no Damascus Road conversions or sudden genuflections to Ligeti or Schoenberg. All of the music here is tender, tuneful, direct-speaking. I would not like to single out any track at the expense of others except that in two cases the music is unassuming and superficially simple (Adoro te devote and Christ Our Passover).

The review copy of this disc was sent to me by the composer. She says that she "was lucky enough to engage a very good choral ensemble and excellent organist ... who made the little two manual organ in a local church sound like a cathedral organ. I was very pleased with the result ... I had never heard several of these pieces performed before and some of it sounded so good I couldn't believe I had written them. Sadly my eyesight is failing now which makes composing more difficult but I will struggle on as I have lots more ideas in the pipeline."

The cover of the CD is a striking abstract oil painting by the composer. It is entitled ‘Sound Waves’. Its mingling of slantwise stave lines and jewelled wave-forms like Celtic coloured glass is striking and full of the very rich and gentle light that buoys up the best of her music.

It is once again a pity that we are not told more about the composer and her music. There are no notes as such; simply a detailed single-fold insert covering the contents and personalia for this recording project. A website would certainly help.

This is a welcome successor to the CD of Wegener’s songs. Her choral works sit with distinction under the benevolent shade of that of Finzi, Howells and Warlock. Wegener’s music smilingly acknowledges the tradition they established.

Rob Barnett

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