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Alan RIDOUT (1934 – 1996)
Processions (1974) [15:29]
The Fourteen Stations of the Cross (1978) [25:53]
Easter Fanfare (1990) [2:43]
Dance Suite (1969) [14:53]
Five Pieces from Canticle of the Rose (1989) [14:14]
Robert Crowley at the organ of Canterbury Cathedral
Recorded: Canterbury Cathedral, May 2003
LAMMAS LAMM 161 D [73:28]


The late Alan Ridout was a very prolific composer whose large and varied output has still to be properly re-assessed, let alone assessed. He composed in most genres, including operas and children operas (some may remember a long-deleted recording of The White Doe written for Ripon Cathedral once available on Alpha ACA 562), eight symphonies (none of which has been recorded so far), twenty five concertos, choral music and a sizeable body of organ music (which fared somewhat better, i.e. as far as recordings are concerned), ranging from short occasional works such as Easter Fanfare (heard here) to large-scale pieces such as The Fourteen Stations of the Cross (also heard here) and The Seven Last Words (available on Nimbus NI 5580/1), and including a number of “secular” organ works such as Suite Bretonne, Scots Suite and The Night Watch (all three recorded by Robert Crowley and available on Lammas LAMM 103 D that I reviewed here some time ago). 

The present release again juxtaposes “religious” and “secular” organ works, of which The Fourteen Stations of the Cross composed in 1978 for Allan Wicks, who recorded it many years ago (Wealden WS 209 – nla), is the most substantial. This imposing masterpiece is laid-out as a theme and variations, or – rather – thirteen variations in search of a theme, since the theme is heard complete in the fourteenth Station only. The music is brooding in mood, slow-moving but nevertheless full of telling contrasts. The whole piece, however, is quite accessible (even if it needs – and repays – repeated hearings) and communicates with some considerable expressive strength, actually a typical hallmark of Ridout’s music. This impressive and powerful work compares most favourably with Ridout’s The Seven Last Words as well as with some of Messiaen’s large-scale organ works, although the idiom is somewhat less adventurous but no less interesting than Messiaen’s. 

The shorter Dance Suite was also written for Allan Wicks, and is of course completely different in mood, and exploring other expressive characteristics of the instrument. The four dances make for a highly contrasted piece, in turn bouncing with energy, tenderly meditative, lively and majestic. The second dance is quite beautiful, and a little gem indeed. 

Canticle of the Rose is another substantial work written for the unveiling of the Laporte Window at St Albans Cathedral. The work is in eight movements that may be played as a cycle lasting some twenty four minutes, as separate items, or in one of two suggested suites : (a) Earth, Fire, Air, Water and Postlude (i.e. the suite recorded here) and (b) Father, Son, Spirit and Postlude (hopefully to be recorded soon). Again, the four movements make for a contrasted and varied suite of vivid miniatures, with Fire a brilliant Scherzo in stark contrast to the lightness of Air and the fluid, capricious motion of Water, the whole being capped by an imposing hymn-like Postlude ending with triumphant, assertive fanfares. 

This fine selection of Ridout’s organ music opens with the somewhat shorter Processions, actually yet another suite in four movements laid-out along the same line as Dance Suite, and includes a still shorter, occasional but quite effective Easter Fanfare of some improvisatory character. 

As already mentioned, the present release is an apt and timely sequel to Crowley’s earlier recording of some of Ridout’s organ music (in Sounds Contemporary – Lammas LAMM 103D) and will hopefully be followed soon by some further release(s), for there are still some sizeable organ works by Ridout that still await their first recording in CD format, e.g. Sinfonia, Three Resurrection Dances and the second suite of Canticle of the Rose, to name but a few that come to mind. Crowley obviously loves this music that he plays with assurance and dedication, and is thus the right man to do the job. Excellent performances and very fine recording. Warmly recommended. 

Hubert Culot 


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