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Lammas Records

Sounds Awesome
Alan RIDOUT (1934-1996)
Reredos (c.1956) [4:42]
Paean (1963) [1:58]
Prelude on St Thomas Honour We (1988) [2:43]
Epithalamium (1967) [2:20]
The Seven Last Words (1965) [25:37]
Humphrey CLUCAS (b. 1941)
Psalm Prelude (2004) [2:32]
Symphony for Organ (2004) [22:56]
Peter WISHART (1921-1984)
Pastorale and Fughetta Op.38 (1960) [4:49]
Humphrey SEARLE (1915-1982)
Cyprus Dances Op.76 (1981) [4:41]
Robert Crowley (organ)
rec. Canterbury Cathedral, October 2004
LAMMAS LAMM 183D [70:17]



Robert Crowley and Lammas have already served Alan Ridoutís organ music well. After Sounds of Alan Ridout (LAMM 161D) and Sounds Contemporary (LAMM 102D), both reviewed here some time ago, here comes another release in which Ridoutís organ music has the lionís share. Ridout wrote for organ regularly and consistently throughout his composing life. The somewhat enigmatically titled Reredos, Ridoutís first acknowledged organ work, was written in the mid-1950s when he was music teacher at Holmewood House, Tonbridge. The music begins quietly and slowly before gaining momentum in the central Allegro section. It already displays several Ridout hallmarks: dissonant harmonies reminiscent of Messiaen and Kenneth Leighton. Paean of 1963 is a short brilliant Toccata all over in two minutesí time. An ideal encore to any organ recital.

Ridout had a long association with Canterbury and its cathedralís organist Allan Wicks who regularly played his organ works, some of which he committed to disc during the LP era. Some of Ridoutís great organ works such as The Fourteen Stations of the Cross (1978), Three Pictures of Graham Sutherland (1967) and The Seven Last Words (1965) were written for Wicks; and so was the beautiful Prelude on ďSt Thomas Honour WeĒ based on a 14th century carol. The Seven Last Words is one of Ridoutís organ masterpieces, and one in which he explores a wide range of moods and textures, by turns harsh and dissonant, forceful and appeased, violent and meditative. Each of the seven sections is neatly characterised, without ever being programmatic or descriptive. No. 1 Father, forgive them lays more emphasis on the cruelty of crucifixion than on forgiveness. No. 2 Woman, behold thy son is calm and tender. No. 3 My God, why hast thou forsaken me? is another angular, brutal movement that stands in complete contrast to the preceding section and the one that follows (No. 4 Verily I say unto thee : Today shalt thou be with me in paradise), another quiet meditation. No. 5 I thirst is a fast, energetic movement. No. 6 It is finished is played on the pedals throughout and must be awfully tricky from the technical standpoint. The concluding section Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit provides an assertive and majestic apotheosis to what is a really great piece of organ music.

The short Epithalamium, composed in 1967 for the marriage of Reverend David Marriott at Guildford Cathedral, is a short, calm but lively piece of great refinement.

Humphrey Clucasí music, too, has been well served by Crowley and Lammas (in Sounds of Humphrey Clucas on LAMM 151D and in Sounds Contemporary, both reviewed here). Crowley chose two fairly recent works composed in 2004: the short straightforward Psalm Prelude and the rather more ambitious Symphony for Organ composed for him and first performed by him in Westminster Cathedral. The Symphony is in three movements: a weighty Allegro in sonata form. Incidentally, one of the two subjects reminded me of the theme of Mars in Holstís Planets, but none the worse for that. There follows a nimble Scherzo into which the composer manages to weave the BACH motive. The third movement is a short set of variations, including a short Passacaglia. The conclusion is a summing-up of the main themes heard in the previous movements. Clucasís organ music is on the whole more traditional than Ridoutís, but is nevertheless quite deftly done and superbly crafted. His Symphony for Organ clearly deserves wider exposure.

This generously filled and most desirable release includes two rarities by British composers not readily associated with the organ : Peter Wishart and Humphrey Searle. Peter Wishartís music is still shamefully neglected, so that there is all too little of it available in commercial recordings. I can only think of his String Quartet No.3 in A Op.22 on Tremula TREM 102-2 and some songs and piano pieces on BMS 409† (cassette only). His delightful Pastorale and Fughetta Op.38 is a quite engaging miniature of great charm. Humphrey Searleís Cyprus Dances Op.76, one of his last completed works, is another most welcome, unpretentious but colourful addition to the repertoire.

Robert Crowley plays superbly throughout and is evidently in empathy with the music. The recording is very fine indeed. I hope that he may be persuaded to record more of Ridoutís organ music - the Resurrection Dances and the Sinfonia, amongst others - and to continue exploring the neglected byways of British organ music. In short, this is a very fine release that should appeal to all those who enjoy the organ music of Leighton, Mathias and Messiaen.

Hubert Culot

 

 



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