Firstly, I've had
enough of Lammas's ineffably twee titles for CDs, 'Sounds Awesome'
means nothing and tells us little about this disc. Whether it
indeed sounds awesome is of course entirely subjective anyway.
The disc comprises
some lesser-known 20th, (and even early 21st) century compositions
for organ by English composers. For me the most effective music
is that of Alan Ridout. On the one hand 'The Seven Last Words',
a substantial passiontide work, gained some early fame when
its dedicatee Allan Wicks recorded it at Canterbury for Brian
Culverhouse's Great Cathedral Organ series for EMI. This
recording by Robert Crowley makes a different sort of impact,
some forty years after the work's composition, but despite being
very much a child of its time, this dissonant and challenging
work still carries drama and emotion aplenty and a new recording
is therefore welcome. On the other hand I like the simplicity
of the material and form in the Prelude on St Thomas Honour
We, and the Epithalamium.
The self taught
Humphey Clucas wrote his organ symphony for the performer here,
Robert Crowley. I find it overly fragmented and am seldom aware
of a real sense of ongoing growth or development despite the
traditional forms used. The short psalm prelude appeals more.
Peter Wishart, a
former professor of music at Reading University, is represented
by two short and attractive works, which nonetheless continue
the sour acerbic harmonic language, albeit in a more serene
context. The effect is intriguing; I should like to here these
pieces again in another context.
Finally the Cyprus
Dances of former RCM professor Humphrey Searle appeal through
their rhythmic drive and gradual increase in tension.
To be honest I'm
not about to study any of the music presented here. All of it
has its merits and some will find followers. For me none of
it is on the same level as the best organ music of Kenneth Leighton
for instance. But I really admire Robert Crowley's dedicated,
virtuosic performances and commend them to you. Crowley has
carved something of a niche for himself with his recordings
of 20th century British repertoire, and he does it very well.
The Canterbury organ sounds good, perhaps it could have been
recorded a little more atmospherically, it’s all a bit 'in your
fans of this repertoire.