This CD is a fine mix of music from a wide variety of eras, countries
and styles. The opening piece is a rather good 18th century Voluntary
by the London-based composer William Russell. He was one-time
piano player and in-house composer for Sadler’s Wells and Covent
Garden. He was also organist at the magnificent Hawksmoor Church
at St. Anne’s Limehouse - which I can see from my office window.
This Voluntary - which has a powerful opening 'largo' followed
by a robust fugue is a good example of the genre that surely deserves
more than an occasional airing.
is eternally associated with York Minster where he was organist
for many years. The Toccata-Prelude was published in
1911 when the composer was organist and choirmaster at Leeds
Parish Church. Interestingly, for the period, the work is
written in 5/4 time. The liturgical inspiration for this work
is the plainsong melody set to the words 'Sing, my tongue
the Glorious Battle' which proudly proclaims the Resurrection
of Christ. The work balances triumph and reflection before
"the music melts away in an atmospheric ending”.
Johann Peter Kellner
was an admirer of J.S. Bach and was an early scholar of that
composer's music. In fact he copied a number of the master's
organ works and these are regarded as being amongst the most
reliable source documents for these pieces. The Praeludium
is a great powerful work that is beholden to the elder composer.
Johann Ludwig Krebs was one of Bach’s finest pupils: he studied
with him for nine years. His Trio in C is a restrained
and subtle tribute to his teacher’s art.
As part of good
programming on this CD the Prelude and Fugue in A major
by J.S Bach is an example of Kellner’s industry: this work
is only available to us because he copied his teacher's music.
The original manuscript has been lost. This is a great work
that impresses and entertains from the first note to the last.
I have never been
a big fan of Mozart's organ music; however this work is actually
rather impressive. It originated as a barrel-organ piece,
the Variations on a Tyrolean Song: musicologists are
undecided as to whether it is actually by Leopold or Wolfgang
Mozart. There is considerable musical interest here -and predictably
the music becomes more complicated as the work progresses.
How the organist gets his fingers around the 'mechanical'
scales I will never know?
The longest work
on this CD is the Liturgical Pieces by Alexandre Boëly.
This composer had imbibed the influence of Haydn and Mozart
a well as Bach and Frescobaldi. In fact, he is credited with
the introduction of Bach's music to Paris. These liturgical
pieces were composed to accompany various 'events' in the
celebration of the Mass. Boëly's music is strong and powerful
and reflects the majesty of the Eucharist. However the programme
notes relate that he was sacked from his organ post because
he was not prepared to play and compose music to "reflect
the frivolities of the salon and theatre." Irony indeed!
I was impressed
by the Sonata da Chiesa by the Dutch composer Hendrik
Andriessen. It is written in an eclectic style. In the first
bars one is reminded of Cesar Franck - however as the ‘theme,
five variations and finale’ progresses the music becomes increasingly
more 'modern' in its soundscape without ever losing its grounding
in the 'romantic' tradition. This is a masterpiece.
Jehan Alain was
one of the great musical losses of the Second World War. Most
listeners are acquainted with the ubiquitous Litanies.
Yet the beautiful Aria offers the listener another,
more introverted, side of the composer. This complex work
exploits the Alain fingerprints of "irregular rhythms,
swaying oriental themes” and a wide range of the organ's colours
The CD closes
with a fine work by the organist and composer Jean Langlais.
The Postlude No.2 is a bold and precipitate toccata
that balances slow 'largo' passages with complex highly technical
figurations. Spedding creates some inspiring registrations
for this work. It is a great work for the recessional after
Holy Eucharist on High Days and Holydays- and to conclude
the present CD.
organ is a fine instrument that has its origins in a Johann
Snetzler organ built in 1769. The present instrument has had
rebuilds by Forster & Andrews, Hill, Norman and Beard
and latterly Wood.
provides a technically superb and highly imaginative performance
of all these works. He has chosen a good programme that balances
old with new, English and Continental music.
This CD is a re-release
of material originally issued in 1990. My only gripe is that the
programme notes were not updated from their original publication.
Jean Langlais had died; the organ has had further work done on
it. And finally Andriessen died in 1981 not 1964!