Contemporary British Organ Music - volume 1
Gabriel JACKSON (b.1962) Southwark Symphonies (2005) [9:26]
Laurence CRANE (b.1961) Old Life was Rubbish I (1998) [2:53]
Gabriel JACKSON Comeragh Litanies (1999) [12:54]
Laurence CRANE 1992: Three Pieces for Organ (2008) [21:55]
Gabriel JACKSON Aquarius with Quartz and Copper (2008) [9:36]
Laurence CRANE Old Life was Rubbish II (1998) [2:04]
Gabriel JACKSON Carillon for Louise and Nick (2001) [4:09]
Laurence CRANE Old Life was Rubbish III (1998) [1:40]
Gabriel JACKSON St Asaph Toccata (2003) [8:20]
Mark O’Keefe (trumpet) (Aquarius with Quartz and Copper only), Michael Bonaventure (organ)
rec. 25-26 January 2010, St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood. DDD
SFZ MUSIC SFZM0410 [72:51]

Crane and Jackson are two very exciting British composers who have both made their mark on the UK’s music in very different ways. Crane is an experimentalist, a subversive in our midst, creating exquisite miniatures of great beauty and intensity, all the while undermining our sense of what music should be and what it should do. The disk of his solo piano music (Metier MSV28506) is a fine introduction to his world of unassuming, but always dangerous, composition.

Jackson has been described by The Guardian as “today's successor to Herbert Howells . . . a composer who manages to refer reverentially to music from the early Tudor period to late Stravinsky and beyond and yet stays completely in the present in his search for the transcendent” and in his position as Associate Composer with the BBC Singers we’ve been able to hear many of his works almost as soon as they are written, through radio broadcasts. Although his music is more straightforward than Crane’s it still springs surprises on you.

This is an exciting compilation of music by these two young composers. And what good foils for one another they prove to be. Jackson gets the lion’s share of the disk because Crane hasn’t written as much organ music. There is quite a variety in Jackson’s works recorded here, and there could be no bigger contrast between the first two works – Southwark Symphonies being extrovert and very colourful whereas Comeragh Litanies is full of ornamentation, and is thoughtful and contemplative. There’s a passage of real brilliance towards the end where the music seems to quote the Chorale Stravinsky wrote in memory of Debussy and upon which his Symphonies of Wind Instruments is based. Aquarius with Quartz and Copper and Carillon for Louise and Nick were both written for the weddings of friends and relations. Aquarius is almost over–the–top extrovert, and, with the addition of the trumpet, it makes a brilliant effect. Carillon, written for his sister’s wedding, is more restrained, but somehow more jubilant. St Asaph Toccata is a bright and breezy piece which brings the disk to a joyous conclusion.

Carne’s works are, as one would expect, more introverted, contemplative and thoughtful. Old Life was Rubbish is an open score and thus we have three different realisations of it scattered throughout the recital. It consists of two chords, and Bonaventure understanding the delicacy of the music, gives three restrained and delicate performances. 1992: Three Pieces consists of three works written in 1992 and later arranged for organ. Sparling started life as a piece for clarinettist Andrew Sparling and it’s gone through several different arrangements since its première. It’s a very simple melody with discrete dissonant accompaniment. It seems to hang in the air and come from nowhere, to return there at the end. Favourite chord was originally written for Howard Skempton’s accordion and The Swim was conceived for an electronic organ. They all work very well for the organ and Bonaventure keeps his registration to a minimum throughout and his choices are perfect for the music.

The recorded sound is excellent, brilliant and clear. The notes are good and give a full registration of the organ. This is volume one of what could be a very exciting series.

Bob Briggs

Two very exciting British composers who have made their mark on the UK’s music in very different ways.