Contemporary British Organ Music - Volume 3
Nicholas O'NEILL (b.1970)
Dum Committeret Bellum (2009) [5:25]
Ian MCQUEEN (b.1954)
Northwestern Light (1985) [4:31]
Hibernal (2006) [6:18]
Huw MORGAN (b.1967)
Lullaby (2006) [3:55]
Epiphanaea (2006) [6:41]
Cofion Cynnes am Davies [11:41]
Timothy SALTER (b.1942)
Fantasy (2005-6 - 2010) [7:59]
Glyn PERRIN (b.1955)
Sigma Lambda (2007) [14:40]
Michael BONAVENTURE (b.1962)
Rondeau (2004) [5:18]
David BEDFORD (b.1937)
Carillon (2001) [4:30]
Michael Bonaventure (organ)
rec. Coventry Cathedral, 24-25 August 2010. DDD
SFZ M0111 [70:58]

This is the latest release in SFZ's Contemporary British Organ Music series. All three have so far been devoted to recordings by the excellent Scottish organist Michael Bonaventure of, yes, contemporary British organ works. The first two were recorded last year at the church of St John the Evangelist in Upper Norwood, Croydon (England), and were critically well received - see reviews of volume 1 and volume 2. This new disc moves to the modern, better-than-you-might-think Harrison & Harrison instrument at Coventry Cathedral, famously rebuilt after the Second World War.

Most of the ten pieces in Bonaventure's appealing, accessible recital were variously written for, commissioned by and/or premiered by him. Five are five minutes or under in length, and may be justifiably considered relatively unimportant. In fact, none of the works on this disc is entirely unmissable, but nor is any of the music without appeal or interest - though most listeners will likely make an exception for Glyn Perrin's piece.

Nicholas O'Neill's pleasantly noisy good-versus-evil battle, Dum Committeret Bellum, Ian McQueen's spectral Northwestern Light, the "icy cold imagery of winter or an imaginary planet" of Yumi Hara Cawkwell's three-movement Hibernal, and Bonaventure's own Rondeau, which "could be imagined to evoke some kind of strange forest": all have a distinctly chilled, otherworldly, slightly sinister mood or theme. Yet the miniature soundworlds created, all providing an abundance of odd sonorities and effects, each say something new and worth repeated audition, despite their brevity.

Timothy Salter's Fantasy, in its recently revised version, has the feel of a fine improvisation. Glyn Perrin's Sigma Lambda is a tribute to the late American artist Sol Lewitt, hence the Greek S and L of the title. It is the lengthiest work by some distance, and also the toughest listen: the long, highish drone it opens with conjures the image of an organist slumped unconscious onto the keyboard. Perrin's note says that the work "consists of a single eight-voice chord [which] alternates with incomplete forms [of the same]", which is true, but - that is all there is to it, and by the end only those most committed to the cause of minimalism will not be wondering why it had to go on for nearly 15 minutes.

Of the three contributions by Welsh composer Huw Morgan, Lullaby is the least interesting, a "short, minimalist piece", in Morgan's own words, whose becalming soft repetitions genuinely do make the eyelids heavy! Epiphanaea is an eventful description of humanity's journey from ignorance to knowledge with an aptly fitty and starty ending. Cofion Cynnes am Davies ('Warm Memories of Davies') is a five-movement imagining of scenes - generally sober and often no more than fragments - from the life of Welsh 19th century philanthropist and teacher, James Davies. Bonaventure's recital ends in fine, reflective-cum-uplifting style with David Bedford's "sort of celebratory organ voluntary style of piece", Carillon.

Bonaventure's musicianship is admirable. Apart from massive experience and super technique, his concentration never falters, not even in Perrin's Sigma Lambda. His commitment to performing and establishing new works is impressive - he has also recorded extensively for Scottish label Delphian, including programmes very much like this one - see review here, for example - but also some of Messiaen's big works (review).

Sound quality is very good: the recording copes admirably with a huge range of pitches, harmonics and dynamics. The CD booklet is attractive and informative. Not a bad investment at all for organ music fans.


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Not a bad investment at all for organ music fans.