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Alfred HOLLINS (1865-1942)
Alfred Hollins and Friends
Concert Overture No.3 in F minor (1922) [8:33]
Morceau de Concert (1911) [7:51]
Theme with Variations and Fugue [12:20]
A Song of Sunshine (1913) [4:36]
Concert Toccata in B flat (1927) [6:23]
Frank Heddon BOND (1875-1948)
Chorus in E flat (1913) [4:35]
Bernard JOHNSON (1868-1935)
Elfentanz (1910) [3:43]
William WOLSTENHOLME (1865-1931)
The Seraph’s Strain [5:15]
Le Carillon [2:35]
Ernest MacMILLAN (1893-1973)
Cortège Académique (1953) [4:36]
Edwin LEMARE (1865-1934)
From the West: 1. In Missouri [9:14]; 2. In North Dakota [8:12]
Simon Niemiński (organ)
rec. February 2015, Organ of Third Baptist Church, St Louis, Missouri
REGENT REGCD473 [77:56]

Alfred Hollins was a popular British organist whose year of birth was shared with two eminent colleagues, Edwin Lemare – the most internationally admired of them - and William Wolstenholme. To celebrate the 150th year of Hollins’ birth in particular Regent has released this entertaining disc which offers a cross-section of some of their organ music. It adds pieces by a trio of other organists to create a nicely balanced programme.

Both Hollins and Wolstenholme were blind, but whilst Hollins studied at the new musical academy for the blind in Norwood in London, later in Germany with von Bülow, and embarked on a career as a virtuoso pianist, Wolstenholme was not cut out for a public career. Indeed Hollins’ early life as a barnstormer in Berlin, New York and Boston never quite left him and even when settled as a distinguished organist he would still play a concerto on the piano, a friend taking the orchestral part on the organ. This disc is one of inter-connections, with works dedicated to each of these eminent composers and executants by their colleagues. Hollins’ Concert Overture No.3, for example, is dedicated to a member of the other trio, thus far not described, Ernest MacMillan, best known to us now as a conductor and pillar of the Canadian musical establishment. This has strength and lyricism aplenty – self-confident contrapuntalism, a four-part textured lyrical section, and a hugely tuneful profile. The Morceau de Concert of 1911, dedicated to Lemare, is equally straightforward but full of panache whilst the Theme with Variations and Fugue is perhaps the most adventurous of his works in this disc, with amplitude, contrast and ending with a study in triumphalist drama. It was dedicated to Wolstenholme. Both A Song of Sunshine and the Concert Toccata show Hollins at his most genial and unbuttoned.

Edwin Lemare came to fame in London but in the early 1900s moved to America where he was to remain based. His virtuoso transcriptions are well-known but he is represented here by From the West which offers two studies, one of Missouri and the other of North Dakota. I say ‘studies’ but these aren’t tone poems, more colour postcards replete with quotations from popular tunes. Crowd-pleasers, in other words, and full of fun. Wolstenholme’s Le Carillon, is very jolly and light and The Seraph’s Strain, despite the title, is gentle and relaxing. MacMillan’s Cortège Académique was composed in 1953, but then he was much the youngest of the sextet of composers. It’s a big ceremonial piece with Elgarian echoes. Finally there is Frank Heddon Bond’s Chorus in E flat, a bright, melodic piece with a salon-inspired B section and Bernard Johnson’s Elfentanz, cut from Edwardian cloth with a vengeance.

The British organist Simon Niemiński plays on the organ of Third Baptist Church, St Louis, Missouri – very appropriate for the Lemare. Every syllable of his fine playing can be savoured, and the booklet contains plenty of interesting biographical material and, naturally, the specifications of the gargantuan organ.

Jonathan Woolf



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