This is a splendid disc and recommended without reservation.
Let it also be said at once that Coventry's organ is magnificent and has
a clarity and brilliance that is superb. Bowers-Broadbent is a virtuosic
performer with secure hands and is also incredibly safe-footed. His articulation
is extraordinary and his playing is always precise and clear. He is totally
in control. The recording engineers have also excelled themselves.
This is most impressive music and sadly reminds us that we have a dearth
of British organ music. Denis ApIvor, James Brown, Peter Racine Fricker,
Priaulx Rainer, William Mathias and Humphrey Searle have all written effectively
for the 'king of instruments' but in Francis Routh we have surely found the
finest modern British composer of organ music. Not that it should be thought
that he has only written for the organ. He has written concertos, a symphony,
some amazingly fine piano music and vocal works of great distinction.
Olivier Messiaen seems to hold the monopoly of organ music of this soon-ending
century. Francis's music is more absolute, is far better structured and has
a welcome sense of direction and purpose. For those who 'fear' modern music
let me assure you that this music is not fragmentary or abounding in clusters.
Nor does it ever sound like a traffic jam but, while it has both originality
and exemplary skill, it retains the certainty of traditional convention.
Each of the three works has three movements. In The Manger Throne Op 3
the central più mosso section is a rare joy of exciting music.
The second movement is akin to a pastoral and uses Es ist ein 'Ros'
entsprungen making the movement into a kind of chorale prelude. The finale
has toccata-like qualities and introduces another carol In dulci iubile
... simply, quietly and effectively. The end is a wonderful exhilarating
The quality of the music, whether it is peaceful or triumphant, is of the
Whereas Op 3 deals with the Nativity, Lumen Christi Op 15 deals
with Easter and the representations of light and darkness. The opening movement
with its effective use of chromaticism and rising fourths gives it a clear
shape. The central Agnus Dei is music that unfolds a beautiful melodic
line in which the softer tones of the organ are shown to great advantage
as it is in the quieter sections of the final Allegro vivace. It heads
towards a brilliant climax with the theme in fourths on the pedals. The final
flourish is a statement of resurrection, rather than a showy conclusion.
Aeterne Rex Altissime Op 20 is a more austere work and is based on
a plainchant. There is a well-judged contrast between simple melody and
controlled outbursts of rich sound. The first movement ends with an amazing
study in counterpoint with flowing semi-quavers leading to a chordal conclusion.
The slow movement is often very beautiful and communicates its material instantly
as all great music should. The finale begins Andante and ends Vivace
con brio. The quiet mystery of the opening advances to a rich climax.
The plainchant sings its melody and the coda represents the ascension itself:
Christ in glory. It has a wonderful swagger ... and those pedals!
Indeed, this is a splendid disc recommended without reservation. A second
disc of Francis's organ music is due out later this year. I can't wait!
Further details of this recording, including booklet notes, are available
from the Redcliffe Recording