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8.550582 - English Organ Music, Vol. 1
ENGLISH ORGAN MUSIC
Craig S. Lang (1891 - 1971)
Herbert Howells (1892 - 1983)
Edward Elgar (1857 - 1934)
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958)
Percy Whitlock (1903 - 1945)
Norman Cocker (1889- 1953)
C. S. LANG (1891 - 1971) was born in New Zealand but later settled in England. Between 1929 and 1945 he was Director of Music at Christ's Hospital, Horsham. The Tuba Tune is his most popular piece, exploring the sounds of the solo stop in both the treble and tenor registers.
HERBERT HOWELLS (1892 - 1983) wrote his first set of Psalm Preludes between 1915 and 1916, the second set at three following in 1938/9; In same ways these early works illustrate the influence of his teacher, Charles Stanford, with whom he had studied, at the Royal College of Music in London, but they also bear the hallmarks of his individuality - a reflective style full of harmonic and tonal colour, homophonic and contrapuntal contrasts, the use to rhythm to generate momentum at one moment and to create suspense at another, the subtle use of melodic lines which emerge from the texture, and all within a carefully defined structure, Howells went on to write his "Elegy' in 1917, in memory of a fellow student who had died during the First World War and the meditative qualities of these psalm preludes are perhaps a reflection of the trouble war-time experiences which were being felt during the time of their composition.
Like his father before him EDWARD ELGAR (1857 - 1934) was church organist. He was most excited by the sounds of the new organ in Worcester Cathedral and it was to be this instrument which inspired the composition of his Organ Sonata, completed in June 1895. The first performance was given by Hugh Blair, on the occasion of a visit to Worcester Cathedral by a group of American organists. The work is orchestral in concept, both in terms of the large scale structure and in terms of the internal detail. The contrasting thematic material in each movement is tightly organised and even sometimes links movements - the use of the Andante main theme in the concluding section of the Presto is the most obvious example. Within each movement a wide range of musical and tonal variety is explored - solo stops are featured and combined, various chorus sounds are heard, and there are sweeping crescendos and diminuendos, as well as sudden contrasts in sound. In short, this is a Symphony for the organ. The work is dedicated to Charles Swinnerton Heap, a much respected Choral conductor to whom Elgar owed much of his early success.
"Rhosymedre", the second of a set of three pieces founded on Welsh hymn tunes, is perhaps the most famous organ piece written by RALPH V AUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872 - 1958). Like Howells, he studied composition with Stanford at the Royal College of Music and there are many parallels to be drawn between the work of these two gifted proteges. The influence of folk song on Vaughan Williams was significant and, like Howells, he was much interested in the contrapuntal style of the sixteenth century English school of composers. Even closer parallels might be drawn between the work of Vaughan Williams and that of Elgar - both dictated the mainstream developments in English music of the first half of the twentieth century.
Another graduate of the Royal College of Music was PERCY WHITLOCK (1903- 1946). He went on to be Assistant Organist at Rochester Cathedral where he had previously been a chorister. It is thanks to this background that he produced such a skilfully crafted collection of compositions for the church in both the organ and choral spheres, as these two little known pieces aptly illustrate. In 1932 he became the Borough Organist at Bournemouth and established his reputation as a recitalist of distinction, despite his badly deformed right hand thumb. Percy Whitlock's early death came about after a long fight against tuberculosis.
NORMAN COCKER (1889 - 1953) was born in Yorkshire and went on to become a chorister at Magdelene College, Oxford. He progressed to the Organ Scholarship at Merton College, Oxford but never completed his degree being sent down, on his own admission, for not doing enough work. He was appointed Assistant Organist at Manchester Cathedral in 1920 and later held appointments in various churches and cinemas in the city. Beside his musical attributes Cocker was also an amateur conjurer.
© Gareth Green, 1992.
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