The Organ

The Turning Year - Music of Christopher Rathbone volume 2

Amphion PHI CD 504
77' 52"

This interesting CD contains two very new works for organ along with a short cantata for three voices & piano. The organ is that in the church of the Holy Trinity Meanwood (Leeds) originally by Abbot & Smith, most recently overhauled by J.T. Jackson in 2001 - Mr Rathbone is Director of Music there and is principal performer on this disc.

He starts with a set of 16 short pieces "Scenes & Antiphons" (2000): these are loosely based around the Great "O" Antiphons and even if the composer describes them as a poor man's equivalent of Messiaen's "La Nativit" they are better music than that, although #1 ("Magi follow the Star"), as an example, is too obviously derivative. Nevertheless, this is an effective work especially the quieter sections.

The third piece on the CD, "City of God" op91 (2002), is a set of variations on the hymn tune Richmond, or to be more precise, "Jazz variants" on that tune. This was an effective and immensely enjoyable work - it would make a valuable addition to many a recitalist's repertoire.

Between these two organ works comes the cantata "The Turning Year" in which Mr Rathbone is joined by three singers (Sally Daley, Victoria Sharp & David Owen-Lewis). Not quite so imaginative, perhaps, as the two organ works, although it would work well in its intended use of providing challenging music for the classroom.

Excellent recorded sound and if the organ is not one of the best in the country, it is clearly able to cope with this music, although the acoustic sounds rather dead. All in all, an interesting CD exploring the works of a less well known composer. DW