Jerusalem on High - Victorian Organ Music Based on Hymns
Graham Barber on the Milton organ of Tewkesbury Abbey
Hyperion CDA 67356
A recent book on the organ has a simple thread running through it - organ music and organ building basically finished with the death of Bach. What the joint authors of that volume would make of this CD I shudder to think - more flexible music lovers and especially I'm sure, most organ lovers, will enjoy it absolutely.
No apology then is needed for the first work, an arrangement by W.T.Best of the overture to Mendelssohn's oratorio "St Paul", based on the "Wachet auf" melody - perhaps a bit academic in its style, but a worthy opener to this CD. Other than Mendelssohn, the composers are generally quite unknown today: perhaps some of Steggall's anthems are still sung, but the music of Edward Silas, Oliver King and Charles Pearce is surely almost totally forgotten? No matter, their music if not great, is worthy of our attention.
The quieter stops of the famous Milton Organ at Tewkesbury Abbey are well demonstrated in William Spark's "The Ancient Vesper Hymn" (an old French tune normally sung to the Tantum Ergo), a delicious Vox Humana being one of the highlights. A fugal finale rounds off this fascinating piece of music - minor by any standards but enjoyable nevertheless.
A Postlude "Jerusalem on High" (on his hymn-tune Christ Church) by Charles Steggall gives the CD its name - another minor piece that, like the rest of his programme, given a suitably romantic performance by Graham Barber who really must be congratulated on bringing this music out of the obscurity it so much deserves. A very enjoyable CD and very much recommended! DW
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