The Organ

John Ellis: Veni Emmanuel - Variations for Organ

John Ellis: Veni Emmanuel - Variations for Organ. Animus

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Reviewing this piece was not an easy task because the composer's treatment seemed so at odds with the spirit of this well-known hymn. The first variation is registered for swell reeds 16, 8 and great diapasons 16, 8 which could range from mud and cream to silver and gold. Perhaps simply full swell with great double to 15th uncoupled might have been more helpful, particularly as the right hand plays a short quaver motif with the left hand soloing the cantus firmus, both in the treble clef. The tempo indication, allegretto, seems not to fit with the rhythmic bounce of the right hand which is enlivened with several changes of time signature such as 6/8, 5/8, 6/8+2/8 etc. Variation 2, scherzetto, begins in two parts with the cantus firmus in the left hand played on the great. This is answered by the right hand on the swell in canon at the fifth, followed by a lively figure in the pedals taking fragments from the melody. This would require some dexterity for successful execution. Other variations such as variation 3, marked 'Retroversion and Canon' and the final Fantasia display a degree of ingenuity and are the most successful, conveying something of the message of this great song of the Church. Regrettably, however, the general feeling was one of disappointment. The most satisfying treatments of hymn and chorale melodies always rest on a profound awareness of the underlying message of the poetry and music. Here was a golden opportunity to add to the literature, sadly missed.