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Music Review - The Organ The Organ

Gordon Phillips: A Basic Organ Tutor

Gordon Phillips: A Basic Organ Tutor. Animus

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New publications from Animus include a reprint of 'A Basic Organ Tutor' by Gordon Phillips. First published in 1983, it was originally commissioned by the Festival Committee of the West of England Organ festival and now appears as three separate volumes. Few will need reminding of the excellent work undertaken by Gordon Phillips in his editing of the 'Tallis to Wesley' series of English Organ Music and of his stature as a recitalist and composer, so it comes as something of a surprise to work through this tutor and realize just how far the organ world has moved on since it was written. Phillips was seventy five years old when it appeared and it rather begs the question why reprint a work with a view of the organ seen some sixty years earlier. Pejorative references to tracker action are hard to square with current experience (especially as Phillips was renowned as a harpsichordist) and the failure to explain at all the nature of agogic accent in organ playing, of such importance to successful musicianship at the instrument, are disappointing and rather militate against it. Much wordage could have been spared if even two or three photographic illustrations had been used especially in the section on pedalling, although Phillips does make some interesting points about the use of trigger swell levers. Exercises are included to facilitate their proper use. Overall, for practical purposes, a recommendation is difficult since plenty of other, more up-to-date tutors are available. As a window however, on the history of organ and music teaching altogether, it makes interesting reading and some of the exercises may prove useful.