Current Issue

Nov 2020 - Jan 2021 (Number 394)

Issue 394 includes features on: as well as lots of news from the UK and abroad, reviews of choral and organ CDs, books, concerts, new organ music, new installations, letters, and more.

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The Organs and Organists of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London

Andrew Freeman

St Martin-in-the-Fields

It is seldom possible to say when an organ was first introduced into any really historic church, for the early records are either incomplete or non-existent. St. Martin's is no exception in this respect. An instrument was certainly in use earlier than 1525, the date when the churchwardens' accounts commenced, for in that year 6d. was paid "for glewe to mend the Organs," and 15- 18d. was given to M' Watts for his Child to pley at Organs byal that yere." In the following year the same youth received viijs-.for half a year's services, and thereafter is no more mentioned.

His salary was "Gatheryd in the Church" for that purpose in six quarterly installments, the amount collected being xiV xli, in 1526 and viijs, in 1527. The next organist was Nicholas our Clarke," who in 1533-35 received xijs, iiijd. "in full payment of his hole yeres wages for playing on the Organs." During the next hundred years and more, " hym that plaied on the Organs" is mentioned but twice or thrice, and then never by name.

From 1531 till 1545 the item "paied to the Organ maker for his ffee xij4" is met with nearly every year, but in only one case is the name of the craftsman recorded. This was in 1542-43 and the entry reads " pd to John Howe for his ffee for the Orgaynes xijd." In the same year viijd was "pd for ijC, [two hundred] nayeles for the Orgayne loft" and another, xijd. For mendyng the Orgayne keyes." The bellows had been mended and other repairs done three years previously at a cost of iijS- iiijd. over and above the annual fee.


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Emanuel Štepán Petr, a Czech Cavaillé-Coll

Dr Michal Szostak

Sometimes, life is unpredictable. Restrictions, which reduce our big plans, can open new perspectives and allow us to focus on the areas which could be hidden for us in regular circumstances. This happened to me this year. Due to the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic I needed to cancel my North America concert tour and I started to look for other performance possibilities closer to home with a lower risk of cancellation. Using this strategy, I found some interesting romantic organs in Prague, Czech Republic. Step by step I discovered the unique works of Emanuel Štepán Petr, a genial organ builder who had developed the Czech organ industry in many ways. I had the privilege to play two recitals on Petr organs in Prague this August: at the church of St. Ludmila and at the church of St. Ignatius de Loyola. Referring to Petr’s achievements and his role in the Czech organ world, it is no exaggeration if we call him a “Czech Cavaillé-Coll.”

Romantic tendencies in organ building in Western Europe are very well described in the literature. The situation regarding the subject of our interest in Eastern Europe is slightly different, and the main factors determining this state are far-reaching social and economic changes on the basis of national conflicts, great wars and political differences. Despite this turbulence, the culture of Eastern European nations evolved in line with the trends present in Western Europe, albeit with a delay of dozens of years, and with adaptations to local historical circumstances and cultural factors.


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Bring Music Back Safely

Dr David Mason

Viscount Classical Organs

At the start of the pandemic it became rapidly clear that making shared musical instruments safe for multiple player use would be an issue for schools, churches, independent teachers and retail showrooms. For Viscount Classical Organs, based in Bicester, this affected two of their main focus areas: church organs and providing instruments for schools.

As musicians, and a responsible music business, we wanted to address this issue from a scientific standpoint and avoid the use of the various damaging chemical options that were appearing on the market as a solution.

We spend our playing lives protecting pianos and organs, in particular, from liquid spillages that can be especially damaging to keyboards so it seemed essential to look for an option that avoided liquid - as they would almost certainly be caustic ones.


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The two organ sonatas of Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley

Dr Iain Quinn, Editor, Florida State University

Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley

The two organ sonatas of Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley (1825-1889) have not been readily available since their initial publication in the late nineteenth century. Aside from the importance of Ouseley in the music world of nineteenth-century Britain, most especially in his work towards the furtherance of church music, the sonatas represent a critical moment in the transition of the English organ sonata tradition that began between 1858 and 1862 with the sonatas written by the concert organists W. T. Best and William Spark. As discussed in The Genesis and Development of an English Organ Sonata (2017), the English sonatas had an important pedagogical role jointly inherited from Mendelssohn’s very practical and popular approach to the instrument but also the continuing European legacy of the lesson-sonata tradition whereby in learning a piece you also learned the instrument and vice versa.

Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley was the son of Sir Gore Ouseley, sometime British ambassador to Persia, and like his brother, Sir William Ouseley, he had a strong interest in scholarship of the Orient. He took his names from his father, Gore, and his godfathers, Frederick, Duke of York and Arthur, Duke of Wellington. He displayed an extraordinary precocity and at five commented that “Only think, papa blows his nose in G!” a feat perceived to be so impressive that it was discussed in the writings of the twentieth-century neurologist Oliver Sacks.

Ouseley entered Christ Church, Oxford in 1843, the year before he succeeded to the baronetcy. He was ordained in 1850 and as a curate at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge he served the parish of St Barnabas, Pimlico until 1851. He took the Mus.B at Oxford in 1850 and the Mus.D. in 1854 for which his exercise was the oratorio St Polycarp. In 1855, he succeeded the composer Sir Henry Bishop as Heather Professor of Music at Oxford and was also ordained priest and appointed precentor of Hereford Cathedral. In 1856, he was appointed vicar of St Michael’s, Tenbury. As a man of considerable financial means he was able to found St Michael’s College, which under his leadership served as an important centre for the study of church music and the education of boys in music. In later years he contributed important academic texts including Harmony (1868), Counterpoint (1869) and Musical Form (1875). The Oxford Movement had an abiding influence on him especially in terms of increasing musical standards in services. This was a concern of many learned musicians in the second half of the nineteenth century, especially Samuel Sebastian Wesley and John Stainer, the latter of whom Ouseley invited to become organist at Tenbury in 1857.


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Elgar the enigmatic: A new approach to an enduring puzzle

Peter Dyke

The author, Assistant Director of Music of Hereford Cathedral, explores remarkable connections between Elgar and the music of JS Bach.

I have been…. playing Bach, who heals and pacifies all men and all things.
Edward Elgar, in a letter to Ivor Atkins, 2 July 1902

It is the moment the whole of the preceding eighty minutes of music have been preparing us for: the instant when the soul of Gerontius is brought face to face with God. The impact is cataclysmic, but the context makes it even more so: in his great oratorio Edward Elgar has taken the soul – and the listener – through wondrous and strange firmaments filled with demons and angels, and the music’s rich harmonic language and vividly colourful orchestration has powerfully illustrated the extraordinary journey.

Now, in the last moments before the climactic point of The Dream of Gerontius, there is an urgent statement of the D minor ‘judgement theme (with which the work started) over a dominant pedal point. Tension mounts as the tessitura rises and the harmonies become more dissonant; finally, the pedal abandons the held A and starts shifting chromatically – and then with a huge orchestral crash, the soul momentarily looks upon God and cries ‘Take me away!’ This is a moment of huge musical and theological drama.

Closer scrutiny of the orchestral bass line at the end of the build-up reveals that the final four notes before the climactic crash are B flat–A–C–B natural (Ex.1). Is this a coincidence, or could it be that Elgar intentionally uses the four notes that spell the name BACH (in German note-names) at this crucial point? Could Elgar be identifying with the soul of Gerontius, thinking ‘Whatever my worth as a composer, I am as nothing in front of the great J.S. Bach: Take me away!’?


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