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Cecilia McDowall: Organ Works

William Fox (organ) (Naxos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Cecilia McDowall
Organ Works
William Fox (organ)
Naxos 8.579077   65:04 mins

Cecilia McDowall may be best known for her choral compositions, but this British composer obviously knows her way round the organ console as well. That much is clear from the opening stretch of Celebration, this collection’s first track, with its energising mix of brilliant treble fireworks and forceful bass underpinnings – perfect for the piece’s function as accompaniment to a graduate ceremony procession. A little later, momentum is briefly halted as if a graduate had tripped on a gown; a misstep echoed on a larger canvas in the weak conclusion to the O Antiphon Sequence and her awkward arrangement of the choral Three Antiphons for the far different forces of organ and trumpet. Still, passing misjudgments are regularly outweighed by McDowall’s melodic fluency, rhythmic vitality and eagerness to please.

On his solo recording debut, the young and gifted William Fox offers his own panache, drawing out the many colours of the lively 1963 Walker organ at the Church of St John the Evangelist in Islington, London. First Flight, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci and the 1969 moon landing, is a particularly convincing showpiece, flying high on airborne textures while steadily gathering blazing force. The George Herbert Trilogy, its movements scattered throughout the album, convincingly pursues a knottier vein, especially in the almost frightening ‘Sacred and Hallowed Fire’; while, before its last dip, the O Antiphon Sequence of 2018 speeds through seven miniature Advent meditations with concise skill and captivating aplomb. In every area (music, performer, instrument, recording) this album offers plenty to enjoy.

Geoff Brown

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