Whitlock, Bairstow, WH Harris

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bairstow,WH Harris,Whitlock
LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Organ Sonata in C minor; Organ Sonata in E flat; Flourish for an Occasion
PERFORMER: Colm Carey (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 508
1937 – the title of this disc – is the year in which most of the music here was completed, but, as with so much written for the organ, the date is of little relevance. Percy Whitlock was a masterly composer of exquisite light music. His Organ Sonata was inspired by Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, although it sounds nothing like it, and the more typically entertaining side of Whitlock emerges in the ‘Canzona’ second movement and famous Scherzetto. The ambitious opening movement presents some problems of continuity because of its wide dynamic contrasts – it’s a problem with most Romantic organ music in the English tradition because of the disproportion of various stops – some in your face, others distant – and the potentially lumpy effect of the Swell mechanism. I’m not quite sure that Colm Carey pulls the first movement together, but the rest goes a treat. Bairstow’s Sonata starts promisingly, but the second and third movements – a massive scherzo and a rather anonymous fugue – are disappointing. The Harris makeweight is a grandiose occasional piece, written for St George’s, Windsor, and suitably dignified. The organ is a three-manual instrument built by the Canadian firm of Létourneau for the Church of the Ascension & St Agnes in Washington, DC. Despite the name, it sounds as English as roast beef. Adrian Jack

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