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Jennifer BATE (b. 1944)
Reflections - Organ Music
Toccata on a Theme of Martin Shaw
Introduction and Variations on an Old French Carol
Four Reflections: Reverie; Norwegian Barcarole; Cantilena; Pastoral Palindrome
Homage to 1685: Moto perpetuo; Gigue on a theme of Scarlatti; Largo; Postlude on a Theme of Handel
Il filatoio (The Spinning-wheel)
Canone Inglese per la festa di Garbagna (An English Canon)

Variations on a Gregorian Theme
Jennifer Bate at the organ of the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea.
GUILD GMCD 7209 [50:29]

If the name Jennifer Bate has not rung any bells until now it will do so after hearing this riveting music of hers recorded at the organ of Brangwyn Hall, Swansea. Jennifer Bate has a busy schedule that takes her all over the world performing in festivals, giving recitals, and lecturing etc. She is a Vice-President of the British Music Society. The music on this album covers 25 years of composition.

The 'Hills of the North' will rejoice to Bate's Toccata on a Theme of Martin Shaw. Martin Shaw (1875-1958) was an English composer and organist; and he was a great campaigner for better church music. Following Shaw's theme, the Toccata builds in a series of canons to a commanding and majestic finale. [Shaw's well-known tune Little Conrad was written for the hymn Hills of the North, rejoice.]

The Introduction and Variations on an Old French Carol. The carol known in England as Picardy is sung to Let all mortal flesh keep silence. The Five Variations embrace a variety of moods from the serene to the capricious and dramatic; and include Gregorian plainchant, a quirky march, and fugal treatment.

The Four Reflections are nicely evocative. Gentle ripples haunt Reverie that has two themes; the first stated on delicate flutes, while the second has rich string chords and is seraphic and dream-like. The melodious Norwegian Barcarole seems to imply falling snow but it is a comforting landscape. Cantilena is a romantic conversation piece between soprano and tenor pipes accompanied by flutes. Pastoral Palindrome is dedicated to Bates's mother who enjoyed its effect and logic. It is fun because this musical palindrome can literally be played forwards or backwards.

Homage to 1685, as the name implies, is an imaginative, intricate and colourful and majestic technical tour-de-force homage to the music of Bach, Scarlatti (treating his famous 'Cat Fugue'), and Handel.

Commissioned by Italian friends and composed whilst in South America, the versatility of the organ is well demonstrated in Il Filatoio. Repetitive, whirling notes, softly played, are strongly evocative of the spinning wheel.

Canone Inglese per la festa di Garbagna written for an Italian church is an endearing little piece combining the peal of the church's bells with a light-hearted reference to the British national anthem.

The spare transparent textures of Lament written in 1997, lead from a stark opening through intense mourning through to a more optimistic melody before ending in a mood of resignation.

The Variations on a Gregorian Theme are based on a beautiful plainsong for Vespers for the first Sunday in Advent. These five variations on a Gregorian theme include a canon over a drone bass, a fast trio with central tune, and an Amen accompanied by the theme in cannon. Then follows ethereal chords uniting the tune, and a bold trio, with the tune in pedals, forms the final variation.

For the lover of organ music, this album is a treasure. Jennifer Bate demonstrates her command of the instrument; her technique ranging from loud and bold to soft and delicate, showing immense variety, colour and style. Fifty minutes of sheer pleasure.

Grace Barber

[The organ at Brangwyn Hall was built by Willis & Son in 1919 and moved to its present home 15 years later. The instrument was restored and additions made by the same firm in 1980 and 1994. The booklet gives a full specification of this magnificent instrument and we are told that "a generous array of playing aids are available at the console including adjustable manual and toe pistons controlled by a solid state 24 channel capture system and a general crescendo pedal"]


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