Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

A paean for Peter Warlock - ten pieces for organ by Frank Bayford, Brian Collins, Timothy Craig Harrison, Trevor Hold, Anthony Ingle,. John Mitchell, Ian Parrott, Betty Roe, Keith Glennie Smith and Eric Wetherell. 51 pages
Thames Publishing, distributed by William Elkin Music Services, Station Road Industrial Estate, Salhouse, Norwich, Norfolk, NR13 6NS

In May 1999, the Peter Warlock Society promoted a concert in Great Warley Church, Essex, built by Warlock's uncle, as part of a weekend to celebrate the restoration of the organ there. Six of these commissioned pieces were played on that occasion by Malcolm Rudland and four - those by Collins, Harrison, Smith and Wetherell - have since been added. The format is typical of Thames: A4 size, plain but clear design with laminated cover. The volume is also a paean for the much-missed John Bishop, founder of Thames and tireless champion of English music, who died in September 2000.

The composers were requested to write for players of average ability and to incorporate thematic material by Warlock into their works. In most cases, this has resulted in preludes or fantasias of varying inspiration and competence, usually based on song melodies. The overall mood is light-hearted and eminently approachable but although the superimposition of themes sometimes recalls the ingenuity of Sullivan, it is disappointing that the majority were content to walk in fairly well-trodden harmonic woods and to reminisce rather than re-create; however, within these bounds, there is much enjoyment to be had. Among those who have treated the organ as a solo instrument, well removed from liturgical associations, the most extensive work here is a set of three pieces by Anthony Ingle, including a lively fugue, although the Warlockian directions are a little tiresome. In his Mirth and Play, John Mitchell contrasts the three settings Warlock made of a sixteenth-century poem by Robert Wever, and employs cheerfully uninhibited modulations to appropriate effect. Eric Wetherell has scored a considerable success by selecting Fair and True as the subject for another fugue: more transparent than Ingle's, it is a delight to play, not only for some lovely false relations but also for Wetherell's ingenuity in capitalising on the bland hymn-like quality of the theme, thereby transmuting a work by the frequently scurrilous Warlock into an acceptable voluntary for a weekday Victorian Evensong. The hilarious coda, which quotes suddenly from the original, is a masterstroke, breaking in on the sublimated harmony like a chorister's raspberry after the Magnificat. I hope some enterprising maestro di capella will première it on Radio 3. However, for simple unalloyed musicality and charm, Trevor Hold's beautifully fluid Song-tune Prelude on 'Sweet-and-Twenty' stands alone as a moving tribute from one real craftsman to another, and is well worth the price of the entire volume.

Andrew Plant

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