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Robert ALLWORTH (b.1943) Visions of Mary Immaculate (1); Hymn to our Lady of Fatima – Salvation of the World and Saint Therese of Lisieux (1); 6 Voluntaries for Organ in Honour of Saint Catherine Laboure and the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1); Miracle in the Rain (4)
PLAINCHANT/ Tomas Luis de VICTORIA (1546 – 1611) St. John Passion (2)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835 – 1921) arr. Colin SAPSFORD Gospel Procession (3)
Dom Gregory MURRAY Interlude XXI (3)
Eric GROSS (b.1926) Prelude to Paradise (4)
Recorded: November 1989, Church of Saint Michael, Vaucluse (1); Good Friday 1979, Christ Church Saint Laurence, Sydney – Live recording (2); 1979, Christ Church Saint Laurence, Sydney – Live recording (3); 1990, Church of Saint Michael, Vaucluse (4)
JADE JADECD1099 [66.16]


This disc showcases the organ music of the Sydney-based composer Robert Allworth and is issued by Jade Records. Jade is Allworth’s own company. It has issued a remarkable number of discs dedicated to the music of contemporary Australian composers. Allworth says that he draws much inspiration in his composition from the sacred aspects of Roman Catholicism. This is evident in the pieces on the disc.

The first piece, ‘Visions of Mary Immaculate’ consists of four movements which are titled ‘Meditations of Saint Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal’, ‘Hymn to our Lady of Walsingham’, ‘Hymn to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ and ‘Vision of Lourdes (the Appearing of the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate)’. All four pieces are quietly meditative with slow-moving held chords supporting plainchant-like melodic structures. With the organ’s registration emphasising the reeds, the sound-world is rather French and evokes Messiaen at times. Only in the final item do we hear anything approaching the full organ.

The ‘Hymn to our Lady of Fatima – Salvation of the World and Saint Therese of Lisieux’ is in a similar meditative style.

The next item is something of a curiosity: a recording, made in 1979 of the plainchant St. John Passion with the Victoria Turbae. Recorded live on Good Friday in Christ Church Saint Laurence, Sydney, the recorded sound is poor and there is a great deal of background noise. Charles Dale’s mellifluous Evangelist manages to transcend the poor recording and the choir sings Victoria’s choruses vigorously. This track is for specialists only, I am afraid.

The Passion is followed by a group of six voluntaries by Allworth, written in honour of Saint Catherine Laboure and the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Again, Allworth uses a very effective mixture of slow, held chords against plainchant-like themes. Here the registration is less distinctive; think flutes and diapasons rather than reeds. However, in the later voluntaries the fuller tonal palate of the organ comes into play.

The voluntaries are followed by another curiosity, an organ piece written for the Gospel procession. This is arranged from an extract from Saint-Saëns’ 3rd Symphony. This tuneful extract has had the misfortune to be catchy enough to be taken out of context for various purposes, even for a pop song. Here it forms a lively preamble to Dom Gregory Murray’s quiet ‘Interlude XXI’.

Eric Gross’s ‘Prelude to Paradise’ is his 100th opus. It is an organ prelude written for a memorial service for his niece. The music is intended to convey her serene and contented personality and is a pleasant neo-romantic piece in the English pastoral manner.

The final piece on the disc is Allworth’s ‘Miracle in the Rain’, the title taken from a 1954 Hollywood film. It is Allworth’s most dissonant piece on the disc and forms a fitting conclusion to the recital.

Robert Allworth’s organ preludes are attractive and effectively written; they are surely of sterling use at services. I am not sure that it was wise to record so many slow meditative numbers. This is especially highlighted by the decision to include the poor quality live recording of the plainchant Passion, rather than taking the opportunity of displaying Allworth’s talents at greater depth.

Robert Hugill

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