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Green and Pleasant Land – Volume 2
Kevin Bowyer (organ)
rec. 2017, Beverley Minster, UK
PRIORY PRCD1193 [79:36]

What a lot of fun Kevin Bowyer and the Priory team must have had when they visited Beverley Minster to record his fourth “Organ Party” disc! In the two days of recording sessions they recorded well over two hours of music, far in excess of what was needed for the Organ Party disc. What was left over from that fills this disc with 18 character pieces which, as the disc’s title suggests, are all English. In fact these are not merely snippets rescued from the cutting-room floor, but continue a project Bowyer has embarked on to record all 363 pieces which were published in the journal The Organ Loft between 1900 and 1915. I have heard of just three of these composers, and have heard absolutely none of the music before – although there is something infernally familiar about Bernard Jackson’s charming little Berceuse - so I listened to this with an eager anticipation somewhat tainted by the fear that with pieces going under such unprepossessing titles as “Study”, “Postlude”, “Short Piece” and, most sleep-inducing of all, “A Short Fugal Postlude”, the obscurity of both the composers and the music would prove to be more than well deserved.

And so it may well be, except that Bowyer breathes life and spirit into even the most mundane of organ trifles, turning musical ennui into musical energy. His obvious enthusiasm for the vast resources of the Beverley Minster organ has him exploring the most amazing array of sounds and effects, one of his favourite devices being to leap around its extraordinarily wide dynamic range – something which Priory’s Neil Collier has successfully captured in his superb recording of the instrument. Bowyer can’t quite turn the sow’s ear of Edward Healey’s A Short Fugal Postlude into a proper silk purse, but the music’s Victorian pomposity is hammed up well through some suitably pompous registrations. I particularly relish his wonderfully fluid registration changes for the solo line of the captivating little Allegretto grazioso of Henry Holloway (who was, we learn, Whitlock’s predecessor at Bournemouth).

Possibly Bowyer takes generous of licence in order to communicate his own enthusiasm for this music; I never really imagined a Pavan could sound quite so much like an exuberant English Morris Dance as does that by Oliver Arthur King, but Bowyer pulls out and pushes in stops with gay abandon and it all has a lovely lift to it – although the very tame ending cannot really be hidden from view. There is more than a hint of gambolling lambs in Bowyer’s bouncy jaunt through Kitchener’s Dawn of Spring, and I like the improvisatory feel he brings to Edward d’Evry’s Meditation on an Old French Noel, even if the actual theme is itself hugely unmemorable. Some judiciously-drawn Tubas breathe fire into the otherwise rather soggy Grand Choeur Maestoso of George Clarke Richardson.

But among the plethora of pieces which rely on Bowyer’s unique brand of organistical proselytizing to attract attention, are several real gems which, I suspect, would sound pretty impressive in any situation. Among these are Ambrose Porter’s stirring Postlude in F minor which has hints of Stanford about it, and Purcell Mansfield’s Concert Scherzo in F, a work which really deserves to get on to the recital circuit as a spectacular display piece for both organ and virtuoso player.

Marc Rochester

George Frederic Vincent (1855-1928): Coro Grandioso [5:05]
William Charles Mary Filby (1836-1912): A Child at Prayer [3:26]
Bertram Luard Selby (1853-1918): Study in B flat [2:58]
Oliver Arthur King (1855-1923): Pavan [3:04]
Edward d'Evry (1869-1950): Meditation in A minor on an old French Noel [5:21]
Bernard Jackson (1869-1925): Eventide (Berceuse) [3:50]
Edward William Healey (1850-1913): A Short Fugal Postlude [2:24]
George Clark Richardson (1868 - after 1909): Grand Choeur Maestoso [6:07]
Henry Holloway (1871-1948): Allegretto grazioso [6:18]
John Pullein (1878-1948): Short Piece in E flat [3:25]
Ambrose Probert Porter (1885 -1970): Postlude in F minor [5:13]
Ernest Halsey (1876 -1939): Nocturne in E minor [5:36]
Frederick John Kitchener (1878-1952): Dawn of Spring [4:23]
Arthur George Colborn (1869-1951): Postlude in A minor [3:26]
William Richard James McLean (1858 - ?): Chanson [2:50]
Bernard Johnson (1868-1935): Morning Song [6:32]
Ralph Driffill (1870 -1922): Cantaline in A minor [2:12]
Purcell James Mansfield (1889 -1968): Concert Scherzo in F [5:26]

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