This cleverly conceived 1992 release of 20th-century organ music could have been titled Dedications , because the pieces provide a nearly complete loop of the same. Walter Alcock’s piece is dedicated to Harold Darke; Healey Willan’s to Alcock; Francis Jackson’s to Willan; and Brian Brockless’s to Jackson. As Francis Jackson states in the booklet notes, “If only Harold Darke could have foreseen the birth of Brian Brockless, how neat and tidy a circle would have been created.”
English organist Andrew Johnstone has spent the bulk of his career in Ireland. He is currently on the faculty of Trinity College, Dublin, and has held assistant organist posts at the two Anglican cathedrals in Dublin. This disc is a beautifully played program of five English cathedral works of non-programmatic music for organ ranging from 1908 (Darke) to 1966 (Brockless). (Although Healey Willan emigrated to Canada, his musical style was formed in England and owed much to that tradition.) The Brockless is the most harmonically astringent, but all are tonally grounded.
Of these pieces, only the Willan appears on recitals with meaningful regularity. For this reviewer, the highlight of the disc is the Toccata, Chorale, and Fugue (1955) by Francis Jackson (b. 1917), one of the finest English organists and organ composers of the 20th century. Jackson’s excellent music deserves to be much more widely known than it is. The Willis/Walker organ at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, serves the repertoire well.
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