Tuesday, 29 January 2008

William Mathias Fenestra for Organ


I listened to William Mathias’ fine organ work Fenestra for the first time the other day. I was lucky enough to find a copy of the sheet music in a second-hand bookshop and I had the CD in my collection. Unfortunately there is only one recording of this fine work available at present – John Scott playing the organ of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Fenestra is a sizable piece lasting some twelve minutes. It was composed in 1989 as a Keele Concert Society commission and was first performed by Jennifer Bate on 22nd January 1990.

Luckily the composer provided a programme note: - The English for Fenestra is Windows. The darkness of the work's opening is gradually illuminated by sound windows of varying tempi, brightness and colour. The player is invited to adapt this metaphor on each occasion to the given individuality of the instrument, allied to the acoustic in which it is placed. This work was composed very much with Jennifer Bate in mind as first performer and dedicatee. Its basic idea was, indeed, generated through knowledge of the infinite care Jennifer Bate devotes to the important matter of registration - something which has to be thought out anew for virtually every occasion and location. Important as colour is, it nevertheless remains a metaphor for the work's musical argument, which proceeds and develops in a one-movement span from darkness to light.
Quoted from the Organists Review May 1993

Fenestra is a fantastic piece that certainly challenges the organist’s ability to provide good registrations. It is definitely not possible to play this work on the one manual - six stop organ at St Swithun’s! As with much of Mathias’s music there is a lot of parallel fourth and fifths- but this never becomes excessive in this piece. The work by its very nature abounds in time signature and tempo changes.

I perceive the formal structure of this work rather like looking at a stained glass window with some patterns repeated a number of times – but slightly varied – and offset with totally contrasting design. Lots of triads with added sixths give a certain relaxed feel to the quieter passages of this work – but the big finish with trumpets blaring and a huge chord with seven out of twelve tones finish the work impressively.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Also a recording by Richard Lea. Organists of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Good Performance.

CD titled: The complete organ works of William Mathias.

Recorded 2006