Sunday, 12 April 2009

William Mathias: Recessional for Organ

I was recently sent a link to a YouTube posting where there is a superb performance of William Mathias’s fine organ work Recessional. It is played by Ian Ball on the organ of Bristol Cathedral – which just happens to be one of my favourite cathedrals.
I have always been a great fan of Mathias’s music ever since I first heard his Processional (1965) played in Glasgow Cathedral. I can recall just about getting my fingers round this work when I used to play the church organ, however I was hardly note perfect and the pedal part was largely ‘faked’.
Recessional, which is really a companion piece to the Processional, was composed some twenty years later in 1986 and was dedicated to Christopher Morris ‘musician, publisher, friend’ who was then head of Oxford University Press. At that time he was involved in publishing an important volume of Mathias’s organ pieces which included the two works mentioned.
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After an impressive solo for heavy reeds, the piece develops contrasting moods of ‘dark brooding’ material with a much brighter tune that nods back to the Processional. The solo reed at the conclusion banishes all care
Hyperion Records have described this work as consisting of “pattering, quick-fire semiquavers accompanied by rhythmical chords, many of them sevenths. March-like passages with a tramping bass provide a contrast to these athletics, and from time to time there are nods in the direction of Stravinsky’s Petrushka, especially near the end, where a bitonal cascade introduces the crashing final bars…”
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This present work is perhaps the most impressive of Mathias’s ‘warhorses’ and is certainly lively and colourful. This piece, as its title implies, would be best played at the end of a service as the congregation leaves the Cathedral. However, I would probably hang on until the organist finished!
Listen to William Mathias's Recessional on YouTube

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