Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Peter Dickinson: Complete Solo Organ Works

Peter Dickinson (b.1934) A Cambridge Postlude (1953) Prelude (1954) Postlude on ‘Adeste Fidelis’ (1954) Prelude on Song 46 (Orlando Gibbons) (1954/55) Prelude on Song 20 (Orlando Gibbons) (1954/55) Prelude on Song 34 (Orlando Gibbons) 1954/55) Toccata (1955) Meditation on Murder in the Cathedral (1958) Study in Pianissimo (1959) Dirge (1963) Three Statements (1964) Carillon (1964) Paraphrase 1 (1967) Blue Rose Variations (1985) Millennium Fanfare (1999)
Jennifer Bate (organ) Organ of St Dominic’s Priory London (Carillon); Organ of St James’s Muswell Hill, London (Toccata, Meditation, Study, & Paraphrase; Organ of St John’s Duncan Terrace (all other pieces) NAXOS 8.572169

I recently reviewed this new Naxos recording of the complete solo organ works of the British composer and scholar and academic, Peter Dickinson. It made both fascinating and challenging listening. Naturally, not all the works impressed me equally, but taken, as my late father used to say, in the round, this new CD is a remarkable musical document showcasing a composer and musician who has encapsulated much of the musical style of the last half of the twentieth century. Please read my full review at MusicWeb International.
I often say this, but it is worth repeating: Do not attempt to listen to this CD at a single sitting. Not only will the listener lose concentration, they will miss some very interesting pieces and a superb opportunity to explore a small but well-proportioned corpus of organ works. Interestingly, the disc has been presented in chronological order, and that is how I approached it. However, it is possible to select a couple of contrasting pieces and slowly explore from that perspective. A good place to begin would be the Blue Rose Variations - more about that work later. However, I do recommend following the development of Peter Dickinson’s thought from his nineteenth year through to the Millennium Fanfare written when he was 66 years old. It is an interesting and instructive journey.

Jennifer Bate has given a sympathetic and convincing performance of all these pieces - they were recorded over a period of a quarter of a century. The organs sound excellent and appear to be ideally suited for the pieces chosen for them. Naxos has provided a specification for all three instruments. For the cognoscenti, St John’s Duncan Terrace is a 1963 Walker Organ, St Dominic’s Priory is also a Walker and St James Muswell Hill was built by Harrison and Harrison.

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