Promoting contemporary organ music both ‘live’ and on disc is far from easy. Sebastian Thomson is to be congratulated in commissioning works for this CD, a collection of new works for organ. The first is David Bednall’s Rhapsody, premiered at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2010. The subsequent commissioned compositions were premiered on the organ at Keble College, also the venue of this recording. The additional works by David Briggs and Philip Moore effectively compliment the commissioned compositions.
I enjoyed many of the pieces, especially Thomas Hewitt Jones’s jubilant and exciting writing conceived both harmonically and melodically in a style reflecting neo-English roots. Simon Whalley’s Festal Paean and Neil Cox’s Laudate are full of character and do not make particularly taxing listening or likewise, the pieces by Philip Moore and David Briggs. David Bednall’s output is usually most accessible, but the Rhapsody is deliberately uncompromising especially in its use of the triton when combined with dense harmonic writing.
Bearing in mind the size of St Paul’s, the inaugural performance might well have created a different impression. The improvisatory quality of John Hoskin’s Fourteen Stations of the Cross effectively explores the conflicting moods and emotions within the Stations and demonstrated the superb wealth of colours on the Tickell instrument in Keble. Thomson’s performances are exemplary, and the recording balance captures the space of the chapel admirably.