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Wesley: Organ Works

Wesley: Organ Works

James McVinney Organ

CD: 1
Tracks: 10
Length: 57:29

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Naxos
Rel. 26 Jun 2007
Recorded 2006

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Wesley: Organ Works Samuel Sebastian Wesley—not to be confused with his father, great-grandfather, or uncle, all of whom were also "Samuel Wesley"—was dubbed by one contemporary critic as "the greatest organist now living," and that was while Felix Mendelssohn was still among the quick. As a composer, this particular Wesley is recognized by Grove's as the "greatest composer in the English cathedral tradition between Purcell and Stanford"; which for all of the mountains of pages of music his father produced was not a distinction accorded to the elder Wesley. Despite the high regard held for Samuel Sebastian Wesley as an organist, his output for organ is disappointingly small, especially when compared to his more substantial production in anthems, service music, and even—God forbid!—secular music. Naxos' Samuel Sebastian Wesley: Organ Works, as performed by James McVinney on an 1873 Henry Willis organ at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Tenbury, contains roughly half of all the organ music Wesley produced. It is certainly a welcome collection; although individual pieces by Wesley may be found scattered throughout countless organ recital discs, the only previous CD devoted entirely to Wesley's organ music appeared on the Priory label in the early '80s.

The Willis organ in use suits Wesley's music well, as it is not a loud, giant Baroque-styled organ but a nineteenth century instrument not much larger than the chamber organs Wesley himself favored; it has a warm, gentle, and compact sound. Wesley's middle name was "Sebastian," taken after Johann Sebastian Bach, and in the opening Introduction and Fugue in C sharp minor, one thinks "Ok—this sounds so much like Bach it could BE Bach." However, as the listener progresses through the subsequent program, with its pieces bearing confusingly non-descript titles, one encounters a depth of expression seldom heard in nineteenth century organ music. There is nothing stodgy about Wesley's music, rather it is clearly stated, naturally flowing, and makes use of unconventional harmonic shifts that keeps your attention, an attribute that may stem from Wesley's acknowledged penchant for improvisation. Through his excellent advocacy—not to mention playing—organist McVinney successfully makes the case that the organ music of Samuel Sebastian Wesley is something that stands completely apart from the rather stuffy, formal, and derivative corpus of nineteenth century English organ music. Whether ye be Methodist or not, if you fancy the organ Naxos' Samuel Sebastian Wesley: Organ Works will be a delightful surprise to you.

© Uncle Dave Lewis, All Music Guide
Portions of Content Provided by All Music Guide.
© 2008 All Media Guide, LLC. All Music Guide is a registered trademark of All Media Guide, LLC.
AMG
CD 1
1 Introduction and Fugue for organ in C#- 7:44
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2 2.Larghetto in F#- 5:52
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3 Voluntary: Grave and Andante, for organ 5:20
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4 Andante cantabile, for organ in G 4:20
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5 Andante in Eb 4:14
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6 Andante in F 7:55
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7 Andante for organ in C (from The Musical Standard) 4:53
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8 Andante for organ in E- 4:31
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9 Holsworthy Church Bells, air with variation for organ 5:26
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10 Choral Song 7:14
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