Martin Bussey has recently added a range of pieces for organ to his Composers Edition offering, including several aimed at the student organist. As with much of his organ music, these offer reflections on either place or metaphysical writing.
The Three Border Studies, inspired by a trip to the Scottish Borders in 2003, reflect different aspects of organ-playing technique. Jedburgh Abbey requires sustained lines and finger substitutions; Dryburgh Abbey, a beautiful reflection of the calm ruins where Sir Walter Scott is buried, explores cantabile melody with accompanying figures in left hand and pedals; and Melrose Abbey, burial place of the heart of Robert the Bruce, is a lively toccata, with an old Psalm Tune in the pedals. Each is available separately.
Anima Christi is a much more elaborate work, taking as its starting point the fourteenth-century poem of the title, a reflection on The Crucifixion. The musical language is intense and chromatic, but the ending is a calm, static major key version of the work’s opening.
‘And an old white horse…’ takes its title from a line in T.S.Eliot’s poem The Journey of the Magi. The image of a broken-down white horse contrasts with that of the white horse of The Apocalypse, leading to a battle-inspired, rhythmically complex middle section.
All these pieces have been recorded by Tom Bell on the London Independent Records label.
Urizen is that slight rarity, a work for organ duet, originally composed for the duo of Tom Bell and Richard Brasier. It takes as its inspiration the writings and drawings of William Blake, focused on Urizen, a personification of Reason, but also the famous image of ‘The Ancient of Days’. The two substantial movements are modelled on the artistic form of a diptych, either side of two long-held chords which represent Urizen in chains. The work exploits the textures and power enabled by four hands and four feet at one organ (with much crossing of hands and sharing of the pedal board). Bell and Brasier’s performances of the piece are a tour de force, stimulating enthusiastic responses from audiences.