ANDREAS WILLSCHER (b.1955): Organ Symphonies No. 19 “Hallelujahs” and No. 20 “Laetare”, The Beatitudes.
Catalogue Number: 12T055
Label: Divine Art
Reference: dda 2162
Description: The two most recent of Willscher's organ symphonies, both written this year, continuing his use of the form for large-scale works on liturgical subjects, in a distinctive, instantly accessible, tonal idiom (see also Organ Symphony No.5 [04S072]). As an organist-composer, Willscher writes for his instrument with complete authority and an exhaustive knowledge of the organ tradition and sacred music in general. The symphonies are recognisably from the same pen, but differ in some important respects. No. 19 is inspired by five Biblical accounts of praise and thanksgiving. It alternates exultant toccata movements, in which the influence of Messiaen is strongly felt, with mystical, prayerful litanies. No. 20 bears the title 'Rejoice' and is based on Gregorian melodies and an ancient sacred melody from the Périgord region of France. These lend the music an archaic, modal character, dressed in the saturated coloristic harmonies of the twentieth century. The Beatitudes is a much earlier work, written when the composer was 19. His approach to tonality is, unsurprisingly, more conventional than in the recent works, borrowing from the Romantic organ tradition, but the work is nonetheless highly effective and characterful. Carson Cooman (organ of St. Bartholomew, Armley, Leeds).