JOHN MCCABE (1939-2015): Sinfonia, Op. 6, Prelude, Johannis-Partita, Op. 30, Nocturne, Le Poisson Magique, 7 Carol-Preludes, Esperanza (all First Recordings), Dies Resurrectionis.
Catalogue Number: 05U063
Label: Resonus Classics
Description: Most of McCabe's output for organ is from the 1960s, "... largely because a lot of my friends were organists, and they asked me to write pieces for them. As a young composer this was a splendid way of getting performances ..." as he drily observed in the notes that he wrote for this recording shortly before he died. Esperanza, a 'darkness to light' piece, a recurring favourite dramatic arc for McCabe, commemorates the rescue of the miners from the San José Mine in Chile and was written in 2010, and the delightfully inventive Carol Preludes in 2008, but there is nothing between these works and the early ones. This is a pity, as the composer’s organ writing is rich, original and idiomatic. The early Sinfonia, for example, is full of highly accomplished and original organ writing, centered on a passacaglia (a form to which McCabe returned many times) and progressing via a number of linked movements each with a very distinct character (the Capriccio and Nocturne are especially memorable) to a final exuberant toccata and fugue. French-style toccatas are a dominant feature of Dies resurrectionis, a triptych of Easter reflections. Le poisson magique is noteworthy for its darkly glowing colors in texture and harmony, perfectly reflecting the jewelled fish obscured by aquatic depths in Paul Klee's surrealistic painting; as in his orchestral works, McCabe had an original way with timbral color. The Carol Preludes use traditional carol melodies in the manner, though not the idiom, of traditional chorale preludes, with the composer’s characteristic layers of tonal harmony bringing spicy, modern dissonant harmony to the treatment of the familiar themes. Tom Winpenny (organ of St. Albans Cathedral).