ELISABETH LUTYENS (1906-1983): Organ Music - Epithalamion, Op/ 3, 3 Pièces Brèves, Plenum IV, Op. 100, Nativity (all 5 preceding works with Philippa Boyle [soprano] and Dewi Rees - organ in Plenum IV])), Sinfonia, Op. 32,Suite, Op. 17, A Sleep of Prisoners, Chorale Prelude, Temenos, Op. 72 (all but Plenum and Nativity First Recordings).
Catalogue Number: 05X054
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0639
Description: Lutyens composed, sporadically and mostly to commission, throughout much of her career. She studied composition and organ with organist-composer Harold Darke, and she held a post as church organist in the early 1930s, so writing for the instrument came naturally and idiomatically to her, as demonstrated here by the impressive duet Plenum IV, which is a study in the timbral and dynamic possibilities of the organ. Despite her unrepentant, even dogmatic, insistence on serialism, her unfailing lyrical gift shines through many of these works, not least the two with voice, of which the carol Nativity (to a rather dark and unsettled text by verses by the Ulster poet W. R. (‘Bertie’) Rodgers, with whom Lutyens had previously collaborated on her chamber opera The Pit) is especially approachable. The lovely Trois Pièces Brèves, adapted from her then unperformed lyric drama Isis and Osiris also highlight this lyric sensibility, in transparent, delicate sonorities. The 1948 Suite was Lutyens first serial organ work, succinct and characterful, in four movements of Webernian transparency (and, by the way, far from devoid of sensuous tonal harmony). A Sleep of Prisoners is the incidental music for Christopher Fry’s eponymous play, in which four prisoners of war sleep in a church and dream of dramatic Biblical episodes. The suite is brilliantly written, with compelling immediacy and accessibility, instantly communicative of the drama and emotion of the play, pointing to Lutyens' skill as a composer of film scores, such as "Dr Terror’s House of Horrors" (recalling the severe serialist’s association with Hammer Films and Amicus never gets old!). Temenos (meaning a ‘sacred enclosure') of 1969 is probably her most important organ work. Austere and hieratic, though timbrally varied in its darkly glowing colours and precise graduation of proportion and texture, it exudes an air of mysterious, and at times fearsome ritual. The Chorale Prelude is an attractive tonal anomaly here; undated, it might have been a composition exercise or written for her church job. Tom Winpenny (organ of St. Albans Cathedral).