The Organ


Robert Crowley at the organ Organ of Ely Cathedral

Dr Arthur Wills has a significant reputation as organist-composer, one of the most recent in a long and noble tradition that has been fostered in Anglican Cathedral organ lofts since the Reformation. This disc brings together a representative sample of Will’s prodigious output organ. An eclectic composer, Wills is at one and the same time grounded in the cathedral organist tradition, but with a broad range of influences adding to this baseline to form a rich and exciting tonal and stylistic mix that provides so much that is worth listening to and playing. It is especially fitting that this CD was recorded on the Ely Cathedral organ, at which Wills presided for so long and through his music can be so effectively realised.

Icons is a four-movement work commissioned by Robert Crowley and taking its inspiration from a visit to Cyprus. Notwithstanding the Orthodox Church background, this is a composition that is firmly set within a late 20th century French organ music idiom. The last ‘turbulent’ movement is especially exciting. Lullaby for a Prince (Prince William) on the other hand, seems to owe more to late Howells. The three-movement Trio Sonata is just that, with shades of Flor Peeters on top of a classical texture, updated in Wills’s indomitable style. I particularly enjoyed the haunting slow movement. The Symphony Bhagavad Gita is also contemplative in nature, but with a large-scale tonal architecture at its heart. Homage to Howells, is based on the latter’s hymn-tune ‘Michael’, though is worked through in Wills’ style. The CD ends with the Diptyque – two movements inspired by poems of Robert Browning.

Robert Crowley was a pupil of Arthur Wills and Lance Andrews, Head of Lammas, was a chorister at Ely when Dr Wills was Assistant Organist. There are extensive programme notes by Arthur Wills himself. These make very interesting reading, not least because they describe the motivation behind the creational process. A specification of the Ely Cathedral organ is also included. Do not be put off by a disc that is dedicated to a single composer who writes in a decidedly modern idiom. I found all the compositions very accessible and stimulating; and the Ely Harrison sounds magnificent. Just wait for the Tuba at the end of the Howells Homage! Highly recommended.