By Dom Sebastian Wolff

Richard Lea Organist

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This double CD set is presented as a luxurious hard cover booklet with detailed notes on the music by organist Richard Lea. He includes 30 pieces by Dom Sebastian Wolff (b. 1929) of Buckfast Abbey. 

Lea concludes the recording with his own fine arrangement of a shortened version of the final chorus from Father Sebastian’s Cantata for a New Era, the Fanfare that originally set the words, ‘Rejoice, rejoice, let all men rejoice’. These words are remarkably appropriate since nearly all of Dom Sebastian Wolff’s music is extrovert and exuberant. 

Recording Producer Philip Arkwright details Buckfast Abbey’s unique Ruffatti organ, really two instruments, the Quire Organ and the Grand-Orgue in the West Gallery built in the Cavaillé- Coll romantic tradition. The two organs can be played separately or both together, controlled by the four manual console which is illustrated in full colour. I wondered why I had not come across Dom Sebastian’s music before. Is it too difficult, or perhaps the Ruffatti instrument and the acoustic of Buckfast Abbey are inseparable with the music?

The first CD opens with Processional which gives its name to the entire recording. Bright and vehement it recalls perhaps Elgar or Walton. J. S. Bach is mentioned by Richard Lea as being a source of inspiration for several of the works, many of which are Chorale Preludes.                   

Standing proud on the first CD is the Chorale Partita on Unto us is born a son a set of variations on the Christmas hymn tune. Near the end it even uses the glockenspiel stop to give an extra celebratory pep to the flutes. The Chorale Preludes give sturdy presentations of the main tunes, always surrounded by dazzling contrapuntal perorations.

Richard Lea mentions French composers as other inspirational sources, and indeed what I thought was the best of all the pieces opens the second CD. This is Carillon (Hommage à Mulet et Vierne). It is closest to Mulet’s Carillon Sortie. The Fantasia and Fugue on the first CD is more modern but still tuneful and very imaginative, including a surprisingly folksy tune for the fugue. 

There are several other fugues which always end most powerfully and dramatically, using the full roaring forces of the Ruffatti organ. All of this varied music is positive, uplifting and well worth hearing.

Review by Alan Cooper