Tom Winpenny organist of St Albans Cathedral
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 659
Sonata No. 1 in G (1971)*; Fantasia (1964); Prelude, Intermezzo and Finale (1962)*; Sarabande (1960-1); Toccata and Aria (1966); Suite in G (1989); Impromptu (1966); Prelude for Tudeley (1989); Sonata No.2 in E (1980).
All premier recordings except items marked*.
Arnold Cooke (1906-2005) composed very little organ music before the 1960s; and so most of it dates from the latter part of his life. The Suite in G (1989) was his penultimate multi-movement work and his last for organ.
After graduating from Cambridge in 1929, he spent three years in Berlin studying under Hindemith, whose influence is apparent in some of the works recorded here, even though they were written half a century later: melodic and rhythmic phrases are redolent of his erstwhile mentor. Indeed, if I had listened with an innocent ear, I might at times have been persuaded that I was hearing music hitherto unknown by Hindemith himself – perhaps parts of a projected fourth Organ Sonata that had lain in a drawer unpublished and unperformed since the late 1930s. By his own admission, Cooke never strove to accord with the passing fads of ephemeral fashion. ‘I was never “in the race for modernity”.’ This may explain why his music was for long so undeservedly neglected. Two thirds of the music here presented has première recording status.
As one would expect, all this finely crafted music is well served by Tom Winpenny and the St Albans organ. Moreover, at over 80 minutes, the CD is very good value. Such a programme would once have filled two LPs, and – in real terms – have cost much more to buy. The scholarly and lucid 10-page note is by Harvey Davies – a Manchester-based pianist on the staff of the Royal Northern College whose Ph.D. theses was on Arnold Cooke, and who was prominently involved in an excellent four CD series of Cooke’s chamber music on the MPR label. Accordingly, everything is highly commendable: the music, the performance, the recording, and the presentation.
As a relatively young organist, Tom Winpenny must be among the most prolific in making recordings, with more than two dozen CDs to his credit. Almost half of these are of music by British composers which might otherwise be unavailable. (See his website for full details). For this service to music, he and his generous sponsors deserve our thanks and congratulations.
Review by J. Martin Stafford