Herman Jordaan organ 

Ismeron JMSCD 11

Alec Rowley (1892-1958) is a largely forgotten composer these days and that is a pity for his music is well worth getting to know. This two CD set is therefore very welcome containing 10 of Rowley’s organ compositions played by Rowley enthusiast, Herman Jordaan, on the fine 4 manual organ in Albion Church, Ashton-under-Lyne built by T.C. Lewis and opened in 1895. In listening to these CDs, the tonal quality of the Albion Church organ is self-evident. 

Much of Rowley’s organ music is generally easily accessible to the average player, and is of a tuneful bent. To those who do not know it, these CDs form a useful introduction to his style. 

Anyone coming fresh to this music should, I think, start with CD 2 which contains the very approachable The Four Winds; Three Scenes from the Boyhood of Christ; the Choral Prelude on Richmond; Symphony No 2 in B and Three Quiet Preludes, these last played by Jordaan at St. Alban’s Cathedral and previously available on a Priory CD (PRCD863)

All these were new to me, butI found them immediately attractive. I was particularly taken by the second movement of the Symphony with its descending ostinato theme, first in the left hand and then on the pedals, which does not quite fit the 3/4 time signature. This means it is forever tantalisingly shifting forward one beat. 

Moving back to CD1, we find the Heroic Suite made up of four contrasting sections; the lovely Choral Prelude on Hollingside; the late Sonata in A minor, posthumously published in 1959. The perhaps better-known Benedictus opens quietly, builds to central climaxes then dissolves,and then there is the Toccata- Moto Perpetuo.  We are told that Rowley believed that between popular light music and serious music, there should be a middle ground; music which people would understand and find easy to grasp, seldom making impractical demands but still able to make a good impression, and this is what we get here.

Priced at £16 for the set, it contains luxuriously presented liner notes both on the organ and the composer by Ismeron owner, Martin Stafford, and on the music by Herman Jordaan himself. This set should not be missed by anyone who enjoys listening to out of the way, quality music for the organ, expertly performed on a fine instrument. I wish the enterprise every success and commend it to you. 

Review by David Greening