Pomp and Circumstance
Ben van Oosten met with an enthusiastic response for his captivating program featuring English organ music of the nineteenth century on Vol. 1. Now, on Vol. 2 of his Festival of English Organ Music, this master of the romantic organ presents veritable hits as well as original compositions and arrangements that are entirely unknown – at least on the European Continent. His selections of course include Edward Elgar’s March No. 1 “Pomp and Circumstance,” which not least is known to receive standing ovations every year during the Last Night of the Proms.
Morning and Night
Even though Elgar was active as an organist in Worcester, he wrote only a few original works for organ, including the magnificent sonata recorded by Ben van Oosten on Vol. 1 of this series. Elgar’s colorful orchestral works and the manifold tonal possibilities offered by modern instruments nevertheless inspired his contemporaries to produce highly imaginative adaptations for the organ. Here van Oosten turns to yet another march and the enchanting compositional pair formed by “Chanson de matin” and “Chanson de nuit,” lovingly arranged by Elgar’s close friend Herbert Brewer.
Fantasy, Fugue, and Prelude
Hubert Parry is also a must at the Proms: his hymn “Jerusalem,” proudly sung by the concert audience, is a regular tradition during the Last Night. The “Fantasia and Fugue” from the last year of Parry’s life draws on the tradition of Northern German organ music without neglecting the harmonic refinements of the nineteenth century – an enthralling combination experiencing its crowning conclusion in the ambiguous fugue. Perhaps the most original contribution on the collection is by Herbert Howells. Bold harmonies and vibrant rhythms mark the beginning and end of his “Psalm Prelude” very much in keeping with the Psalm petitioner: “Sing a new song unto the Lord!”
Hands and Feet
And of course works by Samuel Wesley, Frank Bridge, John Ireland, Alfred Hollins, and Henry Smart are also in the best hands (and under the best feet!) with Ben van Oosten. Hardly any other organ virtuoso can draw on such extensive experience with organ music from the late romantic period. The grand Henry Willis organ in the Salisbury Cathedral was regarded as the world’s most beautiful instrument when it was built and has been preserved unchanged through to the present. Van Oosten and Willis – the ideal team for this long-overdue rediscovery of English organ artistry!