Andrew Peters: American Variations
This welcome 15-track anthology is topped and tailed by two of the best-known concert organ pieces by native American composers, Dudley Buck’s playful Star Spangled Banner Concert Variations and Charles Ives’s riotous Variations on ‘America’. Although many of the intervening tracks will, I suspect, be unfamiliar territory, this comprehensive survey of some of the best American organ music should do much to correct any such ignorance. Pianists would, I hope, forgive Andrew Peters for including John Fesperman’s excellent transcription of Copland’s monumental early Passacaglia, composed under the tutelage of Nadia Boulanger, who also taught Adolphus Hailstork (b1941) and, from an earlier generation, Katherine Kennicott Davis (1892-1980). Her charming Pastorale of 1918 starts off à la Vierne before slipping effortlessly into quasi-Alfred Hollins mode.
Continuing the ‘spot the influence’ game, the four excerpts taken from the Folk Hymn Sketches by Emma Lou Diemer (b1927) range from Mendelssohn to Hindemith (the delicious ‘All things bright and beautiful’). Ned Rorem’s evocative Rain Over the Quaker Graveyard (1982) gives Messiaen a good run for his money. Russell Peck’s In the Garden provides the ideal vehicle to display the vast dynamic range of this 60-rank neoclassical 1965 Schantz organ.
With excellent booklet notes, crystal-clear engineering and stylish, sparkling playing, this attractive disc is well worth exploring.