STANFORD Organ Works Vol 2
Three tips of the hat for this one: first to Cathedral Music for sponsoring the CD and making available again all of Stanford’s organ music, much of it long out of print, a notable initiative for a small publisher; to the Willis-Harrison & Harrison organ of Durham Cathedral which, after its last rebuild, completed in 2001, is in fine form and strikes me as an ideal instrument on which to hear Stanford; and to Daniel Cook (now Sub-Organist of Westminster Abbey), who received his early music education on this very instrument and who inhabits Stanford’s particular idiom with unshowy aplomb.
As to the music, it can veer from the inspired to the very ordinary (by which I mean the kind that is more rewarding for an organist to play than for an audience to hear). This second volume of Stanford’s complete organ works has a mixture of both, beginning with the Fantasia and Fugue in D minor (from 1907), the only work here not based on a plainsong or hymn tune, and seldom heard – perhaps because, after the invigorating Fantasia, the workaday Fugue simply fizzles out without ceremony.
The Six Preludes and Postludes, Set 1 contains some attractive ideas (No 2 is a good recital piece) and some less so. One might say the same about the brief In modo dorico, the Prelude on Jesu dulcis memoria and the Fantasia on Te Deum laudamus. No qualms about the Sonata No 3 in D minor, Stanford at his magnificent best, with its central ‘Benedictus’ accommodating an unexpected martial section midway, and the sonata-rondo finale a resourceful treatment of the hymn tune ‘Hanover’ (‘O worship the King, / All glorious above’) in which Cook eventually unleashes the full power of the Durham organ.