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John Gardner: Music For Brass And Organ

Gardner / Archibald / Cosmopolitan Brass
Release Date: 03/08/2011 
Label:  Toccata Classics   Catalog #: 48   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John GardnerJohn Gardner
Performer:  Stephen KingHelen SangerPaul Archibald
Conductor:  Chris Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cosmopolitan Brass
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This music has given me immense pleasure and I am very keen to get to know more of this strangely under-performed and recorded composer.

Among the many composers whose music does not get the exposure or the reputation that it deserves surely John Gardner is one of the most deserving. A few welcome discs apart – above all those of orchestral music from Naxos and ASV in recent years – anyone wanting to get to know his music has had to make do with scraps on other discs. So for that reason alone this disc should be warmly welcomed, but when in addition to the quality of the music, performances, recording and presentation are all first rate the achievement and the attraction of the disc are all the greater.
Read more /> John Gardner is still best known for just one work – the carol Tomorrow shall be my dancing day. It turns up frequently in services, concerts and on disc. Whilst it deserves no less, and whilst there are many composers who have never managed anything half as memorable or enjoyable, this carol is merely the tip of the iceberg as far as his output is concerned. There are symphonies and concertos, much choral music and the opera The Moon and Sixpence which must be overdue for revival; it seems tailor-made for Opera North. All of his music that I have heard shares the characteristics of being above all musically alive, of having something to say and saying it interestingly and economically.

That is certainly the case with all the works on this disc although perhaps it is better not to listen to it straight through – the sound of brass and organ, whether together or separately – can be wearing. The first work – the Flourish for a Wedding – shows straightaway the characteristics I have described. It is for two trumpets, two trombones, tuba and organ, and makes use of the chorale Wachet auf in a joyous, varied and exciting miniature. The Easter Fantasy omits the tuba but is also based on existing melodies. The best works on the disc however are the two Sonatas. The Sonata da Chiesa for two trumpets and organ is based on a motif from L’Orfeo and its four very varied movements evoke the very spirit of Monteverdi. The Sonata Secolare is especially memorable for the slow and haunting middle movement.

The Theme and Variations was written for Philip Jones and was recorded by his quartet. Again its economy of means is remarkable. The Five Dances have been recorded recently by William Saunders on his disc Animal Parade which I reviewed recently. Both versions use the organ of Brentwood Cathedral – that by William Saunders being recorded in April 2010 and the present disc in January and June 2010. There is little to choose between these two versions of this highly enjoyable work.

The larger works are conducted by the composer’s son who also provides lengthy and interesting notes in the booklet. I knew little of this music before listening to this disc but it has given me immense pleasure and I am very keen to get to know more of this strangely under-performed and recorded composer.

-- John Sheppard, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Dances (5) for Organ, Op. 179 by John Gardner
Performer:  Stephen King (Organ)
Conductor:  Chris Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cosmopolitan Brass
Length: 2 Minutes 9 Secs. 
2.
Flourish for a Wedding, Op. 162 by John Gardner
Performer:  Stephen King (Organ)
Conductor:  Chris Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cosmopolitan Brass
3.
Easter Fantasy, Op. 232 by John Gardner
Performer:  Stephen King (Organ)
Conductor:  Chris Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cosmopolitan Brass
4.
Sonata da chiesa, Op. 136 by John Gardner
Performer:  Helen Sanger (Trumpet), Paul Archibald (Trumpet), Stephen King (Organ)
Conductor:  Chris Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cosmopolitan Brass
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; England 
5.
Sonata Secolare, Op. 117 by John Gardner
Performer:  Paul Archibald (Trumpet), Stephen King (Organ)
Conductor:  Chris Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cosmopolitan Brass
6.
Theme and Variations, Op. 7 by John Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cosmopolitan Brass

Sound Samples

Flourish for a Wedding, Op. 162
Easter Fantasy, Op. 232
Theme and Variations, Op. 7: Theme: Andante flessible
Theme and Variations, Op. 7: Variation 1: Un poco meno mosso
Theme and Variations, Op. 7: Variation 2: Allegretto
Theme and Variations, Op. 7: Variation 3: Allegro giocoso
Theme and Variations, Op. 7: Variation 4: Marcia lenta
Theme and Variations, Op. 7: Variation 5: Marcia rapida
Theme and Variations, Op. 7: Variation 6: Habanera
Theme and Variations, Op. 7: Variation 7: Misterioso
Theme and Variations, Op. 7: Variation 8: Finale - Allegro vivace
5 Dances, Op. 179: No. 1. Lavolta
5 Dances, Op. 179: No. 2. Pavin
5 Dances, Op. 179: No. 3. Jig
5 Dances, Op. 179: No. 4. Lament
5 Dances, Op. 179: No. 5. Fling
Sonata da Chiesa sopra un tema di Claudio Monteverdi, Op. 136: I. Maestoso
Sonata da Chiesa sopra un tema di Claudio Monteverdi, Op. 136: II. Allegro
Sonata da Chiesa sopra un tema di Claudio Monteverdi, Op. 136: III. Lento e piano
Sonata da Chiesa sopra un tema di Claudio Monteverdi, Op. 136: IV. Allegro ma non troppo
Sonata Secolare, Op. 117: I. Allegro con brio
Sonata Secolare, Op. 117: II. Ciacona
Sonata Secolare, Op. 117: III. Finale

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