PHI CD 217: Music at the Old Chapel
Piano & Organ
 Alan Richardson (1904-1974): The Dreaming Spires
 Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849): Waltz in A minor
 J.S.Bach (1685-1750): Wo soll ich fliehen hin (BWV 646)
 J.S.Bach: Liebster Jesu (BWV 731)  Magnus Black (1930-1998): Christmas Pastorale
 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
arr. Heywood: Papageno's aria
Leslie Elgar Fisher (1904-1974): Suite in D major
 Prelude  Sarabande  Minuet
 Air  Gavotte
 Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927): Fantasie no 3 in B minor
Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933): Aus dem Norden (Suite)
 Spring Dance  Elegy  Halling  Idyll
 Novelette  A Mountain Tune
 Edward Elgar (1857-1934) arr. Atkins: Fugue in C minor
 Harold Darke (1888-1976): Elegy
 Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986): Méditation
 Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901): Monologue in C
 York Bowen (1884-1961): Study in F
TOTAL PLAYING TIME: 68.02
This recording was made on
various days between July 9th and September 24th 2005, at The
Old Chapel, Trelogan, Holywell, Flintshire, CH8 9BD, with Roger
Fisher acting as engineer and Gillian Fisher as session
All the music on this CD has personal associations for me and each item must, for obvious reasons, be brief. My wife and I value, too, the personal friendships which have developed from our Saturday afternoon concerts given each year, here in Trelogan and we hope this CD reflects at least some of the pleasure which these events have given and continue to give us. Attendance is by invitation, so, if you would like to be on our mailing list, please telephone 01745 561 072, write to us at the Old Chapel, Trelogan, Holywell, Flintshire, CH8 9BD, or Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also on our web-site which is www:rogerfisher.org.uk
My father was a very fine pianist indeed, and, despite the fact that he worked for the National Provincial Bank (now NatWest), played Saint-Saens' 4th Piano Concerto in London's Queen's Hall in the 1930s. He played all the Sonatas of Beethoven, also, very well and had a number of short items in his repertoire (a piano transcription of Wagner's Traume was a great favourite). My first choice is one of those items which he played purely for relaxation. Curiously Alan Richardson (1904-1974), a Scotsman who studied at the Royal Academy of Music was an exact contemporary and The Dreaming Spires (Rondel) was inspired by a poem by Matthew Arnold:
'Runs it not here, the track by Childsworth Farm,
Up past the wood, to where the elm-tree Crowns
the hill behind whose ridge the sunset flames?
The signal-elm, that looks on Ilsley Downs,
The Vale, the three lone weirs, the youthful Thames?-
This winter-eve is warm,
Humid the air; leafless, yet soft as spring,
The tender purple spray on copse and briers;
And that sweet City with her dreaming spires
She needs not June for beauty's heightening.`
To an Oxford man, Alan Richardson
also evokes images of long ago and of fine musicians, whose influence
lives with me to this day, Drs H. Kennedy Andrews, David Lumsden,
Bernard Rose, Frederick Sternfeld and Sydney Watson and of a Cathedral
in which the Dean and Chapter's support for our music making was
My father's repertoire included much Chopin (1810-1849), which he played superbly. This chip from the master's work bench, Waltz in A minor, cannot reveal the vast emotional range evoked by this composer, but does reveal some of his elegance and has a charm which is all his own.
Playing music by J S Bach (1685-1750) is an exceptionally satisfying experience, as heart and mind are engaged in full and equal measure. Wo soll ich fliehen hin? [BWV 646] is one of the six cantata transcriptions which are among Bach's relatively few printed works, being published in 1748 by J.G. Schübler. It is one of the very few organ works for which Bach gives any indication of suggested registration and, even then, he confines himself to suggesting the basic pitches of the stop combinations involved. It is also the first organ piece that I ever recorded in 1970 (just after the organ in Chester Cathedral was rebuilt), on a 45 rpm disc issued on the GUILD label produced by a fellow Essex man, Dr Barry Rose.
Liebster Jesu [BWV 731] is one of the first pieces by Bach which I learned to play, and its inclusion here is all the more welcome, because it represents the composer at his most mature and expressive.
John Magnus Black (1930-1998) was one of the most naturally gifted musicians I've ever encountered and one who was greatly loved by his many friends. A pupil of Dr H.K. Andrews, he began his career as organist of All Souls', Langham Place, London, but he is best known for his 30 years as Organist and Choirmaster of Doncaster Parish Church. His organ compositions are few in number but include a Trio Sonata in A
(AMPHION PHI CD 196) and Sarabande for Ray Chapman's 70th birthday (AMPHION PHI CD 177). This Christmas Pastorale was written for me in 1985 to celebrate the completion of the organ on which it is now recorded. On one occasion Magnus chided me for playing it too quickly and I hope I've now made amends, conveying some of the leisurely atmosphere he intended to create. It is hoped that it will be published by ANIMUS towards the end of 2006.
Thomas Heywood is one of Australia's leading players and has published a wealth of transcriptions for organ, including all of Beethoven's Symphonies. A virtuoso performer himself, Thomas and his wife Simone are also wonderful hosts and did so much for my wife and myself on our 2004 Australian tour. Thomas' transcription of Papageno's aria Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja from Act I of Mozart's Magic Flute is a charming arrangement reflecting the elegance and simplicity of the original.
My father Leslie Elgar Fisher (1904-1974) was not only a fine pianist, but inherited my grandfather's ability to paint attractive landscapes in oils, and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of and ability to quote from the works of Shakespeare. His thirst for knowledge was insatiable and he played right through the whole of Wagner's Ring cycle of operas from vocal scores. He wrote a detailed analysis of Elgar's symphonies and was no mean composer himself. In addition to a number of short pieces, there is a fine romantic Violin Sonata in A minor and virtuosic Introduction and Fugue for piano. His Suite in D (1937) is obviously modelled on Grieg's Holberg Suite, but has a melodic and harmonic inventiveness all its own.
A recital tour in Sweden took me to Karlshamm and the home of Borje Tornborg and his wife Britta. Their warm hospitality was much enjoyed and it was Borje who introduced me to the music of Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927) ("the Swedish Brahms"). Brahms' influence is very strong in this richly coloured music and, as so often in Brahms, Stenhammar conveys nobility and nostalgic resignation at the end of his Fantasie no 3 in B minor.
It is more than ten years ago that I first recorded for Martin Monkman of AMPHION RECORDINGS and Martin is not only a highly skilled recording engineer, but has become a friend, whose support and encouragement are greatly valued. This CD is, in fact, Martin's own idea and this part of the programme reflects his desire, not only for me to record on the piano, but to include in my programme the piano music of Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933), who, in fact, began life as Sigfrid Karg, only adding Elert to his name later at the suggestion of his agent. Karg-Elert's output was enormous, but he is best known for his organ works. The piano works are only just beginning to be known, but can now be obtained from CHILTERN MUSIC, Maudlin House, Westhampnett, Chichester, PO18 0PB. The six lyric pieces which make up Karg-Elert's Aus dem Norden (from the Northopus 18) are based on Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian melodies and the sixth movement A Mountain Tune is known to include a theme by Ole Bull (1810-1880). They have a wide emotional range, and attractive colour and brilliance. They should be better known!
When I was child, about 60 records in my father's collection of 78's were by Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) and included most of his major orchestral works, The Dream of Gerontius and the chamber music. Apart from the music itself, what impressed me most was the composer's own conducting - his ability to employ a really supple rubato without sacrificing structure or rhythmic vitality. This influence has been by far the greatest of all influences on my own interpretations, so it's appropriate to include his music here. Elgar's Organ Sonata in G has been recorded many times and I have done so on an all Elgar disc issued by MOTTETTE-URSINA (CD 11501). The Fugue in C minor recorded here was transcribed by Sir Ivor Atkins (1869-1953), who was Organist and Master of the Choristers at Worcester Cathedral from 1897 until 1950. It is taken from Elgar's Severn Suite and projects serenity and nostalgia.
I was encouraged to start playing the organ by Harold Atkinson (a former Temple Church Chorister) Organist and Choirmaster of Woodford Parish Church. His standards as organist and choirmaster were very high and I learned a lot from him. When he retired in the late 1940's, due to business commitments, he was succeeded by Godfrey Bramhall, whose integrity and wise tuition and sound musicianship have had an enduring influence. He was ably supported by Assistant Organist, Norman Caplin, a brilliant player and fine accompanist, whose encouragement was unfailing and most valuable. Church politics suggested a move to All Saints' Woodford Wells and my first regular lessons were from Stanley Andrews, LTCL, ARCO. Stanley, like Norman Caplin, was a very fine player and his tuition gave me a firm foundation for the future. When I reached the age of 17, the headmaster of Bancroft's School (a Drapers' Company school) suggested that I should have lessons from Dr Harold Darke at St Michael's Cornhill (a church supported by the Drapers' Company), a move which Stanley Andrews and Norman Caplin strongly supported. Harold Darke's reaction was that I had been very well taught and he suggested that I should learn Bach's Six Trio Sonatas, which, he said were the foundation of every organist's technique. I asked also to learn Elgar's Sonata in G, and was invited to play it in a recital at St Michael's a few months later. I went on to study with Dr Darke at the Royal College of Music and after nearly five years with him, felt that I was only just beginning to tap the vast wells of wisdom and experience which he possessed. The Elegy finds him in an expressive and reflective mood, ideally suited to the warm acoustics of St Michael's Church.
When I arrived in Chester in 1967, a rebuild of the Whiteley/Hill organ was long overdue. This was successfully completed by Rushworth and Dreaper in 1970 and Timothy Lawford (Director of Music at Birkenhead School) suggested that I should invite Maurice and Marie-Madeleine Duruflé to give the opening recital. Their playing was magnificent, but the care they took over preparation was a lesson in itself. They spent nearly twelve hours preparing and rehearsing registrations, and Madame spent 9 hours at the console, practising without the sound so that she could feel totally at home and ease at the keys. Monsieur spent numerous hours at a table reading over scores that he already knew well "revisé" he said. The whole thing was a lesson in professional presentation and was as valuable to me as a course of lessons. Maurice Duruflé's Méditation only came to light relatively recently and has been published by ÉDITIONS DURAND. My house organ can reproduce most, but not quite all of the registrations suggested by Duruflé and I'm grateful to Frédéric Blanc, pupil of Madame Duruflé and now curator of the Duruflé apartment in Paris for additional comments on registration and interpretation.
Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) is one whose fortunes waned rather badly in the second half of the 20th century. To a modernist generation his wholesome music sounded too cosy for those whose ideal was the more neurotic output of Mahler, Strauss, or even Schoenberg. Rheinberger's output was immense and included Masses, Cantatas, a Piano Concerto and much Chamber Music. His twenty Organ Sonatas (each in a different key) demonstrate an ambition to emulate J.S. Bach's Das Wohltemperierte Clavier, a project which was never completed. My EMI recording of Sonatas 7 & 8 happened spontaneously, as there was session time left over after recording Reubke's Sonata on the 94th Psalm and Mendelssohn's Sonata no 4 in B flat. In the end, I understand that it became the first recording of complete Rheinberger Sonatas ever made! German players have told me that British influence has drawn them to appreciate the value of Rheinberger's music, but I remember also being asked to give a Rheinberger recital in Switzerland (Basel) in 1982. German players are now leading exponents of this music and several complete recordings of Rheinberger's sonatas have appeared in recent years. Amongst numerous short pieces, this Monologue in C has melodic appeal and engaging rhythmic flow, showing some of this composer's capacity for fluent part writing.
Harry Stubbs was my piano professor at the Royal College a very sound musician with a dry sense of humour. When he died, he left me all his organ music. Among the piano pieces which he suggested I should learn was a set of studies by York Bowen (1884-1961). Those who might expect the Study in F (opus 46 no 6) to be an academic piece will be amazed, as this short movement, headed For Pianissimo Legato ("Passing on" touch and Melody) is a delightfully evocative poem which forms a gentle and fitting epilogue to a varied programme.
© Roger Fisher 2005