Rhapsody for Organ Op. 25

Composed: 1996
Duration: 9 minutes
First performance: August 1996 given by John Wilderspin during the Three Choirs Festival, Worcester
Second performance: September 1997 at King’s College, Cambridge, performed by James Vivian
Available: From Novello and Co Ltd.
Recorded by: Adrian Lucas for The English Cathedral Series

Ian Venables’ Rhapsody for Organ Op.25 ‘In Memoriam Herbert Howells’ was written as a direct response to the composer’s love of the music of Herbert Howells, and is dedicated to his memory.

It is a wonderfully diverse work, alternating brooding, quasi motivic figures with a true rhapsodic melody. Whereas the melodic writing is at times pastoral in mood, it is underpinned by a harmonic language which is both intense and often tortured.While seeming to be one long continuous melody, it reaches three important climax points. The first and third climaxes are powerful but affirmative in mood, while the second sustains a more intense sound world, where sinuous melodic figures build up to a passage of extreme chromaticism. The ‘affirmative’ theme returns, this time heralding a pedal statement of the works main melodic idea.The piece end with a recapitulation of the works opening idea, but this time with subtle changes of harmony and a sustained pedal C natural, forcing the work to end (in spite of its final major tonality) in a reflective and resigned mood.

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