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Solemn Prelude (Five Improvisations, No. 1)

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Uploaded by: Agnus_Dei (05/30/14)
Composer: Rowley, Alec
Sample Producer: Lavender Audio
Sample Set: Hereford Cathedral Willis Organ
Software: Hauptwerk IV
Genre: Modern
Alec Rowley (1892-1958) was a pupil of Frederick Corder at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He was a composer, organist and pianist, who taught composition at Trinity College in London. He broadcast frequently in piano duet repertoire with Edgar Moy, and his name was known to many through his writing and through the many educational pieces that he wrote, staple fare for many a beginner or amateur player. His more demanding work as a composer has been unfairly neglected. Rowleys Piano Concerto No.1, scored for piano, strings, and percussion, was first performed in 1938.

He was for many years the organist of St Alban's Church, Teddington and was a contributor to 'The Rotunda', the house magazine of Henry Willis & Sons Ltd.

He wrote many fine works for solo organ, and a large number are available for free download here:,_Alec

"Five Improvisations" were published by Novello in 1948. Each of the works deals with a particular "mood", which is inspired the verse of a specific psalm, cited at the beginning of the piece. While I was playing these works, I could not help but feel shades of Percy Whitlock's "psalm pieces", although the harmonic language is definitely that of Rowley. His use of "regular" harmonies in distincive ways is noteworthy. For instance, in the "Solemn Prelude," he shifts between the tonalities of F Minor & A Minor with great effect. There is also the blending of modal harmonies with highly chromatic ones.

The first of the "Five Improvisations" is "Solemn Prelude," a work dedicated to American organist and teacher, Miriam Duncan, a pupil of Leo Sowerby. Massive sonorites move effortlessy between keys, and the dynamics vary greatly throughout this fine work, which feels "very cathedral-like" in style.

The psalm verse quoted in this work is: "O magnify the Lord our God, and fall down before his foot-stool, for he is holy." (Psalm 99, verse 5)
Performance: Live
Recorded in: Stereo
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