I received my copy of the new Stanford Organ Album a couple of weeks ago. Considering myself quite a fan of Stanford’s (organ) music, I was very much looking forward to it being published and was somewhat surprised as to how many times its release has been postponed by the OUP (apparently all the scholarly research and the making of the arrangements must have taken somewhat longer than anticipated).
In the past I already downloaded Stanford’s organ music from IMSLP and bought copies of his most interesting works, however, there were still some blanks to be filled. I wasn’t sure what the selection of music for the OUP album was going to be, so I was really happy to find some of my favourite little gems in here, plus the Te Deum-Fantasia, Op. 116/1, which I hadn’t been able to get a hold of before.
For my part, I have known and played – apart from the Fantasia, of course – all of the included original organ compositions, but I must admit I don’t see myself playing many of the arrangements. I took the time to look up most of the originals (sheet music and recordings), and the arrangements, as well made as they might be, really don’t appeal to me very much. I find individual pieces either much more convincing in their original form as piano or vocal music, or simply just not interesting enough to begin with.
I was very glad to find critical notes with a list of questionable spots, misprints or other things that had been corrected according to the autograph. There is, however, one place that remains somewhat unclear: in the Prelude on Tallis’s Canon (Op. 88 No. 6), bar 43, beat 1, there is a printed natural sign in front of the g in the RH, with g flat in the preceding bar as well as on beat 3 in the LH of the same bar. The Breitkopf & Härtel edition, available on IMSLP, has nothing in this place, but Daniel Cook (Vol. 1 of The Complete Organ Works, Priory) quite clearly plays a g flat which, at least to my ears, does make more sense.
One other thing that bothers me with this new album, but also with some of the older editions of Stanford’s organ music, is to have inconsistent manual markings in the individual pieces. We find the usual Gt./Ch./Sw. in the original works, but I, II and III in the arrangements. I’ve also observed the same thing in the Stainer & Bell edition of the Opera 101 & 105. Which divisions do those Roman numbers actually indicate? Don’t most British three-manual organs have Choir as I, Great as II and Swell as III? Yet it seems that in the aforementioned cases “I” actually indicates Great (?). And what are II and III then? Could someone shed some light on this, please?
Although this new OUP album turned out to be, at least for me, only partially new and useful, I very much recommend it to anyone.