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Rhapsody on an Old English Tune - Rootham


David Drinkell
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Delving into the archives on IMSLP sometimes brings rewards, although there is a huge amount of not-so-interesting stuff.  I recently turned up "Rhapsody on an Old English Tune" by Cyril Rootham (1875-1938), who was Organist of St. John's College, Cambridge. The tune concerned is "Dives and Lazarus", which Vaughan Williams arranged for various ensembles, including the well-known "Five Variants" for harp and string orchestra.  Rootham's piece has, I think, a certain amount of influence from RVW harmonically.  I thought it was a fine piece of music, not so very difficult and extremely effective.  I had never encountered it before and I recommend it as being worth a look.  Has anyone on this forum played it?

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I recall Robert Gower's memorable recording of this piece, from Lincoln Cathedral, as part of the regular (as it was in those days) Music for Organ series (on early Monday evenings) in 1987. I was very taken with the piece, performed so seamlessly on the organ (no general pistons at that time) alongside Philip Marshall's Three Pieces and Sidney Campbell's Pageantry as an opener. 

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Epinikion was hitherto the only organ piece I knew of by Rootham.  I heard it played a few times a long time ago, but it didn't leave a lasting impression. This Rhapsody strikes me as a pleasant piece of work that would go down well with the punters.  Touches of Whitlock, perhaps, in a Vaughan Williamsy sort of mood.

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