Composers: John McCabe
Compositions: Organ works
Performers: Tom Winpenny org
Catalogue Number: Resonus RES10144

John McCabe’s often spiky modernist music has never been as popular amongst organists as that of his contemporaries, Kenneth Leighton and William Mathias. Yet, as an accomplished pianist and professional composer with many organist friends, he made a significant contribution to the organ repertoire. Although this recording appeared as a download in 2015, the last year of McCabe’s life, it is only now in his 80th anniversary year that it is available in disc format. Tom Winpenny plays these well-crafted works with solid technique and artistic flair on the Harrison and Harrison organ of St Albans Cathedral. Most of the pieces receive their first recording here.

McCabe’s inspiration came from many sources. The title track was inspired by a painting of the same name by Paul Klee, reproduced on the booklet cover. Bookending the program are two works that travel from darkness to light. Dies Resurrectionis (1963) revolves around French-style toccata figuration, while Esperanza (2010) charts the amazing rescue of 33 miners from a Chilean mine after 70 days underground. Other pieces include a set of seven clever Carol-Preludes (2008) that display something of McCabe’s sense of whimsy. (After all, he did compose a Miniconcerto for Organ, Percussion and 485 Pennywhistles!)

Here is a timely invitation for organists to revisit McCabe’s music, with its breadth of expression and range of technical demands from easy to difficult.