There are many works from the twentieth-century which, perhaps, should not have seen the light of day; perhaps they should have been resigned to the composer’s bottom drawer, substandard and reserved for the executer to decide their fate when future royalties were more important than posthumous reputation. A list of these works would be substantial and exhaustive, a hundred and one pieces sullying the names of many good composers. Some composers would, in fact, have very little to show for a life’s work if they were more discerning with their bottom drawer. However there are a few pieces for which the opposite is definitely true, when a work is far too good to be consigned to a drawer for any length of time, whatever the aesthetic judgement of the composer – Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir is undoubtedly one of those.
It is hard to believe that this work, written in the 1920s, would sit in Martin’s drawer for nearly forty years until after heavy persuasion he released it for publication and performance in 1963. A work of such searing beauty and luminescence should surely have not sat in a drawer gathering dust along with faded sketches for tuba concerti and comic operas (or whatever else composers keep in the bottom drawer) whilst the world was crying out for more sacred masterpieces to rival Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater. Why did he choose to exile his only unaccompanied choral work for so long?
This Sunday (31/08/2014) will see another performance of my Morning Service (Te Deum and Jubilate, 2010-11) given by the St Paul’s Cathedral based female choir Aurora Nova. The performance will take place at the Matins service at 10.15 and will be conducted by Patrick Craig.
Another good review of Phillip Cooke, Choral Music, this time in the current issue of The Gramophone: ‘Cooke is able to compose distinctive settings of familiar liturgical texts’ and ‘excellent performances with some beautifully sustained pianissimos‘. Splendid! PAC
I’ve finally got round to putting up some recently composed pieces. They are as follows: Epitaph – an organ work for Roger Williams that will be performed in November, Exsultet – another organ work premiered at the LFCCM in May this year, Praeludium – for organ pedals, premiered by Ed Jones at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen in July, Third Service [Ely Cathedral] – a setting of the evening canticles which will be premiered by Ely Cathedral Girl’s Choir early next year and Threnos – a work for choir and cello which will be premiered by the Aberdeen University Chamber Choir in November. There are various recordings and YouTube videos that I’ve put up, though many of these have been superseded by the CD release. More to follow soon. PAC
The good reviews of the CD, Phillip Cooke, Choral Music, continue in the current issue of Organists’ Review. The best bits are ‘this is an impressive collection of choral pieces’ and (my favourite) ‘a fine disc of music by a significant new vocice’. Very kind. PAC
There was another good review of Phillip Cooke, Choral Music in the current edition of International Record Review. The wide ranging review refers to an ‘excellent disc’, the Jubilate being ‘very succesful’ and The Hazel Wood being ‘expertly scored for organ and brass quintet’. My favourite line is ‘By now the picture is emerging of a composer who, perhaps deliberately avoids the excessive sweetness to be found in the works of many contemporary choral composers…’. I guess so! PAC
Organist Ed Jones will give the premiere of my piece for pedals only Praeludium (2013) at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen this Saturday (19 July) in a recital inlcuding works by Bach and Vivaldi. Ed will also give another performance of my early organ work Elegy (2003) at Ely Cathedral during evensong on Friday 08 August. PAC
There was a really nice review of Phillip Cooke, Choral Music recently in Choir & Organ magazine. In the review, by Philip Reed, it states: ‘his distinctive, very approachable voice has won many admirers'; [there are] ‘three fine motets (Verbum caro factum est of 2009 is especially effective) and finishes with ‘this generously filled disc is an excellent summary of his career to date’. Thanks. PAC
There was another good review of my recent CD Phillip Cooke, Choral Music, this time on the website Planet Hugill by the composer, singer and blogger Robert Hugill. His in-depth review states ‘Phillip Cooke has a personable and characterful music voice…and the final two [pieces] give hints at what he is capable of when writing in a more extended form’. He says lovely things about many of the pieces including: ‘wonderful evocation of certain type of rhapsodic English melancholy’ [Invocation] and ‘a highly effective piece, wonderfully well wrought’ [The Hazel Wood]. The full review can be read here.
On Wednesday (14/05) the year of organ music continues with the world premiere of my new work Exsultet commissioned by the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music and performed in this year’s festival by Leon Charles. The service is to be braodcast on BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong and features new works by Anthony Pitts, Roxanna Panufnik and Alexander Campkin. The service is broadcast at 15.30. Exsultet takes the opening words of the Easter Vigil as its inspiration, but more importantly it features a large quotation from a recent pop song – a free CD and a packet of biscuits if anyone recognises it!