Healey Willan: Organ Works

Healey Willan: Organ Works

by Patrick Wedd


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Healey Willan: Organ Works

Once respected as a composer of operas, symphonies, chamber music, and works in other secular genres, Healey Willan is mostly known today for his liturgical music, of which his organ works are among the most frequently performed. This 2005 Naxos release presents some of Willan's key pieces, not least of which are the expansive "Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue" (1916); its much delayed "sequel," the "Passacaglia and Fugue No. 2 in E minor" (1959); the reverent "Five Preludes on Plainchant Melodies" (1950); and numerous other short pieces for church use, played intelligently and respectfully by organist Patrick Wedd. Emulating the fugal techniques of Bach and the symphonic fantasies of Franck, Willan produced rather conservative music, and his solid but staid works proved best suited to their intended "high church" use; there is, consequently, a lack of innovation in his music, even of the mildest kind. While such post-Romantic fare has been in vogue for several decades, especially among Catholic and Anglican organists, it is perhaps an acquired taste for listeners outside that company, and especially so for those who prefer the more adventurous organ works of Messiaen and his contemporaries. Willan is well served by Wedd, who plays these works with understatement and taste, allowing them to be grand without seeming grandiose, and keeping the Casavant organ's rich registration within appropriate limits. This respectful album is recommended for organists and church musicians who are already familiar with Willan's oeuvre, but others looking for vivid organ music will find this CD somber and at times tedious.

Product Details

Release Date: 12/13/2005
Label: Naxos
UPC: 0747313237524
catalogNumber: 8557375


  1. Prelude and Fugue in C minor, for organ
  2. Chorale Prelude on a Melody by Orlando Gibbons, for organ
  3. Introduction, passacaglia and fugue, for organ
  4. A Fugal Trilogy, for organ: Aria
  5. Preludes (5) on Plainchant Melodies, for organ
  6. Passacaglia and Fugue No. 2 in E minor, for organ
  7. Prelude on "Aberystwyth", for organ
  8. Epilogue, for organ

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