Classical Music

By John Bladen and others

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Introduction
Organ solo
Piano solo
Flute solo
Miscellaneous
Notes on using this page
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Hymns and choruses

Introduction

Three things inspired me to learn the organ.

The first was hearing the outstanding organist Roger Carter play the organ for our annual school carol services at St John's Church, Harpenden. I was immediately struck by the beautiful tone, the beautiful music, and the beautiful playing. We were truly lucky to have a musician of such calibre, capability and sincerity at our school, the likes of which I have not encountered since.

The second was hearing the organ of St Albans Cathedral played twice a week for our school services. When I heard the instrument play, soon after starting at the school, I decided immediately that I wanted to play it regularly before leaving the school. I decided this even though I was in no position to learn it, given that my family could afford neither a piano nor music lessons. Yet, by turn of events, it was something that I managed to achieve.

The third was hearing, at around the age of 12, the canonic variations on Vom Himmel Hoch by J S Bach performed on the radio by Peter Hurford. This highly musical piece, written toward the end of Bach's life, is deceptively difficult to play and rarely played well. Yet Peter Hurford, who for me stands out as the one organist of all time who truly mastered the art of performing contrapuntal music, played it to absolute perfection. Over thirty years later, I can still recall the experience.

Another significant influence was the notoriously accurate and throughly musical Thomas Trotter.

At the age of fourteen and a half, thanks to my father deciding on his way home from being made redundant to spend his entire redundancy money of £600 on a second hand electronic church organ, I started learning the organ. I learned it with such eagerness and speed that after just two years I began playing in cathedral style church services between once and four times a week (with both single and double choirs), accompanying choral and other concerts, and giving solo and dual/duet recitals.

At the age of 18, I was offered an organ scholarship at Cambridge. However, reluctantly, I did not take up this offer. This was due to (a) pressure from my career advisor who advised me in the interests of supporting a family to pursue engineering rather than music, and (b) pressure from a company that wanted to sponsor me to go to university to study engineering.

Much later, at the age of around 30 or so, I decided to learn the flute. I love the flute and worked hard at it, but sadly my lips are not well suited to it. However, what I learned from learning the flute has been invaluable for improving how I play other instruments, including the piano and organ.

On this webpage, the organ recordings marked 'JB' were played by myself. Unless marked otherwise, they were played on the organ of Christchurch Fulwood in Sheffield, UK - a fairly typical English 3 manual organ of disappointing sound quality, but generally good reliability. The flute recordings marked 'JB' were played by myself on a Miyazawa 201 flute. The recordings marked 'synthesizer' were made using the Yamaha DS-XG synthesizer in a Toshiba laptop.

Feedback to feedback2jsb@gmail.com.

Organ solo

Please also see Free organ music and Organ repertoire.

Organ recital, St John's Church, Ranmoor, Sheffield, May 2012
These are live recordings from a recital of popular music that I was asked to give in May 2012 at St John's Church, Ranmoor, Sheffield as the opening recital of their series of PROM concerts:

  1. Toccata and fugue in D minor (BWV 565) by J S Bach (from memory) mp3 (JB)
  2. O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß (BWV 622) by J S Bach mp3 (JB)
  3. Sortie in Bb by Lefebure-Wely (from memory) mp3 (JB)
  4. March on a theme of Handel by Guilmant mp3 (JB)
  5. Pavane by Ravel mp3 (JB)
  6. Finlandia by Sibelius mp3 (JB)
  7. Rhosymedre by Vaughan-Williams mp3 (JB)
  8. Toccata from Symphony V by Widor (from memory) mp3 (JB)
Please note: On the day, the organ unfortunately had a major air leak that caused a loss of pressure which in turn caused seven notes on the Great manual to sound only intermittently. Most noticeable are probably E and Bb above middle C. This was a particular problem to me because, for the first time ever for me at a recital, I was playing a number of pieces entirely from memory, and most of the pieces mostly from memory, and I had to fill in the missing notes in my head to avoid being put off! However, please do not let this put you off because, thanks to a careful choice of registration e.g. the fanfare trumpet at the opening of the Toccata and Fugure, the problem is barely noticable in the recordings. Most affected are the first and third pieces.

Fantasia in G minor (BWV 542i) by J S Bach (Draft) mp3 (JB) (26th July 2011)
Recorded at St John's Church, Ranmoor, Sheffield. Recorded whilst trying out the organ.

Prelude in E minor (BWV 548i) by J S Bach (Draft) mp3 (JB) (26th July 2011)
Recorded at St John's Church, Ranmoor, Sheffield. Recorded whilst trying out the organ.

Toccata from Symphony V by Widor (Draft) mp3 (JB) (18th June 2009)
Recorded during a wedding rehearsal. From memory.

In dir ist Freude by J S Bach (BWV 615) (Adapted for wedding entrance music) (Draft) mp3 (JB) (18th June 2009)
Recorded during a wedding rehearsal.

Final from Symphony No 1 by Louis Vierne (From Easter service) mp3 (JB) (12th April 2009)
Recorded at the end of the Easter service - hence the background noise! From memory.

Hornpipe by Noel Rawsthorne mp3 (JB) (4th September 2007) mp3 (ring tone version) (JB) (4th September 2007)
Fantastically fun piece! The ringtone version makes a good ringtone for mobile phones.

Fugue in G minor by J S Bach (BWV 542ii) mp3 (JB) (Major ending) (8th January 2007) mp3 (JB) (Minor ending) (8th January 2007)
There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether there should be a major or minor ending so I have included both versions. The switch occurs at the final pedal entry.

Fugue in C major (from Toccata, Adagio and Fugue) by J S Bach (BWV 564) mp3 (JB) (5th February 2005)
A lightweight, cheerful and very pleasant fugue.

Fugue a la gigue by J S Bach (BWV 577) mp3 (JB) (28th July 2004)
A delightfully simple but nevertheless tricky fugue that was always my Dad's favourite.

Final from Symphony No 1 by Louis Vierne mp3 (JB) (15th March 2002)
Even though I must have played it a dozen times or more, I still love playing this piece! One of Vierne's earlier works, this piece really shows off the energy of the organ. Best heard live - and on a better instrument!

Sortie in Eb by Lefebure-Wely (1817-1870) mp3 (JB) (31st March 2002)
This can best be described as liturgical fairground music. Enjoy it!

Chorale No 3 in A minor by Cesar Franck (Draft) mp3 (JB) (26th Dec 2001)
This is the last composition by Cesar Franck, and is one of my favourite pieces. I recorded it to try out my newly acquired Sony ECM-MS907 microphone. (Not rehearsed).

Baroque Toccata mp3 (synthesizer) score
This was one of my first ever compositions (Sept 2001),which I wrote when trying out various scoring programs. I guess it is part German and part French in style, and though a relatively simple piece has proved to be quite popular, even with people who aren't normally organ music enthusiasts. The middle section was intended to be a fugue, but degenerated into a simple imitation when I found that fugues were actually quite complicated things to write!

Piano solo

Please also see Free piano music.

Intermezzo Op 117 No 2 in Bb minor by Brahms mp3 (Yamaha CLP 280 Digital) (First version) mp3 (Yamaha CLP 280 Digital) (Second version)
Beautiful and emotional music. Two different interpretations.

Nocturne Op 9 No 1 in Bb minor by Chopin mp3 (Yamaha CLP 280 Digital)

Nocturne Op 9 No 2 in Eb by Chopin mp3 (Yamaha CLP 280 Digital)

The Cook Waltz by Adrian Cook (1986)(for 4 hands) (transcribed by John Bladen) mp3 (synthesizer) score
One school afternoon during our A levels this piece was born. And if I remember correctly, a small but nevertheless significant amount of alcohol was involved. The piece was created by Adrian Cook almost in entirety. However, I contributed the ghastly D major section in the middle in an attempt to return to a world I recognized - and promptly had my hands pushed clear of the piano! The piece is said to be an acquired taste - one that clearly hadn't been acquired by Mr Andrew Parnell (organist at St Alban's cathedral at the time) when he informed us that the music department was for music - so just what did we think we were doing? He also showed distaste for the impact this piece had on the new school piano. Nevertheless he tolerated the piece, and in the course of a year it matured and became a regular feature of the music department at St Alban's School. In order to make the score readable, many (in fact most) of the notes present in the original have been omitted.

Flute solo

Minuet from Flute Sonata No 4 in C major by J S Bach mp3 (JB) (snippet) (~2002?)
OK - I'm still very much a beginner so I'm a bit embarrassed about my flute playing - but there it is!

Fugue in D Minor by J S Bach (BWV 565ii) arranged for solo flute by John Bladen mp3 (synthesizer) score midi
This was an attempt to arrange the fugue from the famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Bach for solo flute. I've heard that it has been arranged for solo violin, though I've not heard it or seen the score, and the violin has the advantage of being able to play more than one note at a time! Though tricky to play in places, this version works quite well except for the last couple of bars of thick organ chords, when the flute is unable to do anything to rival the intended power of these chords. I suspect that the only option is to completely change the ending.

Variation on Twinkle twinkle little star by John Bladen mp3 (synthesizer) score
This is an improvised descant that I play when my young kids sing this song - which is most of the time. Everyone seems to love this piece!

Miscellaneous

Conversation No 1 for Flute and Brick Cart by John Bladen mp3 (synthesizer) score
When attempting a flute recording to send to a friend, my 18 month old son insisted on banging his brick cart, full of bricks, against the radiator downstairs. When I sent the recording I apologised for the banging in the background. My friend suggested that I composed a piece called 'Conversation No 1 for Flute and Brick Cart' and so before breakfast that day, that is what I did. At the start the brick cart bangs a crazy rhythm. Then the flute plays a flowing melody. The brick cart comes back in and interrupts the flute, knocking out notes as it goes. Gradually the flute and brick cart adapt their parts until they manage to play along together. They perform a dialogue, then a duet, before coming to a gentle conclusion - or what would be a conclusion if it weren't for the resumed impatience of the brick cart - now rattling it's bricks in fury. The flute scolds the brick cart from on high - as a bird scolds a cat. The original brick cart rhythm returns, now with cymbals mimicking the bricks sliding in the cart. The flute dashes for the finishing line and finishes with a triumphant arpeggio. But the brick cart is there - waiting to have the last say! For those of you that don't know - that is precisely what it is like having young children around the house!

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Notes

Updates: If you wish to be advised of updates, please send an email to feedback2jsb@gmail.com with the subject 'Music Update Request'.

Copyright information: Please note that these recordings and scores remain my own personal property and are licensed for use by individuals only. They may not be redistributed. Hypertext links may be created to the recordings and scores, but please contact me first. No composer, author, performer or copyright information may be edited or removed.

Performance: If performing from any of the scores, please send an email to feedback2jsb@gmail.com with the subject 'Score Performance' describing the event (e.g. recital / church service etc).