Robin Milford (1903-1959)
The Organ Works

Seven Seasonal Sketches, Op. 110, 1956-57
Two Autumn Meditations, Op. 85, 1947
Chorale Prelude on ‘St Columba’, Op. 14, post – 1928
Chorale Prelude on ‘Rockingham’, Op. 115, 1959
Two Sea-Preludes, Op.7, 1927
Three Christmas Pieces, Op.19b, pre – 1930
A Christmas Tune, Op.75, 1945
Six Easter Meditations, 1943-46
Imogen Morgan (organ)
rec. 2022, St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh
Priory PRCD1246 [78]

I have enjoyed playing the music of Robin Milford ever since I chanced upon some of his organ music in a second-hand bookshop over 40 years ago. A highly regarded figure in the middle years of the 20th century, his music is less well known than that of his friend and contemporary, Gerald Finzi. No less a person than Vaughan Williams said of him, ‘If I wanted to show the intelligent foreigner something worth doing which could only possibly come out of England, I think I would show him something of the work of Milford…’. A village organist himself, Milford wrote for the instrument throughout his life and it is pleasing to have the bulk of his music for it gathered together on one disc.

Two of the sets of pieces are based on Christmas themes. Milford’s treatment of the material is often unusual, characterful, but restrained. This does not prepare one for the drama encountered in the pieces to which he gave the title, Easter Meditations. There are six, all headed by a quotation from scripture. The contrast between these and the other groups of pieces on the disc is very satisfying and gives some indication of his range as composer, one who also wrote much choral music, chamber music, a symphony, and a concerto for violin as well as some very fine songs. The sheer quantity of his output before his premature death at 56 is also remarkable. The latest opus number included here is 115.

Imogen Morgan’s performance of this music is everything one could hope for; there is plenty of colour and, in music which is often deliberately descriptive, she has the ability to evoke the right mood for each piece, not always easy to do where they are often short, such as those based on carols. The cathedral organ sounds splendid after the ministrations of Harrison & Harrison in 2020 and the sound has been captured well by the Priory recording engineers. This is altogether a very fine disc which fills a significant space in our understanding and appreciation of 20th century English music.

Martyn Strachan

This review was first published in the magazine of the Edinburgh Society of Organists and is republished with permission.

Previous review: Nick Barnard (December 2022)

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