Nathan Williamson’s recording of Christopher Brown’s ‘24 Preludes & Fugues’

‘24 Preludes & Fugues’ by Lennox Berkeley’s pupil Christopher Brown.

Composer Christopher Brown
Composer Christopher Brown

Christopher Brown set himself the challenge of writing the set in all the major and minor keys, and to acknowledge the precedents of Bach and Shostakovich he included their musical cyphers, BACH and DSCH. Furthermore he also also included the cyphers, or at least quotations from the favourite works, of all the individuals and institutions involved in the original commission.

Reviewing the new release for the British Music Society, Paul R.W. Jackson observed that Christopher Brown was ‘eminently qualified to write preludes and the arcane form of the fugue as he was a pupil of Lennox Berkeley, himself a pupil of Nadia Boulanger, who insisted all her students had a firm knowledge of Baroque forms’.

Paul Jackson said the set covers a wide range of expressive moods, and he quoted, by way of exemple, number five in F major (commissioned by the recorder player John Turner): ‘The prelude is fun and skittish, while the 4-voice fugue is sombre and elaborate’. He considered that ‘The whole set is a tour de force, both technically and musically’, the preludes providing a ‘brilliant’ contrast, and complement, to the ‘fresh and interesting’ fugues. Nathan Williamson plays ‘superbly’, drawing the preludes ‘beautifully’, and clearly bringing out the contrapuntal lines of the fugues.