These are all arrangements of sixteenth-century Scottish church music, beginning with Psalm 124 by David Peebles, which gains an athletic counterpoint of Davies's own. Then comes John Fethy's O God Abufe played straight, and finally an anonymous motet, All Sons of Adam, again infiltrated by a modern voice.
1. Psalm 124 (after David Peebles)
2. O God Abufe (after John Fethy)
3. All Sons of Adam (after an anon 16th century motet)
Unlike Maxwell Davie’s other works for solo organ (the Fantasia from O Magnum Mysterium of 1960 and the Sonata of 1982), which are substantial, virtuoso concert works, the Three Organ Voluntaries are short and fairly simple and were composed to be played in the Kirk in Stromness. Early music has formed the basis of a significant part of Maxwell Davies’ output, the originals serving as the departure point for new interpretations, and such works may be grouped into three distinct categories; straightforward, re-scorings, subtle transformation (where the original is still clearly recognisable), and re-compositions (where the original has been wholly assimilated); The first two Voluntaries fall into the second category, the last into the third.
Psalm 124 takes a motet on the famous Old 124th and overlays a wide-ranging obbligato marked “high fluted, clear and bell-like”. O God Abufe states the hymn tune over ostinato figures for the left hand and pedals. In All Sons of Adam the texture and basic structure of the original are retained, but the rest is pure Maxwell Davies: he revels in the sound of the Devil – that “forbidden” interval, the augmented fourth.
Three Organ Voluntaries was first performed on 31 July, 1979, at Vestervig Kirke, Denmark, by Jesper Jørgen Jensen.
© Graham Mackie 1984.