SIX separate publications and two volumes of the organ works of
the Canadian composer Denis Bédard have been added to the RSCM
catalogue. This is music that aims not to tax the player too
assiduously, and certainly aspires to appeal to as wide a public
The paragraphs about Bédard in the publication make clear that
his is music is essentially tonal and melodic, and is characterised
by a concern for formal clarity and immediate communication. These
are honourable and honest aims, and Bédard certainly delivers.
The volumes include a wide variety of moods. In
Organ Works: Volume One (£25(CT Bookshop
£22.50); 978-0-95402-222-9; N0970), theLamento from his
three-movement Suite for Organ is suitably melancholic,
and the lively Toccata is replete with semiquavers. In the
Variations on "The Old Hundredth", the tune is put through
its paces over a nine-minute span, and the writing includes
dramatic chordal juxtapositions.
Some of the pieces are really quite simple, and no less
effective for that. The Triptyque has a neo-classical
Ouverture as an opening movement, followed by a rather
staid Invocation, and a Toccatina that is guaranteed to
sound very flashy and brilliant although the alternating chords in
the right and left hands will not in fact be that hard to bring
off. This is the sign of a composer who knows how to make a good
effect with the minimum of fuss.
Always there is the influence of previous composers; the general
harmonic language throughout his works perhaps suggests Duruflé,
but the Fantaisie (1994) looks back to Buxtehude, and the
Suite du premier ton harks back to the French Baroque.
Bédard has received many commissions, and Volume
Two (£25 (£22.50); 978-0075492-223-6; N0971)
includes a number of these, including a striking set of
Variations on "Sine Nomine" (the tune familiar to
the words "For all the saints"), a set of Varations on
"Christus Vincit", a Prélude et Toccata sur "Victimae
Paschali Laudes", and a major work (Pater Noster) of 26-minute
duration based on the plainsong melody of the Our Father, which
was commissioned on the retirement of the then Archbishop of
Vancouver in 2004.
This work falls into eight sections, and each is based on a
phrase of the plainsong tune.
It may be because I spent some time playing through the works in
these two volumes that, when I turned to the six separate items, I
felt as though I was seeing the same pieces over again; and some of
the titles are also similar.
The Fantasia for organ of 2012 (£4
(£3.60); 978-085402-229-8; N0974) starts with a four-square march,
and that is followed by two short sections in a slower tempo before
the finale in quick time. The Variations sur Ubi
caritas (£4(£3.60); 978-0-85402-228-1; N0973), based on
the plainsong melody associated with those words, starts
evocatively, but perhaps runs out of steam by the end of its
six-minute duration. The eighth of the Huit
Invocations (£8 (£7.20); 978-0-85402-231-1; N0975)
exploits the same device of alternating chords in the right and
left hand as in the Old Hundredth variations mentioned
The other three separate publications are Pièces
Galantes (£5.50(£4.95); 978-0-85402-233-5; N0978);
Variations sur Madrid (£4(£3.60);
978-0-85402-232-8; N0977); and In Memoriam
(£1.75(£1.57); 978-085402-232-8; N0076).
There are more than 60 works for organ listed by Bédard in the
back of these copies. There will be something useful in these
present volumes and separate items for everyone, I think.