Organ Symphony No. 1

Kevin Bowyer (organ)

Continuum: CCD1001/2 (2CDs) (November 1988)

Cd cover image Organ Symphony No. 1

Duration: 117:52

Track listing

  • Track 1-3: Organ Symphony No. 1 (117:52)
  • Track 1: I Prelude; Passacaglia; Postlude (34:35)
  • Track 2: II Introduction; Fugue; Coda (36:24)
  • Track 3: III (46:53)


  • “Bravo to organist Kevin Bowyer for his performance of an extremely difficult score!” (American Record Guide)
  • “… exhilarating … expansive … tremendous contrapuntal intricacies … dark, but floating harmonies of great beauty … difficult, but ultimately satisfying, even devastating music … a treasure-trove” (Audion)
  • “… this work … was indisputably years ahead of its time … there is no doubt that the music is magnificent … helpful notes … Kevin Bowyer … brings enormous technical skill … he plays this desperately difficult music with audible conviction. Even to play through the work requires Olympian strength; to make this much of it is a heroic achievement … an act of considerable artistic courage … the recording … is excellent” (CD Review)
  • “… technical ability … Bowyer is a fine organist … very useful album notes … I look forward to … Bowyer’s further explorations of this repertory” (Fanfare)
  • “Kevin Bowyer tut sein Bestes, aus diesem Urwald Gestalthaftes herauszupräparieren und abwechslungsreich zu charakterisieren. Er stellt sich extremsten spieltechnischen Herausforderungen – ein Reinhold Messner des Orgelspiels …” (Fono Forum)
  • “Kevin Bowyer’s performance of this vast work is beyond praise … The opening Passacaglia reveals far greater variety of manner than appears from the printed score; the form is admirable for providing a tether to Sorabji’s fantasizing imagination … (the last movement’s) superbly impressive moments … the climax is tremendous, with the B-A-C-H theme thundered out in chromatic, unrelated chords over pedal sextuplets that really need not an organist but a tap-dancer … textural problems … have been remarkably well solved by the (recording) engineers … a rich stock of delights and fascinations … Revelatory … I for one am happy to relish the exploration of the work of a man whose fascinating and generous character is manifest in his music” (Gramophone)
  • “… Bowyer gives a masterly account of the score … quite gripping” (Hi-Fi News)
  • “… like no work previously composed for the instrument …” (Jersey Evening Post)
  • “… an explosive force, elaboration and sustained power … inexhaustible invention of decorative figuration … Bowyer’s performance may be soberly described as fantastic. There are many passages where I would have thought the pedal part alone would demand all of the player’s attention, yet the hands are simultaneously having to resolve all manner of complexities on the manuals. Bowyer brings off a marathon of musical understanding and virtuosity that could scarcely be overpraised. This work makes the fullest use of a large organ’s resources … a landmark in our … advance into Sorabji’s world” (Musical Opinion)
  • “Kevin Bowyer is magnificent … a stunning example … the Organ Symphony is truly astonishing … one can only applaud Bowyer for championing this incredibly difficult work. It is a supreme challenge to the intellect and technical ability of any performer who dares to tackle it, and the listener who decides to invest in a score as well as the recording can be assured of a fascinating experience … this is a performance and a work which can inspire admiration to the point of incredulity” (Organists’ Review)
  • “(its) 128[sic] minutes … seem to be over in about 40 … an astonishing achievement by the young Kevin Bowyer, capture an immense range of sound, including some of the most shattering climaxes ever demanded of an organ … Sorabji’s anticipations of Messiaen” (Tempo)
  • “… :amazement at Kevin Bowyer’s feat in playing it …” (The Independent)
  • “… a superb example of twentieth-century writing for the instrument … the work(’s) immense significance … the recording itself is masterly and the whole performance stunning … the work is unique, highly original and aurally demanding on player and listener alike and it makes full use of the tone colours available on a large organ … (Bowyer’s) grasp of the idiom, the spirit and genius of the composer is incomparable, his performance … electrifying where needed but it is in the slow movement that I most appreciate his insight into the composer’s mind … small wonder that this movement was chosen as Sorabji’s Requiem at his memorial service” (The Organ)
  • “… monumental … Kevin Bowyer, an executant hardly less amazing than Ogdon … we must hope the discovery … will continue apace” (The Wire)