Listening to Britten – Village Organist’s Piece

Organ, Wimborne Minster (c) Ben Hogwood

Village Organist’s Piece (unfinished) for organ (ca1941, Britten aged 27)

Dedication not known
Duration 3′

Background and Critical Reception

Completed by Colin Matthews, the Village Organist’s Piece is an almost complete mystery – and survives in just the one recording, made by Timothy Bond and included on Decca’s box set of the complete works.

So rare is the piece that I could find no mention of it anywhere, with the barest of entries in the Britten Thematic Catalogue. Its authenticity, however, is not in doubt – and it is valuable as it broadens Britten’s organ works on record to a rather measly four.


Britten organ pieces are collector’s items, his entire output reduced to a Prelude and Fugue, another Prelude, a Voluntary and this little piece. If only he had known an organist that he specifically wanted to write for! One wonders what a Suite for Organ might have sounded like.

Back in the real world, the Village Organist’s Piece, rather like the Prelude on They Walk Alone, is elusive and just a little bit disquieting. Like that piece it heads for C major, and is initially sonorous, but there are added notes that jar with the relative safety, and the harmonic movements start to take on a mind of their own.

Recordings used

Timothy Bond (organ) (Regent Records)

The only recording available is available as part of a disc of Twentieth Century Organ Music by Timothy Bond on Regent Records It is also buried in the heart of Decca’s Britten – The Complete Works. Bond’s registration choices lead to a warm sound, but the piercing melody voice invokes a shiver.

No links available

Also written in 1941: Milhaud – Piano Concerto No.2, Op.225

Next up: The ash grove

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