The trudging, staccato tenor line at the opening of Davies’s organ piece Veni Creator Spiritus
launches out over an even slower-moving bass pedal, until a striking counterpoint enters, almost insistently legato, in the upper (in fact alto) register. This slowly unfolding pattern stands in direct descent, not just from the Chorale Preludes of Sweelinck, via J S Bach and J G Walther, through to Flor Peeters, but conceivably (given the independence of the voices) the Bach Trio Sonata too. Stage by stage, in all three parts, elements of the Veni Creator
tune are sifted; a decorated passage in 3/4 time emerges; and partway through the ensuing quaver section there are faint echoes of the dotted Scotch ‘snap’ rhythm which plays a major role in many of Davies’s secular works.
But most remarkable of all is a strikingly assertive statement of the adapted plainsong, presented as a wonderfully intense, galvanizing chordal or chorale sequence, registered on what can only be described as a thrilling Pleines Orgues; late in the piece, fading memories and fragments of the plainsong slowly evaporate in the upper register. The mood throughout is unostentatious and devotional.
Veni Creator Spiritus was written for Jo Savory in memory of Max’s cousin, Roger Walden, and was first performed by James Eaton at the organ of Rochester Cathedral on 15 February 2002.
from notes by Roderic Dunnett © 2004