Maxwell Davies (who once kept a superb modern portative organ in his sparsely furnished music room in Dorset) had already composed Three Organ Voluntaries
– each based on a traditional sixteenth-century Scottish hymn chant, and two of them quite elaborately decorated in Davies’s own medieval-informed manner and idiom – by 1976, two decades before he returned to the instrument to write Reliqui domum meum
. This moving short organ piece was composed in memory of his good friend and close colleague, the organist Richard Hughes, a stalwart of the Orkney music scene, who died in 1996, just a few days after the poet George Mackay Brown. (Max, a valuer of close friendship, thus lost two of his closest collaborators in quick succession.) During that twenty year interval, he also composed his Organ Sonata, based on a Maundy Thursday plainsong fragment from the Lamentations of Jeremiah
, of which Hughes was the dedicatee, and gave the premiere in June 1982.
The overall mood of this sensitive commemorative piece, first performed in April 1996 at Kirkwall East Church, on the Orkney mainland, by Heather Rendall, is quite sombre – if anything, even more simple and restrained than that of Veni Creator Spiritus. The hushed, carol-like central section – sounding as if the adapted chorale were being heard like some distant memory or from afar – is of touching simplicity. This piece might almost have been written by one of Davies’s sixteenth- or seventeenth-century predecessors: Praetorius, perhaps, or Schein. With the return of the plainsong a semitone lower, the harmonies and false relations come tangibly closer to Maxwell Davies’s ‘own’ music, as if by way of a brief, fond ‘farewell’ from the composer; but the textures soon simplify once more, and the work modulates uncomplicatedly and peacefully with an almost unnoticed Tierce de Picardie onto D major.
from notes by Roderic Dunnett © 2004