Derek Bourgeois was a lecturer in the music faculty of Bristol University before becoming director of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. As a composer he is an accomplished symphonist and has a particular affinity with brass instruments. He was a composition pupil of Herbert Howells whose church and organ music claim a firm place in the repertoire of the Anglican cathedral tradition and who was born not far from Bourgeois’ home in the Forest of Dean. When Bourgeois was commissioned by the composer William Mathias to write an organ work for the 1984 North Wales Festival, Howells had recently died, so Bourgeois composed these variations in homage. The theme of the four variations is taken from the Elizabethan pastiche ‘De la Mare’s Pavane’, part of a collection which Howells called Lambert’s Clavichord
The first variation is a dynamic exercise in rhythm, and the second a siciliano. The third variation has the solemnity appropriate to an act of homage, but the fourth (‘very jolly’) is a modern Mephisto waltz, of Bacchanalian irreverence, which attempts to quote on the pedals a tune which proves to be a close relative of the pavane, namely ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’. Decorum is restored with a toccata-style finale, although the gentle clavichord theme ends the work, transformed into a vehicle grand enough to carry the weight of full organ.
from notes by Ian Carson © 1992