In addition to transcriptions, the nineteenth century saw a rapid expansion in the publication of original works for organ, particulary by Novello and Ewer, Ashdown, Coventry and Hillier, and Augener. Novello’s series of Original Organ Compositions
started in the 1860s and had reached 450 numbers by 1912. These included the works by Steggall and King. Charles Steggall was a pupil of William Sterndale Bennett at The Royal Academy of Music, later becoming a professor there. Sterndale Bennett had been hailed by Mendelssohn as one of the most important composers of the time. His songs, piano music and chamber music are certainly compelling and show a strong grasp of romanticism while maintaining a classical purity of style. Some of Sterndale Bennett’s style rubbed off on Steggall who dedicated three early preludes and fugues to his master. Later, as well as being one of the founding members of the College of Organists, he was on the editorial board of Hymns Ancient and Modern
, contributing many new tunes himself, including ‘Christ Church’ with words by S Crossman:
Jerusalem on High,
My song and city is,
My home whene’er I die,
The centre of my bliss.
Contemplation of an afterlife where all things would be happily resolved was a recurrent theme in Victorian hymnody. Steggall’s response is to write an optimistic theme beginning with an ascending chord of C major, an exact inversion of the gesture found in the chorale Jerusalem, du hochgebaute Stadt, popular in Germany, which starts with a descending chord of C major. In Steggall’s Postlude, the restless mood of the introduction and ensuing ‘Allegro moderato’ gives way to calm assurance as the hymn melody emerges, played on the Cremona stop. After further musical rhetoric, the hymn eventually reappears triumphant at the end.
from notes by Graham Barber © 2003