Basil Harwood (1859-1949) gained a degree in classics and modern history at Oxford, before focusing on musical study and gaining the BMus. In 1882 he set off for a period of composition and organ study in Leipzig and in 1883 he was appointed to his first organist post at St Barnabas, Pimlico (where his remains are buried). His career and his compositions revolved almost exclusively around church music, and in 1892 he returned to Oxford as Organist of Christ Church Cathedral, a post he held simultaneously with the Precentorship of Keble College. He was also Choragus of the University, the founding director of the Oxford Bach Choir, conductor of the Oxford Orchestral Association, and the editor of the Oxford Hymn book. A composer of numerous hymns and anthems, as well as about 40 works for organ, the 1886 Sonata in C sharp minor is one of his earliest compositions, showing the influence of his German studies and specifically the works of Rheinberger. The bold, dramatic sonata-form Allegro appassionato gives way to a tuneful and very beautifully crafted Andante movement. The Con moto fugue of the third movement concludes with a final pedal entry under a huge block-chord setting of the Beata nobis gaudia
plainsong from an early psalter (ca. 1500) printed in Mainz, another manifestation of Harwood’s time in Germany. There is then a short section marked Moderato ma senza tempo, which harmonizes this same plainsong in four parts, before launching into the final Grandioso which begins with a fortissimo harmonization and ends with a coda using fragments of the plainsong.
from notes by Ann Elise Smoot © 2010