Alec Rowley (1892-1958) was a pupil of Frederick Corder at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He was a composer, organist and pianist, who taught composition at Trinity College in London. His more demanding work as a composer has been unfairly neglected. Rowleys Piano Concerto No.1, scored for piano, strings, and percussion, was first performed in 1938. He was for many years the organist of St Alban's Church, Teddington and was a contributor to 'The Rotunda', the house magazine of Henry Willis & Sons Ltd.
"Five Improvisations" were published by Novello in 1948. Each of the works deals with a particular "mood", which is inspired the verse of a specific psalm, cited at the beginning of the piece. While I was playing these works, I could not help but feel shades of Percy Whitlock's "psalm pieces", although the harmonic language is definitely that of Rowley. His use of "regular" harmonies in distincive ways is noteworthy. For instance, in the "Solemn Prelude," he shifts between the tonalities of F Minor & A Minor with great effect. There is also the blending of modal harmonies with highly chromatic ones.
The fourth of the "Five Improvisations" is "Invocation." It is dedicated to George Oldroyd (1887-1956), organist of St. Alban's Church, Holborn, and of St. Michael's Church, Croydon. A devout Anglo-Catholic, he composed many settings of the Mass, but is best remembered for his "Mass of the Quiet Hour." In addition he has some sold organ works and a wonderful Christmas anthem/carol, "When Jordan hushed his waters still," which is very fine, and in the "grand" style! A plaintive work, this performance features the pungent Orchestral Oboe of the Solo. Once again, the highly-chromatic harmonies make for some unusual and varied textures, that build to two "small" climaxes before ending ppp.
The psalm verse quoted in this work is: "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord, for ever: how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?" (Psalm 13, verse 1)