Basil Harwood (1859-1949) was born on 11 April 1859. He went up to Charterhouse in 1874 and left in 1876 having won an Exhibition to Trinity College, Oxford where he initially studied Classics and Modern History. He then studied for a further two years, 1881–1882, at the Leipzig Conservatory under Carl Reinecke and Salomon Jadassohn.
In 1883, he became organist of St. Barnabas Church, Pimlico completing his Sonata in C# Minor here in 1885. After this success, he then moved to Ely Cathedral in 1887 where he wrote the bulk of "Dithyramb," possibly his greatest organ work. His final appointment was as organist at Christ Church, Oxford and as precentor of Keble College, Oxford from 1892 to 1909. He retired early at 50 (in 1909) but continued to compose prolifically.
He was a man who loved walking, was fastidiously proud of his beard, and who was loved by his choristers. His choirboys called him "Old Billy"... ;-)
The "Three Short Pieces" are very distinctive. If you're thinking that they are just "short pieces," you'll be quite surprised, maybe even amazed by these.
The second, in A minor, puts us again in the "music room," as we hear a trio playing. The music is beautiful, but quite sad. It is complex, and requires a smooth flow. This one sounds very "Nordic" to me. It made me think of Niels Gade.
All three of these remind me of the works of Brahms or Schumann, and while they are organ music, there is something very intimate about them. They really sound like "non-liturgical" pieces to me.
They are the works of a mature man, and have a sense of "finality" to them, yet, they were not written at the end of Harwoods' life.
The score, which is attached below, is marked, "Woodhouse, Almondsbury. June 24, 1927. They may have been composed in the summer, but there is definitely something autumnal about them.
A photo of Billy at the organ of Christ Church, Oxford, ca. 1905 is also attached below.
These pieces, which were new to me, left me speechless...