Daniel Gawthrop is a highly successful composer who has enjoyed over 100 commissions and seen his choral and other works played with great frequency all over the country. This is the world premiere CD dedicated to his music, and it is largely successful. The very familiar Welsh tune Hyfrydol is given the King’s treatment in the animated and beautifully constructed five-movement Partita. Another highlight is certainly the Jerusalem Symphony, its four movements titled by quotes from the book of Isaiah that serve as the inspiration for the tone of the individual pieces. The three and four-movement Sketchbooks One and Three are not as convincing to me, short suites that give glimpses into the composer’s more abstract thinking, yet completely accessible.
All of the other works are fairly short one movement entities that have a unique and enclosed tonal message. I enjoyed them all very much. The problem with this disc is the chapel at Princeton University, long known for its problematic acoustics. Though the organ itself, a 1928 Skinner instrument that has been virtually redone over the years, is a broad and robust instrument fully worthy of the type of registrations that Gawthrop desires, the venue itself seems to choke the sound somewhat, almost an analogue sound where the massive moments are heard but not necessarily felt. This organ always sounds as if it is trying to escape from the room where it resides. Mary Mozelle, currently Associate organist at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C., does everything humanly possible to take advantage of the space (which has also been reworked many times over the years), but in the end she also must bow before the laws of physics. But Gawthrop’s music is worth investigating, and this is now the primary place to do so.
— Steven Ritter