Recitals this fall

Holbrook Organ Series

Feast of St Theodore of Tarsus, Bishop
2014.09.19 · 19.30
Redeemer Presbyterian Church

Praeludium in g minor  BuxWV 163   Dieterich Buxtehude
Pavana Doloroso & Galliarda Doloroso   Peter Philips
Chaconne in F from ‘Euterpe’ (Musicalischer Parnassus)   J. C. F. Fischer
Four Pieces   Louis Couperin
     Prelude Autre Livre – Grand Livre d’Orgue (1654)
     Fantaisie (1651)
     Fantaisie (a paris le 12e Aoust 1651)
     Fantaisie (1654)
Toccatas II & VI   Johann Jacob Froberger
Fantasia VIII. Toni (3 September 1625)   Peeter Cornet
Tiento de medio registro de tiple de 7º tono
     (Facultad Orgánica)   Francisco Correa de Araujo
Chorale-prelude and Fugue for the organ
     on ‘O Traurigkeit, O Herzeleid’   Johannes Brahms
Tiento 7º tono por A la mi re   Joan Cabanilles

The nearly perfect acoustical environment (thanks to Dana Kirkegaard) of Redeemer’s parish hall is the temporary home of the unique and very fine 1862 Holbrook / 1966 Fisk organ most recently housed in the west gallery of Harvard Memorial Church. (When Redeemer’s new church building is built, it will house Fisk Op. 46 that until recently was at the east end of the same Memorial Church.) I’m pleased to be presenting a program of expressive works by Brahms, Buxtehude, Cabanilles, Cornet, Correa, L. Couperin, Fischer, Froberger, and Mendelssohn that will show what only nine stops – boldly and beautifully voiced, with elegant key action, unequal temperament, gently flexible winding, and enjoying the aforementioned acoustics – can do. Thanks to George Dupere, Redeemer’s Chief Musician, for the invitation.

Dieterich Buxtehude, organist of St Mary’s Church in Lübeck, was one of the greatest German composers of the seventeenth century. Such was his stature that the young Bach once walked a distance of 200 miles and stayed four months (without his employers’ permission) to hear and study with the older master. Buxtehude, in turn, like many others, was influenced by the works of Froberger and the Italians of the seventeenth century; this Praeludium – perhaps an early work – betrays their strong influence and might well have been entitled a Toccata instead (see the notes below about Froberger and the Toccata). If neither as massive as some of Buxtehude’s Praeludia nor as bizarre as the most extreme Italian Toccatas, this is nevertheless a substantial, drawn-out, and dramatic work: but lest the mood seem too intense, it ends with something of a wink and a smile.

Peter Philips was one of a number of Englishmen of his day who spent much of their lives in exile and trouble on account of their Roman Catholic religion (the present piece may have been written during or after a period of imprisonment, thus the dolorous mood and epithet); the musicians among these exiles were important in transmitting to the Continent the English keyboard style mastered above all by Byrd. After studying in Rome and traveling Europe for some years, Philips became court organist at Brussels in 1597; he was a prolific, outstanding, and influential (though today not nearly well enough known) composer for voices but left only about thirty keyboard works. The Pavane and Galliard were very popular dances in the sixteenth century: the first a stately processional dance, the second faster and much more athletic, apparently a favorite morning exercise of Queen Elizabeth I. As with many other kinds of dance, the accompanying music eventually took on a life of its own, and pairs of Pavanes and Galliards (the two members of the pair usually based on the same thematic material) constitute a large portion of the sophisticated English and English-influenced keyboard and lute solo music of the period.

JCF Fischer, Kapellmeister to the court at Baden, published several large collections of keyboard suites in which French influence is strongly evident; Musicalischer Parnassus, the last, is a set of nine suites of pieces named after the Muses (Parnassus being the mountain where the Muses were said to dwell). Several of these suites include a passacaglia or chaconne, a type of piece in which a short, repeating bass-line or chord progression forms the foundation for a continuous series of variations. The Chaconne from the ‘Euterpe’ suite is a charming example.

Louis Couperin (uncle of the more famous François) received his early training from his father or other local musicians in his native town. In 1650 he met the famous court musician Chambonnières, who became his teacher and champion, and his rise into prominent positions in Paris and at court continued for the next decade until his death at the age of thirty-five. Though Couperin’s harpsichord works have been known and highly regarded for a long time, his seventy pieces for organ were not rediscovered until 1957 and were published only in 2003. This revelatory collection provides a missing link in French organ literature between the post-Renaissance, rather strict vocal-polyphony-derived style of the 1620s–30s and the more familiar harpsichord/instrumental style of the last third of the century. Most of the short works are titled Fantaisie or Fugue and use imitative techniques, but within the restrictions of four-voice contrapuntal writing, mostly in one of only three modes, there is a great depth and breadth of expression, a wealth of rhythmic and harmonic treatment, and occasionally some textural innovation, as in the instrumentally influenced works that are almost certainly intended for a solo stop in the left hand or for alternating left- and right-hand solos. Many of the works are dated in the manuscript, but they have been arranged by mode rather than date; the four works presented tonight, though not written together, appear consecutively in the manuscript and work well as a set.

Johann Jacob Froberger was one of the greatest, most cosmopolitan, best known, and most influential keyboard composers of the seventeenth century (his works were widely appreciated by composers up to Mozart’s day before falling out of circulation), traveling widely and both absorbing and disseminating many regional styles of composition and performance. The Toccata originated as a short, mercurial, improvisatory work – a warm-up, really – but over time was extended, often with sections in imitative counterpoint or the impression thereof (as in the Toccata II, where this texture actually constitutes much of the work). On the other hand, a specialized kind of Toccata developed for use during the Elevation of the consecrated bread and wine (which the faithful see as the very Body and Blood of Christ) during the Mass, which was a devotional-emotional high point for priest and people, the mysterious and transcendent nature of which was highlighted musically through the use of striking, even bizarre, harmonies and harmonic sequences that break all the ‘rules’ of composition. Froberger was known to be an extremely expressive player, so that it was said to be impossible to interpret his compositions correctly if one had not heard him play; the unmetered notation used by Louis Couperin in his harpichord preludes, which were strongly influenced by Froberger’s works, may point the way to just how freely the music should be played.

Peeter Cornet was born to a musical family in Brussels, and he worked as an organist, organ consultant, and organbuilder there, where among his colleagues and friends were the exiled English Roman Catholic composers John Bull and Peter Philips (the latter of whom who stood as godfather to one of his children). Cornet’s surviving works, very few in number, are all for keyboard, and are excellent examples of the styles cultivated by English and Netherlandish (and North German and Spanish) keyboard composers of the period: in this case, a lively and cohesive, if not exactly strict, combination of imitative entries and running figurations.

Francisco Correa de Arauxo was the author and composer of a large and important treatise on the organ published in 1626. A number of the works contained in the collection make use of a common feature of Spanish organs of the time: nearly all the stops were divided between treble and bass, allowing two different sounds (usually a solo and accompaniment) to be played from a single keyboard. The present work is not unlike certain contemporaneous pieces for instruments, a genre that grew out of a practice of using vocal polyphony, reworked for a lute or keyboard instrument, as the basis for florid passagework for a solo instrument (viol or violin, cornett, dulzian, trombone, etc.) – in a way not unlike a jazz improvisation draped over the framework of a popular song. And so here, in the lower half of the keyboard, a slow-moving and nominally imitative-contrapuntal accompaniment in three voices supports the right-hand solo, played on this organ’s treble-range Cornet stop.

Brahms hardly needs introduction as a composer, but it is perhaps not so well known that he left a small but important legacy of organ music behind, including his very last pieces. Tonight’s work is not one of these, but a pair of earlier compositions, written in 1858 and 1873 and finally premiered and published in 1882. The work’s dedication to the great musicologist and Bach biographer Philipp Spitta was apt, for as in Brahms’s other organ works – even moreso than in the rest of his output – the profound influence of Bach is very much in evidence here. The prelude is similar to many of the short hymn-preludes from Bach’s Orgelbüchlein, with the tune heard in the highest voice over an accompaniment of motivically consistent, and constantly moving, texture. The fugue, written after a period of intensive study of counterpoint, is particularly reminiscent of the older master’s style not only in its masterful use of various contrapuntal devices (the subject and two countersubjects are consistently answered in their inverted (upside-down) forms and often found in stretto (overlapping themselves)) but also in the ability to combine this sort of rigor with, or use it as a means toward, great expressive depth befitting the tragic mood of this Passiontide hymn, whose tune is heard in long notes in the pedal.

Joan (Juan) Cabanilles was the last master of antique Spanish organ music. He spent most of his career as organist of the cathedral in his native Valencia but was apparently well known in France, where he traveled and played several times. None of his music was published during his lifetime, but a vast amount of it, covering many genres old and new, survives in manuscript. Tiento was the name given to most Spanish organ works of the period of whatever form or style; the present work is not unlike canzonas or fantasias by Cabanilles’s contemporaries in other lands, in that its four sections are all based on one theme, versions of which are introduced in both duple and triple meter, in strict imitation, inversion, and augmentation (i.e., with note values twice as long). The piece ends with a coda that – while its style would have been typical of pieces written for many kinds of instruments  – reminds us, not without reason, of the flourishes of a Spanish guitar. ‘A la mi re’ refers, in the theoretical system of the time, to the note on which the piece begins.

Great Organ Series

Feast of St Margaret, Queen of Scotland
2014.11.16 · 19.30
Bates Recital Hall
Butler School of Music, University of Texas at Austin

Praeludium in d minor  BuxWV 140   Dieterich Buxtehude

Three ‘Leipzig’ Chorales   J. S. Bach
     Nun danket alle Gott  BWV 657
     Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland  BWV 659
     Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend  BWV 655

In festo Corporis Christi (27 Dez. 1959)   Anton Heiller
     Ante Introitum [Cibavit eos]
     Post Offertorium [Sacerdotes Domini]
     Post Communionem [Quotiescumque manducabitis]
     Post Benedictionem (Lauda Sion)

Variations on a theme of Clément Jannequin   Jehan Alain

Four Pieces   Louis Couperin
     Prelude Autre Livre – Grand Livre d’Orgue (1654)
     Fantaisie (1651)
     Fantaisie (a paris le 12e Aoust 1651)
     Fantaisie (1654)

Choral III in A minor   César Franck

I’ll be returning for my third recital in ten years on the four-manual, 66-stop Visser-Rowland organ in UT’s Bates Recital Hall, which at the time of its completion in 1983 was the largest mechanical-action organ in the country (as they say, everything’s bigger in Texas). The instrument offers a wealth of registrational possibilities, including a wide array of principal and trumpet choruses, two horizontal reeds, a battery of cylindrical- and short-resonator reeds, an ample supply of flute and mutation stops, including Septime and None ranks in the Rugwerk and a 1-foot Fluitje in the Pedaal, etc. I look forward to putting it through its paces. Thanks to Prof. Matthias Maierhofer for the invitation.

Dieterich Buxtehude was one of the most important German composers of the high Baroque, author of a large quantity of music in many genres. Such was Buxtehude’s stature that the young Bach is reported to have walked a distance of 200 miles and stayed four months – without his employers’ permission – to hear and study with the older master in Lübeck. Buxtehude’s organ works were the culmination of a strong hundred-year-long tradition of organ playing-composing-improvising in northern Germany, coupled to a robust organbuilding tradition that provided large instruments like the present one, with three or four manuals (keyboards), fully independent pedal divisions, and a huge variety of available sounds. His Praeludia are the written-out versions of what were mainly improvised pieces, full of drama and contrast, often alternating very free sections with those in stricter rhythm and structure; the Praeludium in D minor is a typical example. This is music that shows off technical, contrapuntal, expressive, and architectural skill, joining mind, body, and heart at full extent to exult in the gift of human creativity.

Later in life, Bach engaged in a number of projects of collecting, revising, and in some cases publishing sets of works of a given genre for a given instrumentation, often exploring to the fullest the variety of styles and techniques possible within the genre. One of these collections was a set of eighteen choral-preludes (that is, pieces based on Lutheran hymns). The three pieces we hear tonight show some of the variety of this collection. The jolly ‘Nun danket alle Gott’ (‘Now thank we all our God’) makes extensive use of fore-imitation, in which each phrase of the hymn-tune is introduced in each of the accompanimental lines before being taken up fully in long notes in the solo soprano line. ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’ (‘Savior of the Nations, come’, Luther’s version of St Ambrose’s Advent hymn ‘Veni redemptor gentium’ with a tune based on the traditional chant melody) is a fine example of Bach’s slow, ornamented style. Over a solemn walking bass line, the tenor and alto voices provide a rich accompaniment to the even more richly ornamented soprano melody, which is reminiscent of a Bach oboe solo (the melody notes are usually found on each quarter-note beat). ‘Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend’ (‘Lord Jesus Christ, be present now’) is a trio, in which the two hands play equal parts with two different sounds, over a bass line played in the pedals, much like a sonata for two violins and continuo. The hymn-tune is hinted at throughout before being stated in full in the bass voice near the end of the piece.

The Viennese Anton Heiller was one of the great organists of the twentieth century, acclaimed for his interpretation (particularly of Bach), improvisation, conducting, and teaching; he was also a fine composer. Influenced early on by his friend Hindemith and other neoclassicists, he eventually developed a highly personal style in which pan-tonal harmony, canon and other strict contrapuntal devices, passages in quick mixed meter, and moments of quiet reflection come together very effectively, often setting chant melodies. The present work, written in 1959, consists of four pieces suitable for use at Mass on the Feast of Corpus Christi, introducing or reflecting upon, at the points when the organ is most often used, some of the chants for that Mass: the Introit (entrance chant), the Offertory, the Communion, and the Sequence (a hymn-like chant actually sung before the Gospel reading, but used here as the basis of a postlude after the blessing).

Jehan Alain, a student of Marcel Dupré and Paul Dukas, was a promising composer whose life was cut short by the War. The present work was written in 1937 and is based on a chanson thought to have been written by sixteenth-century composer Clément Janequin but actually an anonymous work from a collection published in 1529 by Attaignant. As in much of Alain’s work and that of his generation, diatonic modal counterpoint and neoclassical restraint ground excursions into extended harmony, nondiatonic scales, additive rhythms and melodic extensions, and other techniques derived from European vernacular, Asian classical, jazz, and other musics.

Louis Couperin, uncle of François ‘le grand’, rose from relative obscurity to become a prominent musician at church and court in Paris. Though Couperin’s harpsichord works have been known and highly regarded for a long time, his seventy pieces for organ were not rediscovered until 1957 and were published only in 2003. This crucial collection provides a missing link in French organ literature between the post-Renaissance, vocal-polyphony-derived style of the 1620s–30s and the harpsichord/instrumental style of the last third of the century that is more familiar today. Most of the short works are titled Fantaisie or Fugue and use imitative techniques, but within the restrictions of four-voice contrapuntal writing and only three modes, there is a great depth and breadth of expression, a wealth of rhythmic and harmonic treatment, and occasionally some textural innovation showing the influence of contemporary instrumental styles. Many of the works are dated in the manuscript, but they have been arranged by mode rather than date; the four works presented tonight, though not written at the same time, appear consecutively in the manuscript and seem to be intended as a set. Couperin gave registration indications only occasionally, and while his works can be appropriately played with a wider variety of sounds than the strongly codified practice of his successors would allow, in many cases those familiar combinations work well for his music, and several of them are used tonight.

The Three Chorals, dating from 1890, were the last works to come from the pen of the man who, as a composer and as Professor of Organ at the Paris Conservatory from 1872, had done so much to improve the art of the organ in France. They are indeed a fitting close to Franck’s œuvre and some of the greatest music in the repertory, combining advanced harmony, reserved rhythm and figuration, contrapuntal rigor, and great emotional depth. Long, spun-out melodies, vigorous ‘fantasia’ passages, and hymn-like ‘chorals’ are combined in various ways, but in each case the choral, introduced quietly after some opening material, grows in importance until it has the last word: triumphant in the first Choral; resigned in the second; defiant in this, the third.