Monday, June 15, 2009

ARCHIVE  •  2009  •  SUN 14  •  MON 15  •  WED 17  •  FRI 19  •  SUN 21

Saint Michael & All Angels Church, 8 p.m.

Organ Recital

Gabriel Arregui, organ
John Thiessen, trumpet

Vincent Lübeck (1654-1740)
Prelude and Fugue in E major

Francisco Correa de Arauxo (1576-1654)
Canto Llano y Tres Glosas sobre la Concepción Immaculada

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Fugue in B-Flat major

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Komm, heiliger Geist, BWV 651

Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel, BWV 650

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 544


Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Concerto in D for Trumpet


Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Prelude and Fugue in D minor

Jehan Alain (1911-1940)
Trois Pièces pour Grand Orgue

Variations sur un thème de Clément Jannequin
Le Jardin suspendu


Our observation this season of the birth years of Henry Purcell (1659) and Felix Mendelssohn (1809) and the death years of George Frideric Handel (1759) and Joseph Haydn (1809) continues this evening. Three are represented on this recital: Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn, in addition to works by Vincent Lübeck, Francisco Correa de Arauxo, Johann Sebastian Bach and Jehan Alain.


Lübeck, who was the son of an organist and the father of two, was a renowned North German performer and an expert in organ building. Reflecting musical forms that had been made famous by Buxtehude, his Prelude and Fugue in E moves from a brilliant toccata-like prelude that alternates between virtuoso play on the pedals and recitative-like passages to an elegant and stately fugue that maintains the joy and youthfulness of the prelude. BACK


Correa de Arauxo, also known as Correa de Azavedo, was a Spanish composer, organist and theorist, perhaps of Portuguese origin. He became a priest purely on the strength of his organ playing! An exceedingly wellpaid organist in Seville, he revolted against new duties without increased remuneration and was imprisoned for insubordination and behavior unbecoming a priest. His last position was organist at the cathedral in Segovia. Remembered today as one of the chief composers who established the Baroque style in Spain, his compositions strongly reflect the enduring influence of the Renaissance.

The variations in his Canto Llano y Tres Glosas sobre la Concepción Immaculada increase in ratio, sounding to our ears as progressing from quarter notes to eighths, to eighth triplets and finally to sixteenths. Spanish organs of the period were unique in tone colors, possessing earthy and rustic sounds that are possible to attempt but difficult to duplicate exactly here. BACK


Handel’s Fugue in B flat, containing his usual charmand wit, probably was created to show off his legendary skills as a technician. It is written for manuals alone, as the organs in eighteenth-century England normally had no pedals. BACK


Bach’s 18 Great Chorales, written during his early years in Weimar but revised in Leipzig near the end of his life, are based on well-known hymn tunes. This Komm, heiliger Geist (Come, Holy Spirit), a chorale traditionally sung on Pentecost, is a fantasia for the manuals with the chorale tune (cantus firmus) heard deep in the bass from the pedals.

Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel, an Advent chorale from the Schübler collection, also features a pedal cantus firmus, but with a high pitched 4’ stop, placing the pedal’s melody in the treble. Here the feet play trills and other ornaments while the left hand plays the bass line (usually heard in the pedals) and the right hand sparkles. Its tune, Lobe den Herren, is probably most familiar to congregations today as “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” BACK


Bach’s B minor prelude and fugue is one of his most grand, serious and intense, with powerful harmonic progressions in the prelude and a fugue of amazing contrapuntal mastery. BACK


Haydn was the ultimate Classical composer, an older contemporary of Mozart and Beethoven. His symphonic and chamber music output is staggering (at least 110 symphonies, some recently discovered, and perhaps some yet to be!), and he also was famous for his composition of opera. In contrast, his concerto writing is modest: four for the violin, three for the violoncello, one for the violone, three for the baryton (similar to a bass viol), one for the flute, one for the bassoon, three for the horn, and one for the trumpet.

The general sound of the trumpet concerto may reflect in tone the Baroque, but the form is certainly Classical: an opening sonata-allegro but without the usual complete exposition of themes before the entrance of the soloist, and with an invitation for a cadenza; a lyrical and graceful slower movement, again with the theme introduced before the soloist’s entrance; a final movement in rondo form, with the infectious tune recurring many times.

Haydn was enticed to visit England several times during his life, and to accept an honorary doctorate in music from Oxford University (his Symphony No. 92, nicknamed the “Oxford,” was the one he conducted during the prolonged celebrations there). On hearing Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus from Messiah, he said, “He is the master of us all.” When Mozart tried to dissuade Haydn from visiting England in 1790, citing his ignorance of the language, Haydn simply replied: “But all the world understands my language!” BACK


M endelssohn is revered today on many levels, especially historically for his revival of the music of J.S. Bach, whose St. Matthew Passion he conducted as a very young man, and whose style he often imitated (one of Mendelssohn’s gorgeous cantatas will follow one of Bach’s, both of them based on the same chorale, on our Festival Finale program next Sunday afternoon).

Mendelssohn’s D minor prelude and fugue, itself a Baroque form, isn’t heard as often today as his organ sonatas. After a recitative-like opening, the prelude builds to an exciting toccata and finishes with a majestic coda. The fugue, constructed in proper neo-Baroque fashion, proves that the famous pianist and conductor Mendelssohn himself was an accomplished performer on the organ. BACK


J ehan Alain, born in the Loire Valley near Saumur, was killed in action in World War II. He took premier prix at the Paris Conservatoire in harmony, fugue and organ, and served as a church organist in Paris. His greatest achievements as an organ composer date from the mid-1930s. Speaking of “translating the states of the soul” in his works, he once said, “What matters in music is perhaps less charm than mystery.”

The variations on a theme by the Renaissance composer Jannequin demonstrate a neo-Baroque quality with unexpected harmonic turns. The Suspended Garden, in the Baroque form of a Chaconne, is otherworldly in a restful mood. Litanies, with its religious fervor, ends without a real harmonic resolution. BACK

Notes by Burton Karson


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