The distinctive southern European tonal design of the Hradetzky gallery organ of the United Methodist Church in Red Bank incorporates the versatile richness, clarity, warmth, and colorful stops that are characteristic of Austrian-Viennese organ building. The works featured on this recording have been chosen to demonstrate and exploit these qualities of the instrument.
The Præludium in f sharp (BuxWV 146) and Præludium in D (BuxWV 139) of Buxtehude are examples of the stylus fantasticus or præludium style in which elements of improvisational gesture, fugue, recitative, figuration, block chords, harmonic exploration, and silence are combined to produce internally diverse yet remarkably unified works of striking effect. The Præludia are alike in their emphasis on free rather than fugal elements. The Præludium in f sharp contains two fugues, of which only the first includes a properly worked out exposition. The single fugue of the Præludium in D is based upon a repercussive subject and presents an almost uncharacteristically thin fugal texture. Though sharing certain similarities of design, the Præludia are remarkably dissimilar in spirit. The Præludium in f sharp displays a remarkably sober virtuosic temperament; the Præludium in D demonstrates a joyful, almost lighthearted perspective by virtue of both its key and figurations.
In the Prelude and Fugue in D (BWV 532), Bach explores the spirit and substance of the works of earlier Baroque masters, producing a massive composition in which these elements receive definitive exploitation. Its opening scales and broken chords followed by dramatic use of silence, dotted rhythm and tremolos, its tightly constructed Alla breve and the striking Adagio which conclude the prelude are in sympathy with similar passages in the works of Buxtehude. The D major Fugue, one of the most virtuosic of Bach's organ fugues, ends with a masterful coda for the pedal organ as opposed to the final toccata section typical of the præludium.
The chorale prelude, Komm, heiliger Geist (BuxWV 199), illustrates Buxtehude's preferred treatment of the genre in which the entire chorale melody is presented in ornamented form in a single voice. The Liebster Jesu chorales of Bach (BWV 730, 731) are remarkable in that the second appears almost as an intended variation of the first though they were composed as independent pieces. In BWV 730, the melody is presented in relatively straightforward fashion; in BWV 731, it becomes a complex coloratura played, at Bach's own direction, on a second manual of the organ.
In the 16th century, the practice of arranging dance music for instrumental ensembles spread quickly to keyboard instruments. The Susanne van Soldt Manuscript contains a significant number of examples of these arrangements based on dance tunes current on the Continent and popular in the Low Countries toward the end of the 16th century. The dances of the Schmid's are representative of Italian dance types typically found in German sources of the period: the paired passamezzo and saltarello (complementary duple and triple meter dances often sharing thematic material) and the gigliarda.
Mein junges Leben is one of seven variation sets on secular songs by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, internationally acclaimed organist of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. Through skillful linking of contrasting motives, Sweelinck gives birth to a variation set of remarkable energy and unparalleled variety.
The organ works of both J.G. Walther and
J.S. Bach include a number of high quality transcriptions of instrumental
concertos in the Italian style. While Walther's transcriptions focus on
the works of earlier Italian masters, Bach's include several compositions
by Antonio Vivaldi. In the Concerto in A minor (BWV 593), transcribed
from Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Violins, Op. 3, No. 8, Bach not
only captures, but enhances the spirit of the original. Through manual
changes, both concertos faithfully preserve the alternation of solo and
tutti forces found in the original compositions.
The Six Grand Sonatas of Mendelssohn, Op. 65, were written at the commission of the English publishers, Coventry and Hollier, following a successful concert series by the composer in 1843. Neither "voluntaries," as the publisher had hoped, nor "sonatas," the compositions link traditional sacred forms (e.g., chorale, fugue) to the spirit of lyrical character pieces and virtuosic concert works, creating a unique synthesis of formal models. The first movement of the Grand Sonata in F Minor alternates fugal writing with statements of the chorale, Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh' allzeit. The second movement, a lyrical "song without words," leads to a subtle recitative alternating with fortissimo chords. Arpeggiated organ crescendos anticipate the fourth movement, a virtuoso toccata. The Aria Pastorella of Valentin Rathgeber likewise links the sacred and secular in the fashion of traditional Italian pastorella of the 17th and 18th centuries, merging the simple evocation of countryside life with the pastoral elements of the Christmas story.
In contrast to the previous works, the chorale-based Nun lasst uns Gott dem Herren is truly "sacred music for a sacred space," exploiting the conventions of the North German I of organ composition (e.g., double pedal writing, echo effects, etc.) to effect brilliant melodic and harmonic renderings of the chorale. The partita, which consists of 6 variations, is generally considered to be unfinished It is completed here by a five-voice chorale setting. The remaining chorale-based work included in this recording, Brahms' 0 Welt, ich muss dich lassen, is rendered no less "sacred" by its personal reflective nature, being one of Eleven Chorale Preludes, Op. 122, composed during the final summer of the composer's life, extending a thoughtful farewell to this world and reflecting on the life to come.
As court organist and, later, concertmaster for the Duke of Weimar, Bach composed under strong Italian influence and wrote a significant number of large compositions for organ. It is thought that the Prelude and Fugue in G Major likely dates from this period with later revision being accomplished in Leipzig. The work presents a fusion of North German and Italian characteristics. The opening line of the prelude pays homage to North German style; the repeated notes of the fugue subject reflect the language of stringed instruments and the influence of Vivaldi. Whether or not employed in "sacred" service, the work is best characterized as belonging to the category of concert music.
Influence of the dance, stylistic reference to the French harpsichord suite and tempo indications which are clearly not those of liturgical music relegate Clerambault's seven-movement Suite du Deuxieme Ton to the realm of the secular. The Duo and Trio movements of the suite relate, respectively, to the rhythms of the bourée and minuet, while the Récit de Nazard displays it's kinship to the rhythms of the gigue. FlOtes sets forth the customary meter of the ternary dance and the concluding fugue, Caprice sur les Grands Jeux likewise calls forth dance inspired rhythmic figures. Arpeggiated chords in the more somber Plein Jeux recall the French harpsichord suite.
In the English tradition, the organ "voluntary" can be roughly defined as an organ piece performed or improvised before or after a service The Voluntary in A Minor, an anonymous composition from the 18th century, is representative of the two-movement form in which a slow movement is followed by a faster movement exploiting a particular organ color. Since the voluntary in question is an anonymous work, there is no way of knowing whether or not it was the product of liturgical association.
Boléro de concert of Lefébure Wély was originally written for "Orgue expressif," the French harmonium, and has been freely adapted for the organ in tins recording. Inspired by the bolero, a Spanish dance most often danced by a couple with castanets, Boléro de concert belongs to the realm of the purely secular.
The Toccata in G Major is one of the best constructed and most immediately appealing of the organ-concert works of Dubois. The opening section introduces an energetic sixteenth-note figure which is organized and punctuated by pedal entrances. The chorale-like melody which follows is interrupted from time to time by the return of the opening figure. The contest between them is resolved as the opening section returns, bringing the work to a brilliant conclusion.
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