Repertoire and notes for online streamed recitals

King’s Lynn Minster 23 March 2021 - online

Camille Saint-Saens
Fantasie in E flat
Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy.  He entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of thirteen, and was hailed by Liszt as the world’s greatest organist.  He kept relatively modest formal teaching and church commitments which allowed him to composes, travel and write extensively, as well as revive interest in older music, notably Bach, Handel and Rameau.

The Fantasie in E flat is in two parts; the first is a playful scherzo-like piece in which the melody is given on the top of chords which are passed from hand to hand and manual to manual – a minimum of three keyboards are needed for this piece.  The second section is in complete contrast with the first, being bold, contrapuntally fluid, contains a short fugue, and builds to an impressive climax.  The two could not be any more dissimilar.

Johann Sebastian Bach
Schmuke Dich, o liebe Seele, BWV654
Schmuke dich is one of the eighteen so-called Leipzig Chorales.  A slightly misleading name as they were originally written earlier in his life when he was in Weimar 1708-1717, but they were revised towards the end of his life in Leipzig between 1747-49. 

‘Deck thy self my soul with Gladness’, Johann Franck’s words set to Cruger’s tune, the one commonly used and called Cruger.  It is an intensely moving expression of rapturous joy at union with Christ in the sacrament of Communion.  The piece has been praised by many composers.  Schumann wrote that the polyphony was as ‘garlands of golden leaves draped about the cantus firmus’.

Herbert Howells
Psalm Prelude, Set 1 No. 2
Psalm 37 Verse 11:
But the meek-spirited shall possess the earth:
and shall be refreshed in the multitude of peace.

Howells was one of the truly remarkable and prolific English church composers, and much of his music remains firmly in the repertoire for choirs and organists.  He spent some time Articled to Herbert Brewer at Gloucester Cathedral and as sub-organist at Salisbury Cathedral, and for me, his sound-world is imbued with lush English organs and generous acoustics.

This Psalm Prelude is similar in form to No.1 although far less grand in its architecture.  It is typically quiet-crescendo-diminuendo in form and is as rhapsodic as much of his organ music.

Hendrick Andriessen
Thema met varieties (1949)
From a well-known family of musicians, Hendrick Andriessen was composing for the organ at the age of ten.  By his mid-thirties he had given up his job as a journalist to concentrate on composition full-time.  In 1934 he became organist at Utrecht Cathedral and three years later director of the conservatory there.  He retired from his final post of professor of music at Nijmegen University in 1963. He wrote eight symphonies as well as many other orchestral and dramatic works.

Thema met varieties was written in 1949 and is probably his best-known organ piece, having been on the Royal College of Organists’ syllabus for many years.  The theme is introduced on quiet stops after a bold and striking opening and varied in a number of ways, some more subtle than others.  A reiteration of the opening introduction takes the work to its conclusion.



16th March 2021 at 12.30 on line
Richard Vogt 

Richard Vogt is a self-taught organist with a penchant for classical French organs and their music. For the first time in many years, he has had to miss his annual appointment with the fine four manual 18th century  instrument in the Abbey of Mouzon in the Ardennes. For this recital only the opening piece is of this genre.

Charles Piroye  (c 1670 – c1730)
La Beatitude; Dialogue a Deux Choeurs, SymphoniePiroye is a rather obscure figure in the classical period of French music under the Sun King, Louis XIV. He was a pupil of Lully and organist at several Parisian churches. His music is quite unlike that of his contemporaries.  Although it would have been used during services, it does not follow the usual liturgical modes and is grandiose and flamboyant, like the absolute monarch who gave it his imprimatur. This work alternates Petit Jeu and Grand Jeux, choruses of reeds. mixtures and cornets on Positif (Choir) and Grande Orgue (Great) with echoes on Recit (Swell). Pedals on French organs at that time were of short compass, played only with the toes and had not yet developed independent lines, being reserved for climaxes.

Harold Edwin Darke (1888 – 1976)
Chorale Prelude on a theme by Thomas Tallis (1919)
Harold Darke was eminent on the London church music scene for a considerable time, being organist of St. Michaels Cornhill for no less than fifty years. Although best known for the favourite carol “In the Bleak Mid Winter,” he wrote a large amount of choral works, as well as some organ pieces. This is the middle of a set of three chorale preludes. The piece begins gently, rising for a short passage on full organ and calming to a final tranquil reiteration of the thematic melody, which is scored in an original clef to be played over before the piece proper.

Thomas Arne (1710 – 1778)
Two concerto arrangements by Gwilym Beechey
Allegro from No. 1 in C
Prelude, Veloce and Allegro from No.6 in B Flat

These are movements which were originally designated for organ solo. The Allegro from No. 1 is an arpeggiated continuum in semi-quavers. In No. 6 the first movement and part of the second are marked “Ad Libitum.” The Allegro has a jaunty motif like a sort of three note cuckoo. Arne became a prominent musician very much against his father's will, taking lessons and practising in secret. His much lesser son Michael lived a short life, ruined by his search for the Philosopher's Stone, but did have the distinction of being the conductor of Handel's Messiah for its first performance in Germany in 1772. I will play these pieces using Snetzler's stops which are contemporary with the compositions.

George Edwin Lyle (1842 – 1900)
Voluntary and March from “The Abbey Chimes.”
Lyle was born in Sheffield and was organist  in Mold for a while before settling as organist and choir conductor at Sherborne Abbey. These opening and closing sections of the Abbey Chimes are from “A Reminiscence of an Evening Service Interrupted by A STORM”. The hymn, psalm, responses and the storm itself will have to wait for another time. Storm pieces were a typical 19th century fancy of both English and French composers. The voluntary is steeped in Victoriana and the Abbey March is what the French would call “Kiosk Music,” i.e. for the bandstand, and makes a rousing finale.

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