Repertoire and notes for online streamed recitals

Adrian Richards
King’s Lynn Minster

11 May 2021

Pièce heroïque – César Franck
Franck’s ambitious father intended him to be a concert pianist but through various posts Franck found his vocation as organist, composer and teacher.  He was organist of Ste Clothilde, Paris from 1858 and professor at the Conservatoire from 1872 until his death.  It was during his time at the Conservatoire that he wrote most of his music.

Pièce héroïque (the last of a series of three pieces written in 1883) was at one time the most popular wedding piece in France, a strange choice when one considers its brooding beginning and sinister theme.  The quiet central major section is interrupted by a louder iteration of the same theme which gradually changes to the minor and brings again the opening theme, which in a rush of toccata-like accompaniment brings about a triumphal end in the major.

 

Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV547 – JS Bach
Written sometime before 1725 and commonly known as the ‘Great’, it is possible that the Prelude and Fugue in C major may not really belong together, although they are found together in Bach’s hand.  The jaunty compound 9/8 time of the prelude, with its ascending 9-note figure, does not immediately seem the ideal companion to the stylish, yet intensely complicated, common-time four-part fugue.  At the entry of the pedal using the theme at half speed, the fugue effectively becomes a five-part movement. There is a unifying factor for both prelude and fugue however, as both use a series of isolated chords as a device to introduce the coda after the cadence has been interrupted.

 

Fantasia sopra Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele – Johann Ludwig Krebs
Johann Ludwig Krebs was one of Bach’s best students, going on to hold several prestigious musical posts, including organist in Altenberg at the court of Prince Friedrich. His compositional style owes much to his teacher.  The opening lines of this chorle translate to English as:

Rejoice greatly, o my soul,
and forget all misery and torment
since Christ your Lord
calls you from this valley of misery!

 

Toccata, Op. 1 – Fjellestad
Jon Kristian Fjellestad comes from Trondheim where he studied church musica. He is co-founder and a director of JFFJ a free music publisher from where a free copy of this music is available via the internet.  Although plainly derivative, particularly of Boëllman’s famous ‘Gothique’ toccata, it is a fine piece which never fails to attract comment.

 

Adrian Richards
King’s Lynn Minster 20 April 2021

Johann Sebastian Bach
Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV538 (Dorian)
The Dorian Toccata and Fugue in D minor is written according to ancient habit of not using the flatten b in the key signature – Dorico.  Not written together, the fugue Toccata being first with its pointed north German style, the well-ordered and repeated theme is contrasted by the later fugue with its suave south German counterpoint.  The long and syncopated subject which is treated in stretto (more than one entry of the fugue at a time) very early on, which leads to a very complex and rich four-part fugue.  You can try to identify as many entries or fragments of the theme as possible, or just wallow in the marvellously fluid writing.

Simon Stubley (d. 1754) 
Voluntary in F
Inevitably there is little known about this little-known composer.  The only other publications known by Stubley are ten songs which appeared in a publication called The Gentelman’s Magazine from 1739-1753.  He held office as Organist of St John’s Clerkenwell.

This very attractive piece is in two parts, as is fashionable for the time.  A slow introduction on a Snetzler Diapason followed by a faster, longer, jolly section, which makes use of a small Cornet and our new and unusual early English Trumpet.  The Trumpet made its first appearance last year, but now it’s had a chance to settle down and bed-in, this piece gives the ideal opportunity to demonstrate it playing the sort of music it was designed for.

César Franck
Chorale No. 3 in A minor
Franck’s ambitious father intended him to be a concert pianist but through various posts Franck found his vocation as organist, composer and teacher.  He was organist of Ste Clothilde, Paris from 1858 and professor at the Conservatoire from 1872.  It was during his time at the Conservatoire that he wrote most of his music.

The last and probably most famous of the three Chorales, the A minor, was written at the very end of his life, he is said to have corrected the proofs on his death-bed.  After a hesitant toccata-like introduction interspersed with built-up chords surrounded by large expanses of silence, the chorale is finally introduced on a swell reed.  The toccata returns in the dominant minor and takes us to an exquisitely accompanied variation in the major.  From this an ostinato figure is developed which builds to a climax.  At which point a change of key on the sustained pedal rushes towards the end with the chorale and the toccata as one.

 

 

 

April 13th - Jonathan Chaddock - King's Lynn

JS Bach

Fugue in Eb (St Anne), BWV552

R. Vaughan Williams
Prelude on Rhosymedre
From Three Preludes founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes

William Boyce
Voluntary no 1 in D
From Ten Voluntaries for the Organ or Harpsichord

Peter Hurford
French Carol (Ps 128 vv1 - 4)
Meditation (Ps 42 v1)
From Laudate Dominum Suite for organ

Robin Milford
A choral prelude on St Columbia

Sigfrid Karg-Elert
Chorale Improvisation: Now thank we all our God
From Fourteen Chorale Improvisations, Op.65.

 

Fugue in Eb – JS Bach. This is a triple fugue – three fugues linked together. It is nicknamed ‘The St Anne Fugue’ because the subject of the first fugue is very similar to the first line of the hymn tune used for ‘O God our help in ages past’ – tune St Anne by William Croft written in 1710. This subject is then heard as a linking motif in the other two fugues albeit in different rhythms reflecting the different style of each fugue. In some editions of Bach’s organ music, this fugue is published with a Prelude in Eb. They were not written as a ‘ Prelude and Fugue’ as such but as the beginning and end of Bach’s ‘Little Organ Mass’.

 

Prelude on Rhosymedre – R. Vaughan Williams.   As a young man, RVW was from 1895 to 1899, organist and choirmaster at St Barnabas Church South Lambeth. It was the only post he ever held that paid him an annual salary. He disliked the job but claimed that it gave him an insight into what ‘constitutes good and bad Church music’. These experiences may well have been helpful to RVW when he came to write ‘Three Preludes founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes’ published in 1920. Rhosymedre is the second and gentler one of the three.

 They were dedicated to Alan Gray, RVW’s organ teacher whilst he was studying at Trinity College Cambridge.

 

Voluntary no 1 in D – William Boyce. William Boyce is considered to be one of the foremost English composers of the mid-eighteenth century. A student of Maurice Green, Boyce went on to hold organist posts in several important London churches including St Michaels Cornhill and became one of three organists at The Chapel Royal. In 1755 he became Master of the Kings Music. Voluntary in D is taken from Ten Voluntaries for Organ or Harpsichord. It begins with a short slow section and moves onto a quicker and longer second section which uses the Trumpet stop on the Minster organ. This stop is a replica of that installed by Snetzler in the 1754 organ.

 

French Carol and Meditation – Peter Hurford. These two short pieces are taken from the Suite ‘Laudate Dominum’ by Peter Hurford. This is a collection of six pieces reminiscent of Jehan Alain’s Litanies; each reflecting verses from different Psalms and each having a unique and individual character of its own. Peter Hurford (1930 – 2019) was a well known organist and composer who founded the St Alban’s International Organ festival which started the careers of many famous organists including Gillian Weir. Peter Hurford recorded the complete organ works of JS Bach, the organ concerti of Handel and much Romantic Organ music. He was well known as a performer for his attention to stylistic detail, clean articulation and beauty of expression.

 

Choral Prelude on ‘St Columba’ – Robin Milford. A gentle, flowing piece of music during which the tune ‘St Columba’, often sung to ‘The King of Love my Shepherd is’, is played on the pedals of the organ but using a higher pitched stop.

    Robin Milford (1903 – 1959) was a prolific composer of works including songs, orchestral music, piano music and chamber music for various instruments. A close friend of Gerald Finzi and taught composition by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst; he died at a relatively young age after suffering from depression having experienced some quite tragic life circumstances.

    This particular Chorale Prelude written in 1928 was later arranged for orchestra and used in an episode of Star Trek.

 

Chorale Improvisation: ‘Nun Danket alle Gott’. – Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877 – 1933).

Written as part of a collection of 66 Chorale Improvisations op65, the hymn tune of ‘Now thank we all our God’ is not easily discernible to the listener. When looking at the music the actual notes of the hymn occur intermittently and are shown by asterisks over the top of the relevant notes.

As well as being an important German composer of organ music chamber music and piano music, Karg-Elert was a prolific composer of music for the Harmonium and also wrote 30 Caprices for the Flute which have become a standard set of lyrical, dynamic and phrasing exercises for students of that instrument.

 

 

 

King’s Lynn Minster 23 March 2021 - online
ADRIAN RICHARDS

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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