Programme Notes for organ music played by me at St. Mary's Church, Dalmahoy, Edinburgh, during August and September 2017
Music from 'Elijah' – Felix Mendelssohn
Sunday 6th August – Pentecost 9
Prelude: Then shall the righteous
Communion: O come, everyone that thirsteth
Postlude: And then shall your light break forth
Sunday 13th August – Pentecost 10
Prelude: It is enough
Communion: Lift thine eyes
Postlude: Be not afraid
'Elijah', second only in popularity with amateur choral societies to Handel's 'Messiah', was premiered in 1846 at the Birmingham Triennial Musical Festival, which commissioned it. The Festival, which was founded in 1784, was the longest-running classical music festival of its kind, last taking place in 1912.
Sunday 20th August – Pentecost 11
William Lloyd Webber (1914-1982)
Prelude: Interlude on 'Noël nouvelet'
Communion: Introit (No.1 from 'Three Voluntaries')
Postlude: Recessional (No.3 from 'Three Voluntaries')
William Lloyd Webber, father of Andrew and Julian, was Professor at the Royal College of Music from 1946 and Director of the London College of Music from 1964. After organ posts at Christ Church Newgate Street 1929-32, St. Cyprian's Clarence Gate 1932-9 and All Saints Margaret Street 1939-48, William became the Director of Music at the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, from 1958. The set of Three Voluntaries were published in 1950, and are dedicated to the composer Hilary Philip Chadwyck-Healey (1888-1976).
Sunday 27th August – Pentecost 12
Early 20th century French music
Prelude: Sonatine (1st movement) – Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) [played on piano]
Communion: Pavane pour une Infante défunte - Ravel
Postlude: Tu es petra (no.10 of 'Esquisses Byzantines') – Henri Mulet (1878-1967)
Ravel wrote the first movement of his Sonatine for a 1903 competition sponsored by a fine arts and literary magazine called the 'Weekly Critical Review'. Ravel’s close friend, critic M. D. Calvocoressi, was a contributor to the publication and encouraged Ravel to enter. The competition was for the first movement of a piano sonatina no longer than seventy-five bars, and the prize offered was one hundred francs. The magazine was nearing bankruptcy at the time and ultimately the publisher called the competition off. Ironically, Ravel would have probably won since he was the only entrant, despite his entry being a dozen bars too long!
'Pavane pour une infante défunte' (Pavane for a Dead Infanta) was written for solo piano by Ravel in 1899 when he was studying composition at the Paris Conservatoire under Gabriel Fauré. Ravel described the piece as 'an evocation of a pavane that a little princess [infanta] might, in former times, have danced at the Spanish court'.
The 'Esquisses Byzantines' ('Byzantine Sketches'), a large ten-movement suite published in 1920, is Henri Mulet's most famous work for organ. Written over a period of at least ten years, the pieces were dedicated 'in memory of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Montmartre, 1914-1919.' The tenth movement, 'Tu es petra', is, however, thought to refer to the smaller, medieval church of Saint Pierre-de-Montmartre, which had been consecrated over 700 years previously. The title refers to the reference in today's Gospel (Matthew 16:18), 'You are Peter, and on this rock [petra] I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.'
Sunday 3rd September – Pentecost 13
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (chorale by Johann Rudolph Ahle, originally published 1664)
Prelude: Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (Op.65 no.57) – Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
Communion: Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (BWV 731) – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Postlude: Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier - Andreas Armsdorff (1670-1699)
Three very different preludes on today's Communion hymn, 'Dearest Jesu, we are here' (AMNS 269), a hymn loosely based on Tobias Clausnitzer’s ‘Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier’, first published in the 'Altdorffisches Gesang-Buchlein' (1663). The melody was published the following year.
The composer of the melody, Johann Rudolph Ahle (1625-1673) was born in Mühlhausen, Thuringia. While not much is known of his early musical training, he studied at the grammar school in Göttingen and then studied theology at the University of Erfurt from 1645 to 1649. In 1646 he became cantor at the Church of St. Andrew in Erfurt.
In 1654 Ahle assumed the post of organist at the Church of St Blaise in Mühlhausen. Johann Rudolph was elected a town councillor in Mühlhausen in the 1650s, and was elected mayor shortly before his death in 1673. His immediate successor at St. Blasius was his son Johann Georg Ahle (1651-1706), and then briefly Johann Sebastian Bach, who was in Mühlhausen in 1707/08. Incidentally, whilst at Mühlhausen, Bach had the opportunity to remodel the organ to his own specification.
Sunday 10th September – Matronal Festival
Elizabeth Stirling (1819-1895)
Prelude: Air with Variations ('Romantic Organ Pieces')
Communion: Moderato in F ('Romantic Organ Pieces')
Postlude: Maestoso ('Romantic Organ Pieces')
Born in Greenwich, Elizabeth studied piano and organ at the Royal Academy of Music with Edward Holmes and W.B. Wilson, and harmony with James Alexander Hamilton and Sir George Macfarren. Her first public recital at the age of 18 at St. Katherine, Regent's Park, contained a great deal of Bach, and demonstrated her agility on the pedals. She went on to become organist of All Saints' Poplar (1839-1858) in succession to her teacher, Edward Holmes, and later of St. Andrew Undershaft (1858-1880). In 1856 she submitted her exercise for the Oxford degree of Bachelor of Music but, although accepted, it was not performed as Oxford at this time restricted degrees to men only (the ban on women graduates was lifted in 1920). In 1863 she married the organist and photographer Frederick Albert Bridge, who took this photograph of her.
Sunday 17th September – Pentecost 15
Max Reger (1873-1916)
Prelude: Pastorale (op.59 no.2)
Communion: Jesu Leiden , Pein und Tod (op.67 no.19)
Postlude: Intermezzo (op.59 no.3)
'Have we completely forgotten that the organ is a first class instrument, not just something for churches?' This lament of Max Reger, quoted in a letter, was directed at the ignorance of contemporaries, to whom virtuosity in organ music, even in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, was suspect.
Reger worked as a concert pianist, as Director of Music at the Leipzig University Church, as a professor at the Royal Conservatory in Leipzig, and as a music director at the court of Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen.
These three pieces come from two large collections, the Twelve Pieces for Organ Op.59 (1901) and the 52 Chorale Preludes for Organ (1902).
Sunday 24th September – Pentecost 16
'...angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven'
Prelude: Prelude on a theme of Orlando Gibbons (Song 34 – 'The Angels' Song') – Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)
Communion: Panis angelicus – César Franck (1822-1890)
Postlude: Darwall's 148th ('Ye holy angels bright') – Percy Whitlock (1903-1946)
The feast of St. Michael and All Angels is celebrated next Friday 29th September, and so in anticipation, I perform three pieces on angelic themes.
Gibbons Song 34 first appeared in 'The Hymnes and Songs of the Church' (1623) by George Wither, set to the words 'Thus angels sung and thus sing we' – hence the tune's alternative title.
Panis angelicus (Bread of angels) is the Communion hymn from Franck's Messe à 3 voix (1859), and is probably the best-known setting of the hymn for Corpus Christi by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).
The Revd. H. Darwall's tune to the 148th Psalm was first published in Aaron Williams' 'New Universal Psalmist' (1770). Whitlock's spirited setting is from his collection of 'Six Hymn-Preludes' published in 1945.