Dupré Cortège et Litanie
During his 37-year tenure as organist of Saint-Sulpice, Paris, his 28-year stint as professor of organ at the Paris Conservatory, and years of frequent European and American concert tours, Dupré’s masterful interpretations and extraordinary improvisations drew many to the music of the pipe organ. Throughout his 28-year stint as professor of organ at the Paris Conservatory, Dupré had a profound influence on subsequent generations of French organists. His students included such luminaries as Olivier Messiaen, Jean Langlais, Jehan Alain, Marie-Claire Alain, Jeanne Demessieux, Pierre Cochereau, Marie-Madeleine Duruflé, and Jean Guillou.
Dupré first composed Cortège et Litanie as one of five pieces of incidental music for small orchestra, publishing it in 1922 as one of four works for piano . He later transcribed it for organ, and then for organ and orchestra. The latter premiered at the John Wanamaker Store of New York City.
As organist of the church of St. Roch in Paris, Claude Bénigne Balbastre improvised organ verses in alternatim with the choir in varied styles including minuets, fugues, imitations, hunting pieces and jigs. His compositions likewise reflect a light-heartedness and flamboyancy embraced by French organists in the late-eighteenth century. The Benedictine monk Dom Bedos preserved Balbastre’s charming Romance in the fourth volume of his 1778 treatise “The Art of the Organ Builder” where the composition appears in cylinder organ notation, revealing performance practices of the period.
Elgar: Nimrod (from Enigma Variations) arranged by William H. Harris
Premiered in London in 1899, Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations include a theme and fourteen variations, each variation alluding to various friends of the composer. The ninth variation, named for the mythical hunter Nimrod, pays tribute to August Jaeger, whose surname means “hunter.” A close friend of Elgar’s, Jaeger selflessly championed Elgar’s music at the publishing firm Novello and Company when it was little known beyond his rural Worcester.
Lefébure-Wely: Sortie in E-flat
A contemporary of César Franck, Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wely was the most popular French organist of his day. He most likely improvised this raucous Sortie (or “exit”) as a postlude at Saint-Sulpice, Paris, where he held the post of organist from 1863 until his death in 1870.
Barber: Adagio for Strings
The second movement of Barber’s String Quartet of 1936 has been widely transcribed, including a string orchestra version first conducted by Toscanini in 1938, a choral setting of the Agnus Dei by the composer, and William Strickland’s arrangement for organ. The Adagio—withits luscious, heart-wrenching chords—has been performed at such solemn occasions as Roosevelt’s commemorative service in 1945 and the funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco in 1982.
Walton: Crown Imperial: A Coronation March
Arranged for organ by Herbert Murrill, this march by Walton was commissioned by the British Broadcasting Corporation for the coronation of George VI on May 9, 1937, and was first performed on that day in Westminster Abbey by the Coronation Orchestra under Sir Adrian Boult. A quotation from the medieval poet William Dunbar heads the score of Crown Imperial – ‘In beawtie beryng the crone imperiall’ - from the poem In honour of the City of London which Walton was setting for the 1937 Leeds festival.
Howells: “Chosen” Tune from Three Pieces for Violin and Piano arranged by Susan Jane MatthewsHowells composed this beautiful melody in celebration of his engagement to the singer Dorothy Dawe who was a native of Churchdown, colloquially known as “Chosen.” At their wedding, the organist George Thalben Ball improvised a fantasy that incorporated the groom’s tune. Howells later published a setting of the piece for violin and piano from which this rendition for solo organ is arranged by the performer.
Mendelssohn: Con moto maestoso, Andante tranquillo from Sonata III in A Major(1845)
At last closing an interregnum in major organ composition following the death of Johann Sebastian Bach in 1750, Mendelssohn’s Six Sonatas for Organ appeared in print in London, Leipzig, Milan, and Paris in September 1845. Following a most noble processional march, Mendelssohn weaves the somber tune of Martin Luther’s great chorale Aus tiefer Not (a paraphrase of Psalm 130 : From deepest woe I cry to thee) into the inner fugal sections of the first movement of Sonata 3. The march returns triumphantly in response. The ensuing movement bespeaks a quiet calm.
Cocker: Tuba Tune
This unabashed tune by Norman Cocker, once organist of Manchester Cathedral in England, allows the tuba mirabilis of the solo division, and the crowning tuba major, the newest rank of the Alexander Memorial organ, the chance to sing forth.
Halley: Outer Hebrides, A Fantasia on Three Traditional Celtic Melodies (2000)
Evocative of the dramatic terrain of the islands off the west coast of Scotland, this composition evolved from an improvisation on three Celtic folk tunes by Paul Halley, member of the Paul Winter Consort and former organist and choirmaster of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.
Demessieux: Te Deum Opus 11 (1958)
Born in 1921 in Montpellier, France, Jeanne Demessieux served as organist of the Eglise du Saint-Espritin Paris from 1933 until 1962 when she assumed the organist post at the Eglise de la Madeleinein Paris, where Saint-Saëns and Fauré were among her predecessors. In over 700 recitals, Demessieux dazzled audiences in Europe and the United States with her brilliant improvisations, eccentric interpretations, and prodigious technique which she managed shod in her legendary silver Louis XV heels. The second of Demessieux’s three American tours concluded in 1955 with a recital at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in New York City. The fiery state trumpet of the cathedral’s organ inspired Demessieux to compose this dramatic setting of the Te Deum in which the great trinitarian hymn of thanksgiving is declaimed upon the organ’s most noble rank of pipes.