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Watjen Concert Organ (Seattle Symphony Hall) / Carole Terry
Carole Terry plays the Watjen Concert Organ


 
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Product Code: LRCD-1105
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Program and Notes
 
Carole Terry plays the Watjen Concert Organ
Benaroya Hall—Seattle, WA
C. B. Fisk, Opus 114


The first solo recording of the Watjen Concert Organ at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall! Carole Terry puts the new Fisk organ through its paces in a varied program of works by Mendelssohn, Sweelinck, Bach, Albright, Stanley, Schumann, Vierne and Widor.

“Carole Terry is a musician's musician who plays with great elegance, but also, when needed, with fire.” — THE AMERICAN ORGANIST
Program Notes

1-3
Allegro, Chorale, and Fugue
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
08:01

4

Unter den linden grüne

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)

05:47

5

Sweet Sixteenth, a Rag for Organ

William Albright (1944-1998)

04:37

6-7

Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor, BWV 582

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

13:32

8

Trumpet Tune

John Stanley (1712-1786)

04:09

9

Sketch No. 4 in D-flat Major

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

03:06

10

Etude in A-flat

Schumann

04:18

11

Carillon de Westminster from Pièces de fantasie

Louis Vierne (1870-1937)

07:07

 

From Symphony No. 5

Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937)

22:50

12

I. Allegro Vivace

13

IV. Adagio

14

V. Toccata

TOTAL TIME:

73:51




Like Mozart, Brahms, and Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) wrote notable music for the organ, including sonatas, preludes and fugues, and numerous smaller pieces. His Allegro, Chorale, and Fugue combine into one long composition elements usually broken by Mendelssohn into separate movements. The Allegro is written in the form of an improvisation, an ancient organist tradition, which Mendelssohn practiced while visiting and playing at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. The middle section of the work, played using the Watjen organ’s reed stops in an English manner, is an original theme in “chorale” style. The broad, sweeping fugue subject is lyrical and romantic.

Organist of the famed Oude Kerk of Amsterdam, and outstanding teacher and composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) gained the reputation of being “a maker of German organists.” His many students took home with them his musical style and ideas, which bridge the Renaissance and early Baroque periods. Unrestrained by his own restrictive religious musical tradition, Sweelinck freely used the chorale tunes of his German students in his compositions, which also included numerous toccatas, fantasies, and variation sets based on secular themes—of which Onder een linde groen is a joyous example. The tune, originally English, was popular in the Holland of Sweelinck’s time. The variations offer multiple opportunities to display the variety and beauty of the many flute and reed stops of the Watjen organ.

William Albright (1944-1998) was an American pianist, organist, and prize-winning composer. He studied composition with Ross Lee Finney and  George Rochberg, and taught for many years at the University of Michigan. His compositions took many forms, and are known for their humor. He is not above puns, both musical and written—witness the title of this work—as well as witty directions to the performer. Sweet Sixteenths is a parody of a rag—a uniquely American form of syncopated, blues-derived harmonies. Albright’s registration suggestions are meant to mimic the sounds of a “music hall” organ, a sound that is successful on the Watjen.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s (1685-1750) monumental Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor, BWV 582, is a set of twenty variations on an eight-bar theme. A passacaglia is a slow French dance form featuring a recurring tune, usually played in the lower (pedal) register. Bach stretches this form to include the theme in the middle and upper registers at times, and embellishes the theme rhythmically as the piece progresses. The double fugue is unusual for using the Passacaglia’s (by now very familiar) theme as one of its two subjects. The sound combinations heard here exemplify the Watjen organ’s principle choruses—timbres unique to an organ and not intended to mimic the sound of any other instrument.

John Stanley (1712-1786), a famous English organist and composer, was Master of the King’s Band and organist of the Chapel Royal during the reigns of Kings George the First and the Second. In the English prayer book, the word “voluntary” refers to any piece of instrumental music that could be played at a specified place in the order of worship. Following the direction “a voluntary may be played here,” the organist was free to improvise or to play a composition in a variety of forms, including multi-movement works that featured a solo stop in the second movement. One popular form of voluntary featured the trumpet stop of the organ in the second movement, and these were commonly called Trumpet Tunes or Trumpet Voluntaries. Stanley’s Trumpet Tune is a famous example—the 8' tuba stop is used here for the brilliant melody.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) was a great admirer of J. S. Bach, as were many early romantic composers. After his mental breakdown in 1844, he began composing contrapuntal music on his pedal piano—an instrument with its own pedalboard similar to that of an organ and sounding an octave below standard piano pitch. According to some, his wife Clara encouraged this, hoping that his focus upon the strict musical form might help him to recover. Schumann persuaded Mendelssohn to institute classes in pedal piano at the Leipzig Conservatory and wrote two collections of works for the instrument: the Studien, op. 56 and Skizzen, op. 58. The first edition of these pieces also indicated that three or four hands could play them. As Schumann used the pedal piano to practice organ music, it is also appropriate to perform these pieces on that instrument.

The sketches are most like romantic character pieces in contrast to the strict contrapuntal writing of the canons. The Sketch No. 4 in D-flat, op. 58, is in ‘ABA’ form, juxtaposing a scherzo-like ‘A’ subject with the lyrical minor melody of the ‘B’ section. The Etude in A-flat features a “pianistic” accompaniment with a melody presented on the Flute Harmonique of the Watjen Concert Organ; a canon effect is enhanced by the slightly differing registrations played by each hand.

Louis Vierne (1870-1937), for many years the organist at Notre Dame de Paris, wrote prolifically for the organ and toured widely as a performer. Regarded as the outstanding organ symphonist of the early twentieth century, he was influenced by Franck and Debussy, and his six organ symphonies are standards of the repertoire. One of many shorter descriptive compositions from his Pièces de fantasie written for friends, students, and colleagues in Europe, England, and America, Carillon de Westminster is dedicated to the famous English organ builder Henry Willis. Its instantly recognizable theme is the chime of Westminster’s “Big Ben” clock tower, accompanied by a motif suggesting clocklike ticking.

The “symphonic school” of nineteenth-century French organ composition is well represented by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) who, like Vierne, was a student of Franck. As are many of the works of those composers, Widor’s organ symphonies are “symphonic” indeed: mostly secular works arranged in multiple movements, they often employ contrasting groups of sounds that bring to mind various sections of an orchestra, and call for the continuous variations in dynamics easily produced by orchestral instruments. Such capabilities were all but unavailable to the organist until the innovations of the French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, whose company built many famous instruments from 1840 to 1900, including those at Notre Dame and St. Sulpice in Paris. Cavaillé-Coll’s use of swell devices and couplers made crescendos and diminuendos much easier for the organist to achieve, and the use of “ventils” (allowing the addition of an entire group of sounds instantly) made the passage of musical statements from one stop combination to another far more facile. All of this had to be accomplished mechanically, adding greatly to the size and complexity of these instruments.

The three movements of Widor’s Symphony No. 5 on this recording aptly demonstrate the French symphonic tradition, and the Watjen Concert Organ is admirably suited to this style, with its large palette of French-sounding stops and its unending choice of stop combinations (thanks to the modern electric relay). The first movement, in three sections, begins with a long theme and three variations. A slow middle section, featuring a second theme, is followed by a fantasy-like development of the first. The fourth movement features a “cantabile” melody played on a pedal 4-foot flute stop. The often-heard fifth movement, a “perpetuum mobile,” is a favorite of wedding parties everywhere.

— CAROLE TERRY


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