Louis Vierne—Kyrie (Messe Solennelle)
Max Reger—Two Pieces:
Benedictus, Op. 59, No. 8
Toccata, Op. 59, No. 3
John Huston—Psalm Prelude: “By the Waters of Babylon”
Paul de Maleingreau—Symphony of the Mystic Lamb:
Robert Hebble—Festival Fanfare (2008)
Sigfrid Karg-Elert—Symphonic Chorale: “Abide, O Dearest Jesus”
Leo Sowerby—Requiescat in Pace
Richard Purvis—Partita on “Christ ist Erstanden”
KYRIE (Messe Solennelle)—Louis Vierne (1870-1937)
The compositions of Louis Vierne were strongly influenced by his teachers César Franck and Charles-Marie Widor. These three composers are well known for their significant contributions to French organ literature in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Vierne’s Messe Solennelle was begun in 1899 and completed in 1900, the year he was appointed organist of Notre Dame in Paris. It was dedicated to his organist/composer friend Théodore Dubois and originally scored for four-part mixed choir, organ and orchestra. Because many of the churches in Paris and cathedrals throughout France had two organs, but rarely had access to an orchestra, Widor suggested the Messe would find more use if the orchestral part was replaced by a second organ: the Grande Orgue situated high in the West end of the churches and cathedrals . The work was premiered in Saint-Sulpice in 1901 with Widor and Vierne playing the two organs. The opening Kyrie can also be an effective organ solo as arranged here from the full score by the performer. The piece is by turns majestic, prayerful and exulting.
TWO PIECES—Max Reger (1873-1916)
Benedictus, Op. 59, No. 8
Toccata, Op. 59, No. 3
These are two of the most popular works of a prodigious composer for the organ. They belong to a group of twelve pieces composed during a two week period in mid 1901 in the composer’s home town of Weiden, Germany, where he had gone following a physical collapse in 1898. All of his major organ works, plus a large amount of music in other mediums, were composed during this three year period. It is possible that he intended the beautiful Benedictus to be played during an organ mass, as were the Kyrie, Gloria and Te Deum, also part of Opus 59. The Toccata is typical of Reger’s flamboyant writing, which often shows the influence of Franz Liszt.
PSALM PRELUDE—“By the Waters of Babylon” —John Huston (1915-1975)
American composer John Huston was prominent in the church and temple music scenes in New York City in the middle of the 20th century. He published several anthems and three works for organ. In this atmospheric composition, reminiscent of similar psalm treatments by British composer Herbert Howells, he presents an aural picture of the first six verses of Psalm 137.
SYMPHONY OF THE MYSTIC LAMB—Paul de Maleingreau (1887-1956)
The Symphonie de l’Agneau Mystique, Opus 24, is the third and last in Maleingreau’s “Cathedral Series” for organ. His stated inspiration was the altar triptych by the Flemish painters Hubert and Jan Van Eyck and is dedicated to their memory. The painting was completed in 1432, and can still be seen in St. Baaf’s Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. Although not as popular as Maleingreau’s Symphonie de la Passion, there appears to be renewed interest in this work in the early 21st century.
Images (subtitled Miles Christi – Doctores – Martyres) is a musical portrayal of a great procession of the many and diverse characters seen in the first panel of the painting. There are two major themes , the first stately and glorious, the second more lyrical. Following is a chaotic section of chromatic writing suggestive of dissenters seen in the painting. The two main themes return with the full power of the organ, after which the registration is gradually reduced to symbolize the procession disappearing in the distance and approaching the throne of God in reverence.
MEDITATION—Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986)
Maurice Durufle’s passion for excellence and his self criticism resulted in only six of his works for organ being published in his lifetime. Although technically and musically demanding, they have become among the most popular in the French repertoire.
Duruflé was organist for over 50 years at St. Etienne-du-Mont in Paris. In 1964 he composed the short Méditation for use in the Mass. The work was published posthumously in 2001. The plainsong-like melody was later used (1966) in the opening of the Agnus Dei section of hisMesse “Cum jubilo” for orchestra (or organ) and male voices.
FESTIVE FANFARE (2008)—Robert Hebble (b. 1934)
The published works of this composer are many and diverse, and popular with both church organists and recitalists throughout America and abroad. Although the Redlands organ does not have a high-pressure reed stop to add to the excitement of the piece, the joyful mood created by the freshness of the rhythmic and harmonic writing is not diminished. (The Solo Tuba Mirabilis, only a moderate voice in this organ, is used in the middle section,)
SYMPHONIC CHORALE—“Abide, O Dearest Jesus”—Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
This is the first of a set of three “Symphonic Chorales”, Opus 87, published in 1913. The majority of Karg-Elert’s many works, like those of his contemporary Max Reger, are filled with color, drama, and more notes than can often be heard no matter how faithful a performer is to the score. Each composer relied heavily on well-known chorales of the day as inspiration for a vast number of works both small and monumental. Here the chorale is simply stated (with echo effects) before continuing with several varied sections depicting different stanzas and words of the hymn: grace light, peace, joy and majesty. Karg-Elert took full advantage of the capability of the “symphonic” organs of the day to provide new colors, wide dynamic ranges and dramatic effects.
REQUIESCAT IN PACE—Leo Sowerby (1895-1968)
This early work (1920) by one of the most distinguished 20th century composers, was composed as a tribute to the American soldiers who gave their lives for their country
in World War I. The music begins quietly in a mournful and reflective mood. The first three pedal notes (E, A, B) are heard prominently in thematic material throughout the work (twice on chimes). The second section of the piece, again introduced by the three note group, builds to a tremendous climax heralded by a single low A Pedal note on the full power of the organ. After the sound gradually subsides, the music ends in a quiet and peaceful mood.
PARTITA ON “CHRIST IST ERSTANDEN”—Richard Purvis (1913-1994)
Prelude - Christ the Lord is risen again.
Canzone - Now He bids us tell abroad how the lost may be restored.
Capriccio - We, too, sing for joy and shout Alleluia!
Lento - He who bore all pain and loss comfortless upon the cross
Toccata - He who gave for us His life, who for us endured the strife is our Paschal Lamb today. Alleluia!
This group of pieces is unique among the writings of Richard Purvis. It was composed for and dedicated to E. Power Biggs, who suggested to Purvis that he “compose something” for the “classical” organ as opposed to the plethora of his works for “romantic organ.”
The Partita was composed in 1951 and played by Biggs on one of his Sunday broadcasts from the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University. Purvis states that “though the registration suggested is for an instrument of [“classical”] type, the work will lend itself to performance on any organ worthy of the name.” It truly does “lend itself” well on the Redlands “romantic” organ.