3 - 3 - 33 was composed for the inaugural concert of the Craighead-Saunders Organ. This work in three parts was inspired by and dedicated to the three professors of the Eastman School of Music’s Organ Department: Hans Davidsson, William Porter, and David Higgs. The first section features all 33 speaking stops being drawn gradually. After full organ is reached, the Bebny (drum) is heard as a bridge to the lyrical second section. Descending manual clusters play freely between the two manuals at 8’ pitch, including the Vox Humana. Beneath them a duet of slowly descending sixths spans the full compass of the pedal board at 8’ pitch. This section closes with the drawing of the Gwiazdy (stars). Not only do these bells introduce the third section, but their pitches also supply the tonal material for the concluding toccata. The Vox Campanarum (Glockenspiel) is also used to highlight the introductory motive and to color more fully the arpeggiation.
The Chorale Partita on Sei gegrüßet, Jesu, gütig, BWV 768, is Johann Sebastian Bach’s only set of chorale variations with pedal obbligato, and the one with the most variety of meter. It is uncertain as to whether or not this genre had a specific use: the variations could have been used in church services or intended for home use on the clavichord. If for liturgical use, then they could have served as music during communion, organ verses alternating with hymn verses sung by the congregation, or perhaps as preludes to hymns. If for the home, then it would seem they kept a spirit of personal prayer and contemplation. Certainly these variations are inspiring on both instruments, and the remarkable sensitivity of the Craighead-Saunders Organ’s action rewards the organist for practicing them on the clavichord first, as Bach and his pupils would have done.
Just as the Casparini organ represents a blend of language expression (a central-German organ-building tradition with stop names in Polish, and residing in Lithuania) the “Sei gegrüßet” variations speak the language of baroque musical-rhetorical figures. The organist is able to choose registrations that fit the Affekt of, for example, the figura suspirans of the fourth variation, or the style brisé of the second. Bach, like Georg Böhm and Johann Pachelbel, infused chorale figuration with international flair. Partita III features an Italian violin solo; var. X is a Sarabande, and var. V resembles a basse de trompette ou de cromhorne. Although a standard keyboard improvisational technique, the Bicinium of the very first variation is so elegant that it could very well appear as an aria for viola da gamba and soprano in one of Bach’s own cantatas.
Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach’s favorite instrument was the clavichord because it is an excellent tool for expressing the empfindsamer Stil, or sensitive style popular in literature, poetry, and music of his time. His organ sonatas, like the Sonata in F Major, Wq 70/3 featured here, were written for a new class of musicians, the connoisseur, and thus quite fashionably display the sentimental and the Sturm und Drang. As Vilnius was part of Prussia during this time, C. P. E. Bach composed his organ sonatas for Princess Amalie of Prussia (sister to Friedrich the Great) to play on her house organ. Her instrument, like the Casparini, was abundant in 8-foot stops that, perhaps more importantly than distinguishing forte from piano, provide a variety of sound character. This is essential for conveying the spirit of these organ sonatas, especially considering that C. P. E. wrote several character “portraits” that musically convey his acquaintances’ personalities.
The Trio a 2 Claviere e Pedale by Johann Ludwig Krebs, combined with the resources of the Craighead-Saunders Organ, provides an opportunity for the practical application of original registration instructions from a significant eighteenth-century collection of organ chorales, including settings for two manuals and pedal, and trios. In his Harmonische Seelenlust (1733–1736), Georg Friedrich Kauffmann suggested a selective choice of rather few stops, primarily those of 8-foot pitch with some additions of 4-foot and occasionally 16-foot. Whereas on twentieth-century instruments trios have often been played with mutations and high-pitched ranks, on the Craighead-Saunders Organ one is able to capture the spirit of classical-era chamber music with equal-pitched yet different-colored foundation stops. Thus, the eighteenth-century organ, like all the arts of that time, encompassed both intimacy and grandeur.
Johann Christian Kittel wrote quite a substantial treatise, Der angehende praktische Organist (1801–1808), that teaches the organist everything from how to realize a bass line with good voice-leading, to harmonizing a chorale, to improvising preludes. Although most of the instructions are firmly rooted in the contrapuntal tradition, Kittel’s Praeludium VII in E-flat Major and Praeludium in E-flat Minor illustrate the galant style. He was born and died the exact same years as Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), and the preludes on this recording connect C. P. E. Bach’s character style to the later, Viennese classical school.
Once considered a dark age for the organ art, the vibrant organ culture between the death of J. S. Bach and Mendelssohn’s organ sonatas of 1845 is perfectly suited to the Craighead-Saunders Organ. In his very first, the Sonata No. 1, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy revived the old, contrapuntal style and presented completely new modes of organ composition.
The first movement participates in the Bach revival by exploiting the contrapuntal potential of the organist and by including the chorale “Was mein Gott will, das g’scheh allzeit” (“What my God wants, may it always happen”). Mendelssohn, however, did not treat the chorale melody contrapuntally as Bach might have; rather, he used a more romantic approach wherein the chorale sounds softly in simple homophony on a second manual. In the style of a dramatic oratorio movement, the chorale plays in dialogue with the serious, fortissimo fugal writing.
Mendelssohn set the second movement in a contemporary idiom: a triple-meter adagio that could have been borrowed from the “Songs without Words.” Its innocent lyricism is typical of the early Romantic aria. Whereas this movement represents the current fashion, the third movement is revolutionary. Apart from transcriptions of instrumental music (such as Bach’s versions of Italian concertos) and free-work passages in operatic style, never before was such a full-movement recitative written for the organ. Mendelssohn did not keep from referring to his German heritage, however, for he also treats motives of the recitative in canon, thereby making this movement simultaneously new and old.
The final movement is essentially a toccata. Written-out tenuti create dynamic crescendos. Whereas the third movement was both old and new, this movement is old and futuristic. Certainly Mendelssohn was aware of the great toccata tradition in organ improvisation, but the writing here—fast manual figures over a slow-moving pedal line, broken up by virtuosic pedal solos—evokes French Romantic toccatas that did not appear until the later nineteenth century.
Although Wm. A Little has shown how the four movements of Sonata I were not necessarily written chronologically, or originally intended to be grouped together (see Mendelssohn and the Organ, Oxford University Press, 2010), it is a striking coincidence that this sonata has four movements and the hymn quoted, “Was mein Gott will, das g’scheh allzeit,” has only four verses. Certainly only the first movement quotes the sixteenth-century chorale tune, and there is no historical evidence that Mendelssohn intended to paint the text of each stanza, but the similarities between musical Affekt and text are irresistible to consider.
The first verse depicts a fair, just God who both assists and punishes, a typical Old Testament presentation of omnipotence. It seems appropriate, then, that Mendelssohn’s first movement would be serioso and contrapuntal. The second stanza paints the picture of the New Testament Christ as shepherd. He “counts our individual hairs,” comforts us, and watches over us. Mendelssohn’s setting is, likewise, a pastoral aria. The opening, descending-fifth motive of the recitative is an extreme change of character, but the hymn’s third verse does open with “Now must I, a sinner from this world!” It seems highly appropriate that such an awareness of the human, flawed self would be set as a plaintive and stormy recitative. The last seven measures of the recitative consist of rising, four-voice chords that lead to the dominant of the toccata’s F major. Their character departs from the previous drama of the recitative, but so does the last sentence of the third stanza: “You, holy God, have overcome for me sin, hell, and death.” Perhaps the chromatically rising bass line depicts our hope in salvation. If so, then the final, exuberant toccata represents the final words of the entire hymn: “I say joyfully: Amen!”
Mendelssohn’s first Sonata, as a whole, can be seen as the aural equivalent of the Craighead-Saunders Organ’s threefold nature. Both the sounding music and the physical instrument represent tradition, contemporary fashion, and innovation.
Toccata and Lament, by the German composer and organist, Martin Herchenröder, was commissioned by Hans Davidsson for the inauguration of the Craighead-Saunders Organ and is dedicated to him. Herchenröder’s composition reflects the dual historical and geographical identity of the instrument in Rochester—an organ of our time that reproduces the sound world of a time hundreds of years ago and a location thousands of miles away. The music portrays this tension between centuries and the distance between the continents. It explores a wide variety of sonorities, ranging from tonal chords to extremely dissonant clusters. This eclecticism creates unexpected connections between the two time periods: the baroque recitative and affect of pain, for example, are similar to the aesthetic of twentieth-century expressionism. Two central lament sections refer to Lithuania’s centuries of occupation and the suffering of the Baltic countries during World War II. The Casparini organ, which served as a model for the Craighead-Saunders Organ in Rochester, was the only instrument by its builder to survive.
— by Christopher Petit
"3-3-33" and "Toccata and Lament", by their respective composers.