Organ Music At Colloquium XXII

Below is a preview.  There’s still time to register for the Sacred Music Colloquium if you want to be there to experience this great repertoire live.

Tuesday, June 26, 5:15 pm Mass
Jonathan Ryan, organist

Likely dating from the end of Bach’s Weimar period as court organist (1708-1717), the somber Fantasy & Fugue in C Minor, BWV 537 represents a growth in Bach’s free-form composition to include works of more poignancy than virtuosity.  Indeed, the opening exclamatio figure of an ascending minor sixth that forms the imitative basis for the Fantasy yields a work of extraordinary surprises and highly forward-looking harmonies.  The notable chromaticism of the Fantasy gives way to an exclusively chromatic secondary theme in the Fugue, heard first in the middle “B” section, and then in combination with the declamatory primary theme.

Also from the Weimar years, but around 1710, the Pièce d’Orgue, BWV 572, also termed “Preludio” and “Fantasie,” stands as a unique work in the Baroque organ repertoire.  Not paired with a fugue, this étude in harmony consists of three sections, Très vitement-Gravement-Lentement, and perhaps owes its French title to the weighty middle Gravement section whose nearly endless deceptive cadences and chromaticism closely resemble the Grand Jeu movements of the French Baroque.

Thursday, June 28, 5:15 pm Mass
Ann Labounsky, organist

Like Nicolas DeGrigny, Jean  Titelouze (1562-1633), spent most of his life outside of Paris and the court life in the smaller town of Rouen in Normandy where he was a priest and organist of the Cathedral . His entire opus comprises variations on eleven familiar Gregorian chant hymns (1624) and Magnificat settings (1626) which were performed in alternation between the choir and the organ.  The style is exemplary of the vocal renaissance period yet idiomatic for the organ with well defined voice-leading and pedal parts that employ strict imitation and canon.  Unlike his successors such as Couperin and DeGrigny, he was not influenced by the French court dances such as the minuet and gigue.

Friday, June 29, 5:15 pm Mass
Jonathan Ryan, organist

Eight years after completing his Second Symphony, Vierne, in the summer of 1911, returned to writing the Third of his Six Organ Symphonies.  Demonstrating Vierne’s stylistic development at the time, the Troisième Symphonie in F-sharp Minor is noted for its comparatively compact yet memorable nature.  Perhaps the emotional center of the work, the fourth of five movements, the sublime Adagio, hearkens back to César Franck in its soaring yet meditative melody, highly chromatic harmony, and frequently vague rhythm.  The Finale, true to organ-symphony form, launches immediately as a quintessential, fiery toccata with its first, rhythmically charged theme heard at the outset surrounded by a restless accompaniment.  The second theme, by contrast, is more lyrical, but seems unable to achieve any true lyricism in its turbulent surroundings.  The first theme ultimately brings the movement to a thrilling conclusion in F-sharp Major.

Saturday, June 30, 11:00 am Mass
Doug O’Neil, organist

Marcel Dupré was famous for performing organ concerts throught the world, but also left a legacy of music suitable for the church. He composed Offrande à la Vierge (Offering to the Virgin) in 1944. The third movement is titled “Virgo mediatrix” and refers to Mary’s traditional role in the church as a mediator in salvation.

Charles Tournemire, unlike many of his contemporaries, concentrated his life’s work principally on music for the liturgy, culminating in his massive organ cycle L’Orgue Mystique for the liturgical year, specifically for use during the Mass, and almost entirely based on plainchant. Tournemire was also perhaps the first great organ improviser of the 20th century, and made many 78-RPM recordings of this art. His student Maurice Duruflé later transcribed five of these improvisations, selecting two free improvisations, and three based on plainchant: the hymn “Te Deum laudamus,” the Easter sequence “Victimae paschali laudes,” and this piece on the Marian hymn “Ave maris stella.” It is the legacy of a great musician fully and humbly devoted to his work for the church.

Sunday, July 1, 11:00 am Mass
Horst Buchholz, organist

Seemingly preceding the 20th-century minimalist movement by centuries, a chaconne centers itself around comparatively slim musical material, namely, a repeating harmonic progression, to create a series of continuous variations.  One of Buxtehude’s three “ostinato” organ works, the Chaconne in C Minor utilizes a four-measure harmonic progression to yield a piece of extraordinary variety, intimacy, and drama, perhaps giving just insight to J.S. Bach’s captivation with the North German Baroque master.