Organ Notes for Sunday, Sept 25

by Dr. Dennis Keene

At the Prelude (10:45 am):
 
Praeludium circulare
Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937)
(from Symphonie II)
 
It’s called a circular prelude because the melody just keeps coming back, over and over again, and that’s the “form” of the piece. I chose this work because it is a perfect vehicle for the French 19th century Fonds 8′. In that Romantic, symphonic era, the 8′ foundation tone included all the foundation stops the organ had – montres, flutes, gambes (strings) – all coupled together. This French Romantic Fonds timbre is one of the glories of the organ world: rich, warm, and singing! And this timbre on our organ is absolutely magnificent. Notice how, without pushing, it just fills the church with this gorgeous warm tone (as if the cello section of the Philadelphia orchestra were here!) Widor was the organist at St. Sulpice in Paris for over 60 years, and became Professor of Organ at the Paris Conservatoire upon the death of César Franck. He taught, among others, Louis Vierne and Marcel Dupré.
 
Romance (Symphonie IV)
Louis Vierne (1870-1937)
 
     Louis Vierne was the famous blind organist of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris from 1900-1937. He died from a massive heart attack at the console of his beloved cathedral organ during an organ recital, with his protégé, Maurice Duruflé, at his side. His six organ symphonies represent the summit of symphonic composition for the organ in France. The Romance from his fourth symphony is tender, vulnerable, and deeply felt. The outer sections make use of the beautiful Flûte traversière of the Grand-Orgue, accompanied by the strings of the Grand-Récit. The middle section – expressing doubts and the ups and downs of life – is played on the foundation stops. The piece ends with enormous tenderness.
 
 
At the Postlude:
 
We all believe in One God (Credo)
Johann Sebastian Bach
 
This is the large-scale Credo from Bach’s organ Mass in his Clavierübung, Part III. The contrapuntal, fugal manual parts continue non-stop throughout the piece, while the pedal only comes in every so often with an ascending step-wise theme, representing the steadfast belief the faithful have. The music is bold and constantly fascinating, and, at the same time, the piece never loses this solid, grounded aspect.  I play the work on the large Plenum (Principal chorus) of the organ.