From the GROUND up

From the GROUND up
David Hill, Peterborough Cathedral organ
Regent REGCD539
. 67’48

From The Ground Up

There is more to this recording than a ‘mere’ display of 20th-century British organ music, most based on a ground bass, usually in its particular incarnation as a Passacaglia, played on a grand English cathedral organ by one of England’s most distinguished organists. But that alone is enough to recommend the recording. It encompasses a wide range of music styles, generally influenced by German organ composers, dating from 1910 to the present day, together with a lovely little contrasting contribution from Orlando Gibbons, from the early 17th-century. Two major gems of the repertoire and a substantial new piece are balanced by a sequence of short pieces.

Continue reading

Antegnati: 12 Ricercari

Antegnati: 12 Ricercari
Federico del Sordo, organ, harpsichord and clavichord
Brilliant Classics, 95628. 58’08

Cover Antegnati: 12 Ricercari

Costanzo Antegnati (1549-1624) is the best-known of a family of distinguished organ builders in Northern Italy that lasted from the early 15th to the late 17th-century. He worked with his father on the 1582 organ in San Giuseppe, Brescia, at one time, one of the most famous in the world. Costanzo was organist at the Brescia cathedral from 1584 to 1619. The most famous of his few surviving organs (from 1588) is in the church of St. Nicholas in Almenno San Salvatore, Bergamo. His 1595 treatise L’arte organica was republished in 1608 with these 12 Ricercars added to the technical details of 144 organs built by his family, information on organ tuning and advice on registration. Continue reading

Solarium

Maxime Denuc: Solarium
Cindy Castillo, organ
VLEKD31   94’36

Solarium is a piece for organ, first performed by Cindy Castello in l’église du Gesu, Toulouse during the 2019 Électro Alternativ festival. It is an hour-and-a-half organ piece intended for “… that period of slack that follows the frenzy of a techno-fuelled night” and took place at 10am on a Sunday morning as an “after-party”. I am not sure that many organists get up to frenzied techno-fuelled nights, but there is much here for organists to appreciate, not least the extraordinary sounds that a traditional pipe organ can produce, as well as anybody interested in the techno world of ambient minimalist music. Continue reading

Bach: Orgelbüchlein

Bach: Orgelbüchlein
Stephen Farr
1724-30 Trost organ, of Waltershausen, Germany.
Resonus RES10259. 79’02

Bach’s Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book) is one of the most extraordinary of all Bach’s organ collections and compositions. At first sight, it a simple collection of chorale preludes intended to introduce the sung chorales in the Lutheran services. Bach also intended it as a way “in which a beginning organist receives instruction on performing a chorale in a multitude of ways while achieving mastery in the study of the pedal”. But the sequence of 45 chorales, and the tantalising sight of 119 potential chorales for which only the title and an empty page exists, are a sum of a great deal more than a sum of the parts, leading to Albert Schweitzer’s description of it as “one of the greatest events in all music.”.    Continue reading

Bach Organ Works Vol IV

JS Bach: Organ Works Vol IV
Robert Quinney
Coro COR16132. 77’31

J.S. Bach: Organ Works Volume 4 album cover showing detail of a stained glass window in reds, oranges and yellows

For the third time in this series, currently of four CDs, Robert Quinney returns to the influential 1976 Metzler organ in Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge. It was built into the 1694 ‘Father’ Bernard Smith case, and retains several of Smith’s pipes in the principal chorus. The new organ was an early example of the North German Baroque-influenced organ style that had hitherto largely avoided the UK. Although it lacks the historical interest of restored organs of Bach’s time in Germany, it remains a suitable UK organ for Bach performance.  Continue reading

Gonzalo de Baena: Art de Tanger

Art de Tanger
Gonzalo de Baena’s New keyboard method (1540)
Bruno Forst, organ
Brilliant Classics 95618. 2CDs 61’21+73’55

Gonzalo de Baena (c1480-1540+) was a Castillian musician in the service of the King of Portugal. His Arte novamente inventada pera aprender a tãger (New method for learning to play) was printed under royal charter, but was never published. It was the first book of keyboard music printed on the Iberian Peninsula. Its discovery (by Alejandro Iglesias) was announced in 1992, having been previously incorrectly catalogued and titled in Madrid’s Biblioteca del Palacio Real. Continue reading

Early Music Day (at home): 7:30pm

Early Music Day
Stay at Home Edition

Happy Birthday, J S Bach!

Click the links below to take you to publically available videos of the pieces that we would have performed during the informal 45′ afternoon Bach organ and solo instrument recitals that would have taken place in London’s St Giles-in-the-Fields on Early Music Day at 4, 5 & 6pm. This is the programme for the final 7:30pm concert, given by

Art of Moog & Andrew Benson-Wilson (organ) 

The poster for the series of events can be found here, as amended after the earlier pull out of Art of Moog because of the Coronavirus. Their 7:30pm evening concert with the historic St Giles-in-the-Fields organ is recreated with video links although sadly, none will have the combined Art of Moog and pipe organ. All the organ pieces below would have been combined with the Art of Moog instrumentalists.

An introduction to the Art of Moog
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUJ8XSBHYnE

Art of Moog: Live at Kings Place – Selections
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_B3Y1tXAhw

Art of Fugue Contrapunctus 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5KjVEYzYAw
Benjamin Alard
l’église d’Arques-la-Bataille

Art of Fugue Contrapunctus 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0HeE4MF01g&list=PL6cXnOI-FfSgtlLkIE5D1nXf660II0Pdd&index=8&t=0s
Glenn Gould

Adagio from The Easter Oratorio BWV 249
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CklCJk6kNFg
Art of Moog

Prelude in E minor
https://youtu.be/4_5efQbjybk
Art of Moog

Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott, BWV 721
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3CNS2iK790
Ton Koopman
1643 Hans Heinrich Bader organ, St. Walburgiskerk, Zutphen

Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPMeBNU9fes
Wolfgang Zerer

Christ lag in Todesbanden
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqwgeKOgezg
Wolfgang Zerer

Adagio from the viola da gamba sonata BWV 1029
https://youtu.be/3eAzorClu78
Art of Moog

Toccata D Moll BWV 565
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xeqQo7bCvE
Jacques van Oortmerssen
1992 Glauco Ghilardi organ: S. Maria Assunta, Smarano

These concerts were to have been given in aid of the
Royal Society of Musicians
.

If you are willing to support this important musical charity, you can donate directly via this link https://www.rsmgb.org/fundraising/.  UK taxpayers can claim GiftAid. Please mention “Early Music Day” in the comments section of your donation.

#earlymusicday

Early Music Day (at home): 6pm

Early Music Day
Stay at Home Edition

Happy Birthday, J S Bach!

Click the links below to take you to publically available videos of the pieces that we would have performed during the informal 45′ afternoon Bach organ and solo instrument recitals that would have taken place in London’s St Giles-in-the-Fields on Early Music Day at 4, 5 & 6pm. This is the programme for the third, 6pm concert, given by

Andrew Benson-Wilson (organ)
playing organ chorales from Bach’s Leipzig manuscript
Poppy Walshaw (cello)

The poster for the series of events can be found here, as amended after the earlier pull out of Art of Moog because of the Coronavirus. Their 7:30pm evening concert with the historic St Giles-in-the-Fields organ will be similarly recreated with similar video links although sadly, none will have the combined Art of Moog and pipe organ.

Allein Gott in Der Hõh sei Ehr BWV 662
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QW2J10wRT2k
Jacques van Oortmerssen

Cello Suite No.3 in C. BWV 1009
Prélude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Bourrées, Gigue
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFtZ9tQiFxM
Colin Carr

Jesus Christus, unser Heiland BWV 666
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQP-necHTK4
Bine Katrine Bryndorf

Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist BWV 667
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdBLy6VePyk
Simon Thomas Jacobs
Richards, Fowkes & Co organ, St George’s Hanover Square

These concerts were to have been given in aid of the
Royal Society of Musicians
.

If you are willing to support this important musical charity, you can donate directly via this link https://www.rsmgb.org/fundraising/.  UK taxpayers can claim GiftAid. Please mention “Early Music Day” in the comments section of your donation.

#earlymusicday

Early Music Day (at home)

Early Music Day
Stay at Home Edition

Happy Birthday, J S Bach!


Early Music Day events around Europe are cancelled because of Coronavirus, including my own concerts in St Giles-in-the-Fields.

A live broadcast from behind closed doors is not possible, so at the start time of the four concerts I will post a programme of publically available videos of the pieces that we would have performed.

The first three will reflect the informal afternoon Bach organ and solo instrument recitals which would have taken place at 4pm, 5pm & 6pm, followed by a selection of the pieces that Art of Moog and I might have played in the 7:30pm evening concert although sadly, none will have the combined Art of Moog and St Giles-in-the-Fields pipe organ.

These concerts were to have been given in aid of the
Royal Society of Musicians
.

If you are willing to support this important musical charity, you can donate directly via this link https://www.rsmgb.org/fundraising/.  UK taxpayers can claim GiftAid. Please mention “Early Music Day” in the comments section of your donation.

#earlymusicday
@earlymusicday

 

New William Drake organ at Chelsea Old Church

Celebrity Opening Concert – William Drake organ
Nathan Laube

Chelsea Old Church, 19 January 2020

Opening recitals on new organs raise several issues. The performance must, of course, be excellent in itself, regardless of the occasion. But the organ also needs to be demonstrated in a manner that future organ recitals do not need to. I have given several recitals (including, for example, at St John’s, Smith Square) where I have used little more than half of the available stops, to produce a sound that the composer might just recognise. But for an opening recital, a thorough exploration of the sounds of the new instrument is expected. If the organ is built in a specific historic style, the expectation may be that the music of that period dominates. But many organs are built in an eclectic style, capable, in theory, of coping with music from several different historical periods. Continue reading

CANCELLED. Happy Birthday, J S Bach!

Early Music Day
Saturday 21 March 2020

In light of the latest announcement by the UK Government, I am sadly having to cancel all of these concerts. Thank you to all have shown an interest, and particularly to the musicians who were lined up to perform. It is far to soon to think of when, or if, to re-schedule any of it, but Early Music Day next year is on Sunday 21 March.

All the concerts were to have been given in aid of the
Royal Society of Musicians
.

If you are willing to support this important musical charity, you can donate directly via this link https://www.rsmgb.org/fundraising/.  UK taxpayers can claim GiftAid. Please mention “Early Music Day” in the comments section of your donation.

Happy Birthday, J S Bach!

St Giles-in-the-Fields
St Giles High Street, London WC2H 8LG
(Close to Tottenham Court Road underground)

St Giles organ

Three informal 45′ afternoon Bach organ and solo instrument recitals
including organ chorales from Bach’s Leipzig manuscript.

4pm
Fantasia supra Komm, Heiliger Heist  BWV 651
Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor   BWV 1008
Prélude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuetts, Gigue
O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig   BWV 656

5pm
Von Gott will ich nicht lassen   BWV 658
Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland   BWV 659
Partita for solo flute   BWV 1013
Allemande, Corrente, Sarabande, Bourrée angloise
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland   BWV 665

6pm
Allein Gott in Der Hõh sei Ehr    BWV 662
Cello Suite No. 3 in C   BWV 1009
Prélude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Bourrées, Gigue
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland   BWV 666
Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist   BWV 667

Special evening concert @ 7.30

AN EVENING WITH BACH

Featuring the historic St Giles-in-the-Fields organ,
with pipework dating back to Bach’s time, and solo Bach music for cello and violin.
(Free entry – donations welcomed for the Royal Society of Musicians).

The originally planned Art of Moog event had been cancelled earlier
because of the potentially high costs of a late cancellation. The Evening with Bach was a free replacement event. As it turns out, the whole church is now closed for the foreseeable future along, it seems with all CofE churches.

The organ in St Giles-in-the-Fields was originally built by George Dallam in 1678 with further work in 1699 by Christian Smith, nephew of ‘Father’ Smith. It was moved into a new organ case in the rebuilt St Giles church in 1734 by Gerard Smith the Younger. It was rebuilt in 1856 by Gray and Davison, then at the height of their fame. It was restored in 2006 by William Drake of Buckfastleigh, retaining material from 1678, 1699 and 1856. It is one of the most important historic organs in the UK. More details here.

Fugue State Films: The English Organ

The English Organ
Daniel Moult, organ, Will Fraser, director 
Fugue State Films. 4 DVDs, 3 CDs, booklet

This extraordinary project is the result of a year-long tour of forty locations in England, the USA, New Zealand and Australia. The package includes four DVDs and three CDs, amounting to around ten hours of music from the early 16th century to the present day, together with an illustrated booklet with track listings and the specifications of all the organs. They are described and played by Daniel Moult, who also provides the commentary on the first DVD, which is a documentary in three 70′ parts on the development of the English organ. The following three DVDs and the three CDs provide further musical examples and, on the DVDs, further demonstrations of all the featured organs. Continue reading

Noëls baroques à Versailles

Noëls baroques à Versailles
Gaétan Jarry, organ
Les Pages du Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles
Grandes Orgues 1710, Chapelle Royale – Versailles
Chateau de Versailles CVS025. 70’40


The third in the L’âge d’or de l’orgue français series is a seasonal offering of French Noëls from Versailles. The tradition of Parisian organists playing variations on Noëls at Christmas lasted for well over 100 years from the late 17th to the end of the 18th century. Although musically their peak was in the early years of the 18th-century, with the examples of Louis-Claude Daquin and Dandrieu, their height of popularity seems to have come at the end of the century with Claude Balbastre, when French music had become somewhat debased as the Revolution approached. Such were the crowds that turned up to hear Balbastre play at the Midnight Mass, that riot police were called. The Archbishop of Paris eventually banned such services at Balbastre’s church of Saint Roch. Continue reading

Dandrieu: Magnificats

Dandrieu: Magnificats Vol 1
Jean-Baptiste Robin
Grandes Orgues 1710, Chapelle Royale – Versailles
Chateau de Versailles CVS023. 70’51

The second in the L’âge d’or de l’orgue français series featuring the 1710 organ in the  Versaille Chapelle Royale focuses on Jean-François Dandrieu (1681-1738). From 1721, he was one of the four organists of the Chapelle Royale. He had an early introduction to Court musical life when, aged five, he played the harpsichord to the Palatine Princess Elisabeth-Charlotte of Bavaria, wife of Philippe d’Orléan, Louis XIV’s brother. He succeeded the famed Nicholas Lèbegue as organist of Saint-Merry, Paris in 1704/5. From 1733 he added to these posts the position of organist to the now-demolished St Barthélémy, a role previously held by his uncle and which after his death, was passed on to his daughter. Continue reading

Orgelbuch des Klosters St. Walburg zu Eichstätt (um 1700)

Orgelbuch des Klosters St. Walburg zu Eichstätt (um 1700)
Toccaten, Canzonen, Praeambula und Capriccio
Ed. Raimund Schächer
ISMN: 979-0-50222-381-6,  63 pages
Cornetto-Verlag, Stuttgart. CP1436

Orgelbuch des Klosters Sankt Walburg zu Eichstätt (um 1700)

This edition is based on a manuscript (now in Regensburg) that originally belonged to Sister Maria Anna Barbara Schmaus (1653-1730), a nun who entered the Benedictine Abbey of St. Walburg Eichstätt (midway between Munich and Nuremberg) until her death to 1730. Although she was the owner, she was probably not the scribe of the organ book. The composers of the pieces are unknown. The manuscript contains 182 organ pieces on 136 pages and was clearly intended for liturgical purposes in the Abbey. This edition includes 34 of the pieces, all short (one lasting just 13 bars), and of varying quality. Continue reading

Andrew Benson-Wilson: Three Westminster Abbey organists

Music-at-Hill – Midtown concerts

Friday 13 September 2019, 1:10pm

St Giles-in-the-Fields
60 St Giles High Street. London, WC2H 8LG

Andrew Benson-Wilson
plays organ music by
Three Westminster Abbey Organists
1668 John Blow; 1679 Henry Purcell;
1695 Blow re-appointed; 1708-1727 William Croft

DSCF6488.jpg

During the period from 1668 and 1708, Westminster Abbey appointed three distinguished organists, the first of which, John Blow, was the teacher of his two successors, Henry Purcell and William Croft. In 1679 John Blow stepped down from his Abbey post in favour of his talented student, Purcell, only returning on Purcell’s death in 1695. William Croft replaced John Blow after his death in 1708, having previously been organist at St Anne’s Soho and Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal. He is most famed today for his Funeral Sentences, performed at Handel’s funeral in 1759 and at every British state funeral since then.

William Drake’s reconstruction of the Dallam/Smith/England/Lincoln/Gray & Davison organ in St Giles-in-the-Fields is one of London’s most important historic musical instruments. It contains some of the oldest pipework in London, going back to the time of Blow and Purcell in the mid to late 17th century.

Organ information can be found here.
Free admission, retiring collection.
The church is just behind Centre Point/Tottenham Court Road tube station.

Prom 21: Olivier Latry

Prom 21: The Art of Transcription
Olivier Latry, organ
Royal Albert Hall, 4 August 2019

In what must be the most inept bit of programming in musical history, the BBC Proms has seen fit, for yet another year, to programme the only organ recital of the Proms at 11am on a Sunday, when most organists will be earning a pittance playing for church services. I cannot think of another instrument where the choice of a specific day and time could exclude a key part of the potential audience. That said, there was a pretty impressive audience for this concert, far more than at the previous Sunday’s evening Prom of Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles. And what a treat they had. Olivier Latry is one of the organists at Notre Dame who when not on his week’s turn of duty there has built an enviable reputation at a touring recitalist and teacher. His programme focused on the art of transcription, an aspect of organ performance that dates back to early Renaissance times but reached its peak in England in the 19th century when W T Best became Liverpool Corporation Organists (in 1855) and, over a period spanning around 40 years, gave three organ recitals a week in St George’s Hall. He was the first organist to give a recital in the Royal Albert Hall, in 1871.

Continue reading

Andrew Benson-Wilson plays Bach: influenced by Reincken

Mayfair Organ Concerts
The Grosvenor Chapel
South Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K 2PA
Tuesday 13 August 2019, 1:10

Andrew Benson-Wilson
plays music by
J S Bach
influenced by Johann Adam Reincken

WP_20150721_15_17_12_Pro.jpg

Johann Adam Reincken (1643-1722) was organist of Hamburg’s famous Katharinenkirche and a close friend of Buxtehude.  This recital is linked to a recital of his music given earlier this year at St George’s, Hanover Square. That recital included his monumental chorale fantasia on An Wasserflüssen Babylon composed around 1650. At around 20 minutes long, it the longest known piece of its type in the whole 17th century North German repertoire. It was known by Bach who, while at school in Luneburg, aged around 15 copied the entire piece out from a copy owned by Georg Böhm. It is believed that he also travelled to Hamburg to hear Reincken play. In 1720, shortly before Reincken’s death, Bach visited Hamburg and improvised a lengthy fantasia on the same chorale in homage to Reincken, who commented: “I thought that this art was dead, but I see that it lives in you”. Bach also transcribed several of Reincken’s instrumental pieces for keyboard.

This recital includes one of Bach’s Reincken transcriptions, a Toccata that is clearly influenced by Reincken’s dramatic style, and Bach’s chorale prelude on An Wasserflüssen Babylon, which includes a very obvious reference to Reincken’s chorale fantasia. It ends with Bach’s giant Fantasia in G minor, which may have been played during Bach’s 1720 visit to Hamburg. The accompanying Fugue is based on a popular Dutch tune and might have been Bach’s homage to Reincken, who was born in The Netherlands. 

Toccata in D minor  BWV 913
An Wasserflüssen Babylon BWV 653
Sonata in A minor (after Reincken
Hortus musicus) BWV 965
Fantasia in G minor BWV 542i

The organ is by William Drake
Admission is free, with a retiring collection

Andrew Benson-Wilson plays Reincken

Mayfair Organ Concerts
Andrew Benson-Wilson plays 
Johann Adam Reincken (1643-1722)
St George’s, Hanover Square, London W1S 1FX
30 April 2019 @ 1:10pm 

Toccata in G (Andreas Bach Book)
Toccata in A (Anon?)
Chorale Fantasia: An Wasserflüssen Babylon

Johann Adam Reincken was one of the most important and influential 17th-century North German organist-composers. He forms a unique link between the Sweelinck influenced organists of the earlier part of the century and JS Bach. Little is known about his life, and very few of his organ compositions survive. He was born to North German parents in Deventer in The Netherlands around 1643. An earlier supposed birthdate of 1623 is now accepted as incorrect. He moved to Hamburg in 1654, aged just 11, to study with the famed organist of the Katharinenkirche, Heinrich Scheidemann, a pupil of Sweelinck. After a brief return to Deventer, he came back to Hamburg in 1659 as Scheidemann’s assistant, replacing him as organist in 1663 on Scheidemann’s death. As was the custom of the time, he married one of Scheidemann’s daughters in 1665. He remained there for 60 years until his death in 1722. As well as his church duties, he co-founded the Hamburg Opera and was involved in the city’s musical life. He is known from two pictures dating from around 1674; the portrait painting and the now well-known ‘Musical Company’ painting by Johannes Voorhout.

Reincken. Kniller, c1674.jpg

Continue reading

Bach: Chorale Partitas

J S Bach
Chorale Partitas, BWV 766-768 & 770

Stephen Farr, organ
Resonus Classics RES10120. 55’46

Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen BWV 770
Christ, der du bist der helle Tag BWV 766
O Gott, du frommer Gott BWV 767
Sei gegrüßet, Jesu gütig BWV 768

Stephen Farr continues his series of Bach organ recordings with the four Chorale Partitas – variations sets of Lutheran chorales. None of them exists in autograph, so dating is problematical. They are almost certainly early works, possibly composed around the time Bach was at Arnstadt, or perhaps even earlier while Bach was under the influence of Georg Böhm, who Bach knew, and probably studied with while he was at school in Lüneburg. Böhm wrote many variation sets (as did Pachbel), a compositional style that goes back the Sweelinck, the Amsterdam instigator of the North German/Hamburg school of the early to mid-17th-century. It is not clear whether Bach’s examples were intended for performance during church services or, indeed, on the organ. Most are equally suitable for clavichord or harpsichord in a domestic setting. Continue reading

Wednesdays at 5.55

Wednesdays at 5.55
Organ Recitals at the Royal Festival Hall
W Harry Hoyle
Clontarf Press 2018
Hardback. 230 pages, 235x156mm, ISBN 978-1-999685706

Wednesdays at 5.55.png
For many organ music lovers, the phrase Wednesdays at 5.55 will have a particular resonance. Between 1954 and 1989, London’s Royal Festival Hall held early evening organ recitals on the influential and controversial Harrison & Harrison organ, inaugurated in 1954. During those years there were a total of 545 organ recitals given by nearly 200 international organists attracting at its peak audiences of around 1500. This record of these recitals, and the music and performers involved, is very clearly a labour of love for the author, W Harry Hoyle. The publicity blurb sums up the book well – “Drawing on the Southbank Centre archive, private paper collections and the memories of many performers, in this comprehensive and engaging book he tells the story of how the series was planned, which organists performed, the repertoire they played and how the recitals were received by the press and by the public. He also reviews the social changes that led to the ending of ‘Wednesdays at 5.55’ and the search for the best way to present the highlights of the organ repertoire on this unique instrument“. And that is exactly what it does, in an absorbing and informative read. Continue reading

Zachow: Complete Organ Works

Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow: Complete Organ Works
Chorale Settings • Chorale Partitas • Free Organ Works
144 pages  • ISMN: 979-0-001-14049-2 • Softbound
Edition Schott ED 9922

Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (1663-1712) is best known as the teacher of the young Handel in their hometown of Halle. He was organist of the principal city church, the Marienkirche, also known as the Marktkirche Unser Lieben Frauen and Liebfrauenkirche, a post held earlier in the 17th century by Samuel Scheidt.  The little 1664 organ on a gallery above the altar that Zachow and Handel certainly knew still exists. JS Bach was offered the post in succession to Zachow, but turned it down, leaving it until 1746 for his son WF Bach to eventually become the organist. Zachow’s father was from nearby Leipzig where he was town piper. His church music was criticised as being too long and complicated by the pietest clergy, who preferred something more approachable. He taught Handel violin, oboe organ, and harpsichord along with music theory. He teaching was clearly successful, as Handel became organist of the Halle Cathedral aged just 17. His later compositions show several influences from Zachow, as well as borrowings.

Continue reading

RFH International Organ Series: Renée Anne Louprette

Renée Anne Louprette, organ
Royal Festival Hall, 19 September 2018

JS Bach: Prelude and Fugue in G
Marin Marais: Suite from Alcyone (arr. Louprette)
Jehan Alain: Variations sur un thème de Clément Jannequin
Ad Wammes: Mytò
Nadia Boulanger: Improvisation from 3 Pièces
Duruflé: Suite, Op.5

The Royal Festival Hall’s ‘International Organ Series‘, most of which is made up of UK, rather than international organists, made up for that fact by replacing an indisposed UK performer with Renée Anne Louprette, an American organist who spent some of her student days in London. She has held posts in several important New York churches, alongside academic posts, and is now University Organist and Coordinator of the Organ Department at the Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Jersey.

Her largely French programme opened with Bach’s flamboyant Prelude and Fugue in G (BWV 541), a distinctly non-French piece. From the very first few notes, it was clear that Renée Anne Louprette is an outstanding Bach interpreter. Her sense of touch, rhetoric and the way she sensitively articulated the opening flourish and the repeated notes in both Prelude and Fugue showed a real (and sadly rather rare) understanding of Baroque concepts such as the hierarchy of the bar. Her choice of registration was spot-on. Continue reading

Scheidt: Tabulatur-Buch, Görlitz 1650

Samuel Scheidt: Tabulatur-Buch, Görlitz 1650
111 four-part Chorale Settings for Organ or Keyboard
116 pages  • ISMN: 979-0-001-13600-6 • Softbound
Edition Schott ED 22325

Samuel Scheidt is one of the finest of the North German school of organist-composers that stemmed from the teaching of Sweelinck in Amsterdam. Born in Halle in 1587, he became assistant organist the Moritzkirche in 1603, before studying in Amsterdam between 1607 and 1609. He returned as Court organist to the Margrave of Brandenburg in Halle, where he was soon joined by Michael Praetorius. The Thirty Years War disrupted musical life in Germany. The Margrave fled, and the music of the Court ceased. Scheidt took to private teaching before eventually becoming director of music for the major Halle city churches (Marketkirche, Moritzkirche, and St Ulrich).

In 1624 Scheidt wrote his monumental three-volume Tabulatura Nova, an important collection of works for organ, harpsichord, or clavichord. Scheidt never recovered his earlier financial security and died in some financial trouble. His last publication was this 1650 Görlitzer Tabulaturbuchnamed after the city that commissioned the collection of four-part harmonisations of Lutheran chorales. Although there are a few simple harmonised settings, many of them are adventurous little pieces demonstrating Scheidt’s advanced keyboard technique and musical thinking as the early Baroque style of composition developed. Whether or not you would ever use them in a liturgical setting (as seems to have been intended, judging from Scheidt’s introduction where he mentions that the pieces are for “gentlemen organists to play with the Christian community”), they are worth exploring.

This Schott edition is clearly printed, in landscape format. The introduction by editor Klaus Beckmann (in German and English) gives background to the pieces and the editorial process. The critical commentary is, as usual, only in German. Preview pages can be view here. This is apparently the last in the Schott series ‘Masters of the North German Organ School‘, although I hope that is rethought as scholarship on this important repertoire continues to evolve and there must be more composers and pieces to be discovered and edited.

Andrew Benson-Wilson – Organ recital: ‘From England’

Andrew Benson-Wilson
plays organ music
‘From England’

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Stadtkirche (Temple Allemand)
Biel/Bienne, Switzerland
21 September 2018, 12:30

A recital on the reconstruction of the original 1517 ‘Swallow’s nest’ organ (Hochwandorgel) in the Stadtkirche (Temple Allemand) Biel/Bienne. Music by Anon, Dunstable, Preston, Tallis, Byrd, and Bull, the latter played on the Hauptorgel.

Anon: Robertsbridge Codex (c1360) Estampie
John Dunstable (c1390-1453) Sub Tuam Protectionem
Anon (c1530) Felix Namque
Thomas Preston (c1500-1563) Uppon la mi re
Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585) Alleluia Per te Dei genitrix
William Byrd (1538-1623) Callino Casturame
John Bull (1562-1628) Salve Regina (5 verses) Continue reading

Andrew Benson-Wilson plays Scheidt: Tabulatura Nova III – A Lutheran Vespers

Andrew Benson-Wilson
plays
Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654)
Tabulatura Nova III
A Lutheran organ Vespers

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The Queen’s College Chapel, Oxford
Wednesday 24 October, 1:10

Andrew’s series of concerts featuring the North German pupils of Sweelinck (the ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam’) continues with this, the second of two recitals of music by one of Sweelinck’s most distinguished pupils, Samuel Scheidt. His influential three-volume Tabulatura Nova was published in 1624 and is one of the most important of all the many collections of organ music. Its 58 pieces are a comprehensive demonstration of compositional styles. Whereas the first two volumes included a variety of sacred and secular pieces in different styles, Volume III consists entirely of Lutheran liturgical music. It opens with settings for the Ordinary of the Mass, followed by the settings of the hymns and Magnificat for a Lutheran Vespers. It ends with one of the most extraordinary pieces of the whole 17th century North German organ repertoire: the powerful Modus pleno Organo pedaliter: Benedicamus à  6 Voc, its six voices divided between four on the manuals and two on the pedals.

Kyrie Dominicale 4. Toni
Gloria Canit Pastor: Et in terra pax 
Credo in unum Deum

Hymnus: Veni Creator Spiritus

Magnificat 9 Toni

Psalmus sub Comminione: Jesus Christus, unser Heiland

Modus pleno Organo pedaliter: Benedicamus à 6 Voc

Played on the influential Frobenius organ. More information here.
Admission free – retiring collection.

Couperin: Pièces d’Orgue

François Couperin (1668-1733)
Pièces d’Orgue
Ed. Jon Baxendale
184 pages • ISMN: 979-0-2612-4441-1 • Hardback
Cantando Musikkforlag AS.  C4441

Piéces d'Orgue

François Couperin is one of those composers that is well-known to organists, although many of them will not know much about his non-organ compositions. He is also known to many non-organist music lovers, although many of them will not know much about his organ music. Like many organist-composers, Couperin’s organ works were published very early in his musical career, before his move into court circles and a compositional career mostly devoted to harpsichord, chamber and sacred vocal music. His father, Charles, was organist at the church of Saint-Gervais in Paris, just north of the Île de la Cité and the river Seine, where he had succeeded his brother Louis, the founder of the Couperin musical dynasty and a distinguished composer and performer. Charles died when François was about 11, specifying François as his successor. As Jon Baxendale discusses in his excellent Background Notes, this was the result of the practice of survivance, where an organist was able to specify his own successor, leading to such ‘family business’ situations. In the case of the Couperin family, the role remained in the family well into the 19th-century. François formally succeeded to the post when he reached the age of 18, the intervening years being taken up by increasingly intense training for his forthcoming role, during which he was paid a proportion of the stipend by the church authorities.

François Couperin was born 10 November 1668, and this 350th anniversary year is an apt moment for a new critical edition of his Pieces d’orgue. This collection of liturgical organ works dates from 1690, when he was 22. It consists of two Mass settings, with examples of the organ pieces that would have been played during the Latin Mass, most of them to be played in alternatim with the choir. One setting is intended for use in parish churches (à l’usage ordinaire des Paroisses Pour les Fêtes Solemnelles), the second for convents or abbey churches (Convents de Religieux et Religieuses). The latter setting is less complex than the first, and was written for a smaller organ, an indication that musical standards would have been higher in the parish churches, with a professional organist, than in the convents where the organ was played by one of the inmates.  Continue reading

Andrew Benson-Wilson plays Scheidt: Tabulatura Nova I

The Grosvenor Chapel
South Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K 2PA
Tuesday 11 September, 1:10

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Andrew Benson-Wilson
plays
Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654)
Tabulatura Nova I

Andrew’s series of concerts featuring the North German pupils of Sweelinck, the ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam’, continues with two recitals of music by one of his most distinguished pupils, Samuel Scheidt. His influential three-volume Tabulatura Nova was published in 1624. It is one of the most important of all collections of organ music. Its 58 pieces are a comprehensive demonstration of compositional styles. This recital, played on the William Drake organ in the Grosvenor Chapel, features three large-scale pieces from Volume 1 of the Tabulatura Nova.

Cantio Sacra: Wie gleuben all an einen Gott
Fantasia: Io son ferito lasso 
Cantio Belgica: Ach du feiner Reuter

The next Scheidt recital will be on the famous Frobenius organ in the chapel of The Queen’s College Oxford, on Wednesday 24 October 2018, starting at 1:10. It will be of pieces from Volume 3 of the Tabulatura Nova, in the form of Lutheran Organ Vespers.

Both concerts are free admission, with retiring donations welcomed.