Voluntary in G major Henry Purcell
Kyries (Messe pour les Paroisses) François Couperin
Plein chant du premier Kyrie, en Taille
Fugue sur les jeux d'anches
Recit de Chromhorne
Dialogue sur la trompette et le Chromhorne
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr BWV 663 Johann Sebastian Bach
Toccata and Fugue in D minor “The Dorian” BWV 538 J. S. Bach
Jesu, meine Freude BWV 753 J. S. Bach (completed Charlston)
Ich dank dir schon Johann Philipp Kirnberger
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend BWV 709 J. S. Bach
Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist BWV 667 J. S. Bach
Benedictus Chromhorne en Taille (Messe pour les Paroisses) F. Couperin
Sonata in A minor Wq 70/4 Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
Musical Circle J. Kirnberger
Voluntary Op.7 No.7 John Stanley
Voluntary Op.7 No.9 J. Stanley
Total playing time 79m 11s
The Silbermann organ building tradition
The International Organ Festival Society (IOFS) organ is inscribed by its builder, Peter Collins, with the dedication ‘A homage to Andreas Silbermann.’
Andreas Silbermann (1678-1734) was born in Saxony and emigrated to Strasbourg in his twenties. After training with Eugen Casparini in Görlitz and Friedrich Ring in Strasbourg, he repaired several monastic instruments in Alsace. Although largely based in Strasbourg, he spent two years working in Paris for François Thierry. He also knew the French organist Louis Marchand (who famously fled from an organ playing contest with J. S. Bach) and the Austrian organ builder J. C. Egedacher.
Andreas’s younger brother, Gottfried Silbermann (1683-1753), settled in Freiberg and was an influential maker of organs, most famously in Dresden. He became a wealthy man and knew many of the important central German players, including J. S. Bach. He was also celebrated for the pianos he built for Frederick the Great and for his clavichords (C. P. E. Bach was so devoted to his Silbermann clavichord, he wrote a piece of music about it).
Andreas’s son, Johann Andreas Silbermann (1712-83) (also known as simply ‘Andreas’) learnt his trade at an early age from his father. He worked with his brothers in the family workshop in Strasbourg and made a study tour of important instruments in central Germany in 1741. He built over 50 organs in Alsace, Lorraine, Baden and Switzerland and knew the work of other organ builders, including Riepp and Gabler in Germany and François Thierry of the dynasty which built and maintained the Couperin organ in St Gervais, Paris. His pupils included J. A. Stein, the pioneer of the Viennese piano.
Johann Andreas built several large instruments with a positif case behind the players back (Strasbourg, St Thomas, 1741 and Soultz-Haut-Rhin, 1750). Smaller organs included the second division within the main case above the player, a common trend in organ construction throughout Europe at this time. In this respect the IOFS organ is similar to the surviving 19-stop organ he built for St Georges, Châternois built in 1765.
As befits an organ inspired by one of the great organ building families of the high Baroque, the music of Bach and his circle figures prominently on this disc. Representative works of Johann Sebastian are set alongside less familiar works by his most famous son, one of his pupils, Kirnberger, his near contemporary, Böhm, and by his French contemporary, the organist to Louis XIV, François Couperin. The IOFS organ embraces a certain spirit of entente cordiale in which the French, German and, to a lesser degree, Italian styles have been amalgamated. The music of Muffat and Purcell epitomises the ‘international’ stlye in Baroque music and, in tribute to the organ’s English maker, John Stanley carries the spirit of the Baroque into the post-Handelian age.
Georg Muffat (1653-1704) was born in Savoy of German and Scottish ancestry and considered himself a pioneer in the introduction of the French and Italian musical styles to the German speaking lands. He spent his youth in Alsace and travelled widely before becoming organist to the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1677. He left Salzburg in 1687 and ended his days in the court of the Bishop of Passau. Muffat studied with the doyen of French music, Lully (who happened to be an Italian) and with Pasquini in Rome where he also met Corelli. He composed almost exclusively instrumental music, including several sets of Concerti Grossi after Corelli and a remarkable early violin sonata. Muffat published his organ music in Apparatus musico-organisticus (1690), including 12 organ toccatas arranged in the order of the church modes. The toccatas are modelled on the multi-sectional works of Frescobaldi and Pasquini with extreme contrasts of mood and material between sections. The French style is clearly evident in the use of dance meters and dotted rhythms. Muffat uses a system of symbols to indicate the precise ornamentation, indicates when and where the pedals should be used and the whole is beautifully and faultlessly engraved. Toccata secunda is a dark and severe work. The opening monumental chords establish the tonality of the mode while the following allegro section has a rhythmically unsettled character similar to the Corellian trio-sonata texture and its stock sequences made more poignant by its rhythmically unsettled character. This in turn becomes freer and slower, introducing the central section, an eerie fugue, strangely reminiscent of the night music in Purcell’s Fairy Queen. The final section returns to the mood of the opening allegro with massive chords and suspensions drawing the work to its powerful conclusion.
It is interesting to speculate on the impact Henry Purcell (1659-95) would have had on eighteenth century music had he not been so tragically short lived. Of the same generation as Böhm and Muffat, he would surely have had a greater impact on Handel and his English imitators. Purcell rose to early fame in London and in addition to his court appointments and successes in the London theatre, he was organist of Westminster Abbey from 1679 until his death. His exquisite Voluntary in G major offers a tantalizing glimpse of his organ playing. It opens in the improvised style which accompanied the elevation of the host at mass and concludes with a brief Italian canzona. Purcell may well have heard such pieces from the many foreign organists in London during the late seventeenth century. He already knew some north German music from Draghi and his teacher John Blow and possibly through the emigré organ builder Bernard Smith, who was organist at St. Margaret’s, Westminster, the Abbey’s sister church. Along with Draghi and Blow, Purcell took part in a trial of organs in the Temple Church which became popularly known as the “battle of the organs”. Draghi championed an instrument by Renatus Harris while Blow and his pupil Purcell demonstrated the virtues of an instrument by Bernard Smith.
François Couperin “Le Grand” (1668-1733) was organist of St Gervais in the Marais district of Paris from 1685 to 1723 and from 1693 was one of the four organists to the Royal Chapel. Two years before his court appointment, he had established his organ playing credentials through the publication of his first and only surviving book of organ pieces, the Pièces d’Orgue en deux Messes, l’une des Paroisses pour les Fêtes Solonelles l’autre pour les couvents (Music for organ comprising two masses, one for use in Parishes on Solemn feasts, the other for convents and monasteries). This innovative collection appeared with Royal patent and a flattering testimonial from Michel-Richard Delalande, a major composer of Parisian church music. The practice in French churches at this time encouraged the alternation of sung elements and organ music by replacing every other verse or section of plainsong or choral music with a short organ piece. Thus the five sections of the Kyrie recorded here would have been separated by four sections of plainsong. The art of the organist was to underline the character of the church modes and establish their impact according to the solemnity of the day or the nature of the liturgical action and drama. To this end, the organist marshalled the resources of his instrument by prescribed combinations of stops. These are clearly indicated in the titles of Couperin’s pieces and all the pieces recorded here feature reeds as solo voice or chorus combinations. The outer movements of the Kyrie versets employ the pedal reed for the plainsong, accompanied by a continuous texture of foundation tone called the plein jeu, while the other movements employ a dialogue between the reed sounds or the Chromhorne as a solo in the treble (recit) or the tenor (taille) as in the Benedictus. This last verset, which features the cromorne stop in the left hand with a continuo accompaniment shared between right hand and pedals, is closely related to Couperin’s own memorial pieces (tombeau literally meaning ‘tomb-stone’) such as the trio sonata, La Sultane, and those written by his uncle, Louis, and the viole de gambe virtuoso Marin Marais.
J. S. Bach’s organ music towers above even his own clavier music, let alone the organ music of his contemporaries. Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr BWV 663 features an ornamented melody, but unlike BWV 709, the chorale melody is in the left hand (as in a French en taille piece) with long rests between each line, and the last note is held for over 10 bars. This hymn is the Lutheran paraphrase of the Gloria in excelsis Deo which was sung every Sunday except on special festivals. Bach sets the tune (derived from a Gregorian melody) in triple time, marking the top of the score ‘cantabile’ (to be played in a singing style). The flowing accompaniment figures mix with longer, sonorous notes derived from the chorale tune and add to the tender atmosphere. At the point in the melody corresponding to “Ohn Unterlaß” (without ceasing) the cantus firmus makes a dreamlike Adagio cadenza before the music continues. Both BWV 663 and 667 come from the collection known as ‘The Eighteen’ or the ‘Leipzig’ chorales; BWV 663 from the first part written in Bach’s hand between 1744 and 1748.
The so-called “Dorian” Toccata and Fugue BWV 538 acquired its nickname from Spitta on account of the omission of the customary D minor key signature of one flat. Unique amongst the organ works, the toccata contains Bach’s own instructions for frequent changes between two manuals (Oberwerk and Positiv) and Bach may have played it to test the rebuilt organ at the Martinkerk, Kassel in 1732. These changes of sonority accentuate the sense of dialogue and argument inherent in the music. The texture reduces from five to three voices in the manner of a Vivaldi concerto and the virtuosity of the whole is underlined by the demanding, fully independent pedal part. The fugue is one Bach’s finest essays in vocal counterpoint. Its alla breve subject consists of a complete rise and fall of a modal D minor scale ideal for combination in stretto (a type of ‘round’ in which the theme is closely imitated by each subsequent entry) and rich harmonic effects in thirds and sixths. The four-voice texture is closely related to the 17th century ricercare style of masters such as Frescobaldi or Froberger.
Bach’s chorale settings show a different but complementary side to his free organ works. Jesu, meine Freude BWV 753 is a fragment of just over 8 bars from the Klavierbüchlein für W. F. Bach probably compiled in 1720. The chorale melody appears as a single statement in the right hand ornamented by semiquaver figures accompanied by flowing two-part quaver movement in the left hand: a texture reminiscent of the French recit (see Couperin’s Recit de Chromhorne). Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend BWV 709 is an ornamented four-part setting with the chorale tune in the top voice as a single statement. It resembles movements from the Orgelbüchlein although the looser organization of motives suggests an early work influenced by Buxtehude or Böhm. Early work or not, Bach makes telling use of modulation to minor keys in the final phrase “und uns den Weg zur Wahrheit führ” (and lead us in the way to truth): the chorale was sung most Sundays before the sermon. It survives in a copy made by Kirnberger. Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist BWV 667 is based on another paraphrase of the Whitsun hymn and Gregorian melody, Veni Creator Spiritus. Bach’s setting is in two parts: the first with the cantus firmus in the top voice over a rhythmical triplet accompaniment virtually identical to the Orgelbüchlein setting BWV 631; the second section bursts out with vivid passage-work symbolic of the rushing Pentecostal wind, followed by the melody in pedals. BWV 667 may have been intended to conclude the collection known as ‘The Eighteen’ or ‘Leipzig’ chorales, where it was copied into Bach’s autograph by his pupil, Altnikol, after 1744.
Johann Philipp Kirnberger (1721-83) studied with J.S.Bach in Leipzig and went on to work in Poland and Dresden before settling at the court in Berlin. He was an important teacher, rather than composer or performer and his historical importance rests more on his theoretical writings than his music. His position in Berlin enabled him to mix with the foremost musical thinkers of his day, notably Quantz, C. P. E. Bach and Marpurg and amass one of the finest music libraries in Europe for his patron, Princess Anna Amelie. A tireless advocate of J. S. Bach’s music, he devoted his later years to the publication of all Bach’s four-part chorale settings. His organ chorale Ich dank dir schon is written for two manuals and pedals and was published with examples of his songs and clavier music by C. P. E. Bach (Musikalisches Vierlerley, 1770). The hymn tune is played in long notes by the left hand against an elegant right hand melody repleat with triplets, trills and chromatic scales, typical of the period and perhaps imitating the violin and flute solos which graced the music rooms of Frederick the Great’s palace of Sans Souci in Potsdam. Kirnberger’s Musical Circle is one many eighteenth century pieces written to explore all twelve major and minor keys, attempting in one movement what Bach chose to exploit over 48 pairs of preludes and fugues. Kirnberger’s circle is confined to the minor keys, the major keys being only touched in passing. Such pieces were used to check an instrument’s tuning and temperament system, both equal and, as here on the St Saviour’s organ, unequal.
The Prelude and Fugue in C major by Georg Böhm (1661-1733) is a magnificent example of a large-scale free (not based on a hymn tune) organ work. It combines elements of the North German tradition (such as the opening pedal solo, without which no organ recital would have been complete) with the improvisatory and fugal elements of the Italian toccata. The rhythmic vitality of the fugue and strength of the prelude’s bass-line mark Böhm as an inventive and original character. Born in Ohrdruf, he moved to Hamburg in 1693 where he had the opportunity to hear Reincken in Hamburg, Vincent Lübeck in Stade and Buxtehude in Lübeck, eventually settling in Lüneburg in 1698 as organist of the Johanniskirche, a post he held until his death. As one of the most significant figures of his generation, it is not surprising to find similarities between his musical style and that of J. S. Bach. Böhm’s teacher, Hildebrandt, had been taught by members of Bach’s family in Arnstadt and Ehrfurt and it is likely that Böhm taught the young J. S. Bach.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-88) was the second surviving son of J. S. Bach and his first wife, Maria Barbara. He served the flute-playing Frederick the Great as harpsichordist in Berlin for thirty years before moving to Hamburg in 1768 as Kantor of the five principal churches until his death. He was a prolific composer and retained some measure of historical importance through his pioneering Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments (1753). A certain cult of original genius surrounded him in Hamburg and his wide correspondence (including Klopstock, Gerstenberg, Diderot and Mozart’s patron, van Swieten) testifies to his broader artistic and aesthetic life. Of his celebrated keyboard playing and compositions, Schubart (1784) said, “There is no other so rich in invention, so exhaustive in new turns of phrase, so perfect in harmony” and Charles Burney considered him, “one of the greatest composers for keyed instruments, but the best player from the point of expression.” His greatest love was the clavichord and, in contrast to his father, his organ music (several fine sonatas, two concertos and some fugues) forms a relatively small part of his vast output. Six organ sonatas were written in the mid-1750s for Frederick the Great’s sister, Princess Anna Amelie, who was a keen organist (also Kirnberger’s patron) and published posthumously. A 22-rank organ with two manuals and separate pedal division was built for the princess in Berlin in 1755. The fourth Sonata in A minor is a fine example of the empfindsamer Stil (highly expressive style): the musical equivalent of the ‘Sturm und Drang’ movement in poetry, which also caught the imagination of Haydn at this time. The Sonata is symphonic in scale: heroic in the minor key outer movements; serene in the slow Adagio.
John Stanley (1712-86) wrote in the post Handelian style of 18th century London. He is chiefly remembered today for his thirty organ voluntaries published in three volumes between 1748 and 1754 although many were probably written much earlier. Blinded in a domestic accident at the age of two, Stanley possessed a remarkable musical memory and enjoyed a successful London career as soloist and teacher. He assisted Handel, directing several oratorio performances and assuming musical responsibility for the Lenten oratorio series in Covent Garden upon Handel’s death. He was organist of several London churches, most notably the Church of the Inner Temple from 1734. The Voluntary Op.7 No.7 like most 18th century organ voluntaries has two movements: a slow introduction for the Diapasons (the English equivalent to the French fonds d’orgue registration) followed by a fast movement featuring the Cornet stop, another import from continental organ design, here played by the right hand. I perform this piece a tone lower than written to accommodate the temperament of the St Saviour’s organ. The G major Voluntary Op.7 No.9 (also in two movements) is a Galant style prelude and fugue in the best traditions of Handelian oratorio overtures.
Terence Charlston, 2005.
Terence Charlston is a specialist performer of the Early Keyboard repertoire. He has given concerts world-wide and appeared on over 40 commercial CDs on harpsichord, organ, virginals, clavichord and fortepiano. For the National Trust, he has recently recorded all the playable keyboard instruments of the Fenton House Collection in Hampstead, London. His solo recording of Bach organ music (Sounds of Bach) has been greeted with critical acclaim as have his solo harpsichord recordings of Bach and Couperin and the Rameau Pièces de clavecin en concerts (BIS-CD-1385). Researches into English music of the Restoration period have resulted in a complete recording of Matthew Locke’s organ and harpsichord music (Deux-Elles DXL 1047) and an edition of thirteen keyboard pieces (Peacock Press, 2004). A member of the ensemble London Baroque, he teaches at the Royal Academy of Music and has given master classes in Germany, USA and Mexico.
The International Organ Festival Society's (IOFS) organ was designed by Peter Collins Organ Builders Ltd. in 1989, in the style of Andreas Silbermann and the French branch of the Silbermann family. Surviving instruments were studied and the pipe scales were based on studies of contemporary sources by Bernhardt Edskes. The case closely follows the Predigerkirche, Basle with carving by Siegfried Pietsch. The action is suspended in true French manner and there are two large wedge bellows built into the podium of the instrument. The organ stands in St Saviour's Church, St Albans by kind permission of the Vicar and the Parochial Church Council.
Recorded in St Saviour’s Church, St Albans on 11th and 12th September and 10th October 2004 by kind permission of Andrew Lucas (Festival Director) and the Vicar and Church Wardens
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
Photograph by Terence Charlston