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Sounds of Fotheringhay

Sounds of Fotheringhay cover picture

Malcolm Archer plays the Vincent Woodstock organ at St Mary and All Saints Church, Fotheringhay

Sonatina in D minor Christian Ritter

Voluntary in D major John Stanley

Voluntary in C major John Travers

Four movements from Messe pour les Couvents François Couperin
Plein jeu
Fugue sur la Trompette
Elevation (Tierce en Taille)

Dialogue sur les grands jeux

Variations on Unter der Linden Grüne Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck

Ciacona in E minor Dietrich Buxtehude

Chorale Prelude on Ein feste burg Dietrich Buxtehude

Chorale Prelude on Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott Dietrich Buxtehude

Fugue (a la Gigue) in G major (BWV 577) Johann Sebastian Bach

Chorale Prelude on O mensch, bewein (BWV 622) Johann Sebastian Bach

Prelude and Fugue in E flat - St. Anne (BWV 552) Johann Sebastian Bach

Total playing time 66m 44s

Sounds of Fotheringhay

Sounds of Fotheringhay

All of the music on this recording has been specially chosen to show off the
character, versatility and colours of the magnificent Vincent Woodstock organ in Fotheringhay Church, and the programme explores masterworks by English, French, Dutch and German composers who lived between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

Christian Ritter (c.1648-1717) was a German composer and court organist in Halle and Dresden, later working in Stockholm and Hamburg. Of his organ works, only the Suite in F sharp minor and the Sonatina in D minor survive. His style is not dissimilar to that of his contemporary Dietrich Buxtehude, and his splendid Sonatina in D minor combines free, almost improvisatory figurations in the opening and closing sections with a stricter contrapuntal central section.

John Stanley (1712-1786) was one of the foremost organists and composers of his generation, and after holding several notable London posts he eventually became organist at the Temple Church in 1734. His brilliance as an organist and harpsichordist was well known and his playing attracted many musicians, including Handel on many occasions, to hear him. He was also known for his remarkable musical memory, and since he was virtually blind from an early age, he could commit the keyboard part of an oratorio to memory after only one playing. His works for the organ include three sets of voluntaries, and all are superbly well-crafted for the instrument, the Voluntary in D major being a fine example. The work consists of an Adagio, Andante, Adagio and Allegro moderato. Additionally, he composed several oratorios, concertos for strings, a masque, a cantata and an opera as well as solo instrumental works and many songs. In 1779, John Stanley succeeded William Boyce as Master of the King’s Band of Musicians.

John Travers (c.1703-1758) was an English composer and Organist, and like John Stanley studied with Maurice Greene. He was choirmaster at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, and organist of the Chapel Royal. His compositions include organ voluntaries, services and psalm settings for voice and keyboard. The Voluntary in C major is typical of many similar works from that period, starting with a slow introduction and leading to a trumpet tune, which here displays the rather fine trumpet stop at Fotheringhay.

François Couperin (1688-1733) was known as le Grand to distinguish him from other members of his highly musical family. His early study was with his father and from 1685-1733 he was organist at St. Gervais in Paris. In 1693, aged 25, he was also chosen as one of the organists at the Chapel Royal at Versailles by Louis XIV and later he was made music master to the royal family and harpsichordist at the royal court. He had immense virtuosity on both organ and harpsichord and he composed a vast number of works for both instruments. The Messe pour les Couvents (Mass for the Convents) consists of 27 pieces which are designed to be used liturgically to accompany the Mass, and many of the titles of these pieces describe the registrations which should be used.

Widely considered to be the greatest of Dutch composers, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) was a teacher, organist and composer who succeeded his father as organist at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. His works consist of sacred and secular choral music and pieces for keyboard, and as a teacher he had a profound influence on a number of composers, including the Germans Scheidemann, Scheidt, Praetorius and Hasse, who themselves widely propagated his compositional techniques. His Variations on Unter der Linden Grüne (Under the Linden Green) are four variations on a Dutch secular song which show admirably the composer’s mastery in writing for the organ.

Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) was organist of the Mariankirche in Lübeck until his death, and a legend in his own lifetime. The stories of Handel (in 1703) and Bach (in 1705) making pilgrimages to meet him and hear him play (Bach walking 250 miles from Arnstadt) are famous, and are recognition of the high esteem in which he was held by musicians throughout Germany and beyond. Both Handel and Bach wanted to follow him as organist at the Mariankirche, but neither wished to marry his daughter, which was a condition of getting the post! Buxtehude’s organ compositions included preludes, fugues, toccatas, chaconnes and chorale preludes, and these were the models on which Bach based so many of his organ works. Buxtehude’s delightful Ciacona in E minor is a skilfully constructed set of variations over a four bar theme, and the inventiveness of the composer’s approach to this form pre-echoes Bach’s magnificent Passacaglia in C minor, where several of Buxtehude’s compositional techniques are to be found. Buxtehude’s approach to the chorale prelude is similarly inventive and original and these works occupy a prominent place in the composer’s output. Not only are they great in number, but they show a deep understanding of the mood and atmosphere of the texts together with a perfection of compositional technique barely surpassed since.

It is hardly surprising that the organ works of J.S. Bach (1685-1750) owe much to those of Buxtehude. His Fugue in G (a la Gigue) is similar in form and feel to a jig fugue by Buxtehude for manuals only, and is a work of enormous vivacity and spirit for manuals and pedals.

Bach’s wonderfully expressive chorale prelude on O mensch, bewein dein sünde gross comes from the Orgelbuchlein, and is set for Passiontide. (O man, your grievous sin bemoan). It uses the Buxtehude model of a decorated chorale melody in the right hand, however the heavy ornamentation here imbues this prelude with an extremely special and deeply intense quality, making it one of Bach’s most moving works for the organ.

The Prelude and Fugue in E flat (BWV 552) begin and end the collection of organ works known as the Clavierübung part 3. The Prelude is the longest that Bach wrote and employs three musical ideas; the first is in a traditional French Overture style with dotted rhythms, the second idea is a staccato motif with echoes, and the third a passage of running semiquavers. The Fugue is in fact three separate fugues all linked by a common theme and pulse. The first is a five part fugue using Italianate counterpoint, the second is for manuals only and combines a fugue subject in quavers with the common theme, and the third brings back that theme, now syncopated against a sparkling fugue subject in quavers and semiquavers. The three sections of this fugue have been thought to represent the three persons of the Trinity, but there is no evidence that this was in Bach’s mind, since he was using an established historic model. Both the Prelude and the Fugue have gained a richly deserved reputation as some of the very finest music in the organ repertory.

Malcolm Archer
London, 2005

Malcolm Archer plays the Vincent Woodstock organ at St Mary and All Saints Church, Fotheringhay

Put choir or performer details here.

Put choir or performer details here.

Malcolm Archer

Malcolm Archer was appointed Organist and Director of Music at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 2004. He previously held similar appointments at Wells Cathedral and Bristol Cathedral, and prior to that was Assistant Organist at Norwich Cathedral. He directs the world-famous choir at St. Paul’s in their busy schedule of services, concerts, recordings and tours.

He has an international reputation as a choir trainer, conductor, organ recitalist and composer, and his many recordings have received critical acclaim. He is also frequently invited to direct choral courses and workshops in North America, and as a recitalist he has played in nine European countries, Canada and the USA, where he is represented by Philip Truckenbrod Concert Artists. His organ recordings cover repertoire as diverse as J.S. Bach and Olivier Messiaen and also include recordings of his own music.

Malcolm Archer is a prolific composer, with well over two hundred and fifty published works, and he receives frequent commissions from both sides of the Atlantic. Recent commissions have included works for the Southern Cathedrals Festival at Chichester, and a work for the 350th Festival of the Sons of the Clergy at St. Paul’s.

Malcolm Archer studied at The Royal College of Music (where he was an RCO Scholar) and Jesus College Cambridge, where he was Organ Scholar. He studied the organ with Ralph Downes, Dame Gillian Weir and Nicolas Kynaston, and composition with Alan Ridout and Dr Herbert Sumsion.

He is a member of the Council of both the Royal College of Organists and the Guild of Church Musicians, and he was recently awarded the Honorary Fellowship of the Guild of Church Musicians for his services to church music over many years.

The organ

The organ in the church of St. Mary and All Saints in Fotheringhay is “Opus 22” built by Vincent Woodstock. It stands in a prominent position, close to the altar. The use of hammered metal for the front pipes and a solid oak case give the appearance, as a visitor mentioned during the installation in 2000, that “it looks as if it had always stood there”. The organ has mechanical key, pedal and stop action. The natural keys are covered with bone and the sharps are made of ebony with boxwood inlays. The stop knobs are also in ebony, with each name inscribed on a porcelain inlay. The wind system has a single traditional bellows feeding both manual divisions, the pedal being winded separately. The compass of the keyboards is CC - g 56 notes. The compass of the pedals is CC - f 30 notes. The pedal board is straight/concave.

Recorded in St Mary and All Saints Church, Fotheringhay on 26th July 2005 by kind permission of the Vicar and Churchwardens

Produced by Vincent Woodstock
Recorded and edited by Lance Andrews
Photograph by Malcolm Archer