ClassicsOnline Home » Organ Recital: Fukumoto, Mari – BRUHNS, N. / RADULESCU, M. / GRIGNY, N. de / BACH, J.S. / BUXTEHUDE, D. / MESSIAEN, O.
Japanese organist Mari Fukumoto has won first prize at two of the world’s leading competitions, the 7th International Organ Competition, Musashino-Tokyo, and the International Organ Competition of the 62nd Organ Week in Nuremberg. She has also broadcast extensively on German radio. Her wide-ranging programme explores the connections between the works of Bruhns and Buxtehude, J.S. Bach and Grigny, and those of Messiaen and the contemporary Romanian-German composer Michael Radulescu.
Mari Fukumoto: Organ Recital
Bruhns • Radulescu • de Grigny • J.S. Bach • Buxtehude • Messiaen
Nicolaus Bruhns belonged to a family of organists working in Schleswig-Holstein in the seventeenth century. Born in Schwabstedt, near Husum, in 1665, he was sent by his father to stay with his uncle, Peter Bruhns, in Lübeck, where he studied with Buxtehude, and acquired skill also as a violinist and gamba player. He spent a period in Copenhagen, before winning appointment as organist at the Stadtkirche in Husum, where he was persuaded to remain by the award of a higher salary, when it seemed possible he might move to Kiel. A versatile musician, he is said to have accompanied himself on the pedals of the organ, while playing the violin. His surviving music includes four preludes and fugues. Of these the larger scale Prelude in E minor, one of two in this key, follows a pattern familiar from Buxtehude. An opening prelude leads to a four-voice fugue, a quasi-improvisatory section, a second fugue, in 12/8, and a final toccata.
To this the work of Michael Radulescu provides a marked contrast. The son of a Romanian father and a German mother, Radulescu was born in 1943 and studied in Vienna at the University of Music and Performing Arts, where he has subsequently taught. His career has brought him distinction as a composer, organist and conductor. Estampie, the third part of his Ricercari of 1984, reflects varied influences, not least those of Messiaen and Carl Orff, the former in textures and the latter in repetitive rhythmic and melodic patterns. The movement titles, Organa, Versus and Estampie, echo Radulescu’s historical interests, with the Estampie, a troubadour dance form in origin, surviving notably in the English medieval Robertsbridge Codex.
Like Nicolaus Bruhns, Nicolas de Grigny belonged to a family of organists and lived a short life. He was born in Rheims in 1672, spent some time in Paris, where he had lessons with Nicolas Lebègue and married, and returned to Rheims as organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. As a composer he published one collection of organ pieces, his Premier Livre d’Orgue of 1699, re-issued in 1711 by his widow. This includes a Mass and four hymns for the principal feast days of the church year. The present recital includes two of the five movements based on the Veni Creator Spiritus. The five-voice Fugue forms the second part of the work, its contrapuntal writing enlivened by the use of French notes inégales. The fifth movement is the Dialogue sur les grands jeux. The Premier Livre d’Orgue of de Grigny represents a height of contemporary musical achievement, exercising an influence on J.S. Bach, who copied out the work for his own study.
In 1723 Johann Sebastian Bach left what had, before his patron’s marriage, been an agreeable position as Court Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen to take up less privileged employment as Cantor at the St Thomas Choir School in Leipzig, subject now to the civic authorities. His earliest years in Leipzig, where he was to remain until his death in 1750, were spent partly in the composition of cycles of cantatas for the Lutheran church year and in a continuing series of works for organ and for harpsichord. Some of these latter were designed for his pupils, and in particular for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, for whom his set of six organ Trio Sonatas, dating from about 1727, provided a subject of study. The sonatas are for two manuals and pedals, each with its own melodic lines, similar, therefore, in texture to other sonatas by Bach. The Trio Sonata No. 2 in C minor starts with a Vivace in concerto form, followed by a Largo and a final contrapuntal Allegro.
Dietrich Buxtehude, who identified himself as Danish, was seemingly born in Helsingborg about the year 1637, the son of an organist and schoolmaster. He was taught by his father and from 1657 or 1658 until 1660 was organist at the Mariekirke in Helsingborg, and then at the Mariekirke in Helsingør. In 1668 he was elected organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, where he succeeded Franz Tunder, who had died the previous year, following custom by marrying Tunder’s younger daughter. Tunder’s elder daughter’s security had already been assured by her marriage to Samuel Franck, Cantor of the Marienkirche and the choir-school that provided singers for the services of the Marienkirche. As an organist Buxtehude represented the height of North German keyboard traditions, exercising a decisive influence over the following generation, notably on Johann Sebastian Bach, who undertook the long journey from Arnstadt to Lübeck to hear him play, outstaying his leave, to the dissatisfaction of his employers. Handel too visited Lübeck in 1703, with his Hamburg friend and colleague Mattheson. By this time there was a question of appointing a successor to Buxtehude, who was nearly seventy and had spent over thirty years at the Marienkirche. The condition of marriage to his predecessor’s daughter that Buxtehude had faithfully fulfilled proved unattractive, however, to the young musicians of the newer generation and the succession eventually passed to Johann Christian Schieferdecker, who married Buxtehude’s surviving daughter, predeceased by four others, three months after Buxtehude’s death in 1707. The Lutheran hymn or chorale had a central part in church repertoire. The chorale fantasia Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BuxWV 188, (Praised be Thou, Jesus Christ), allows scope for a dramatic use of organ registration. In four sections, with a coda, it starts with a fugal treatment of the opening notes of the chorale, and the following sections continue to develop the material. The fourth section is in gigue rhythm, leading to the last part of the work with its concluding sustained pedal notes strengthening the final bars.
A prodigiously gifted musician from his earliest youth, Olivier Messiaen was one of the most idiosyncratic composers of the twentieth century, one whose intensely personal compositional language defies classification into any generalised stylistic trend. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire, where his teachers included Widor, Dukas and Marcel Dupré. By the time he left the Conservatoire in 1931, Messiaen had achieved first prize in counterpoint and fugue, piano accompaniment, music history, organ and improvisation, and composition. A medical auxiliary during the early years of World War II, he was captured in May 1940 and spent the next year in a German prison camp. Upon his release in 1941, he was appointed professor of harmony at the Paris Conservatoire, a position through which he exerted an important influence on many of the most important composers of the mid-twentieth century. Messiaen’s strong Roman Catholic convictions and interest in mysticism set him apart from many of his contemporaries and help to explain his deep and abiding interest in the organ. His organ works represent a vital component of his output, and a cornerstone of modern repertoire for the instrument. Messiaen first encountered the organ shortly before enrolling in Dupré’s organ class, and his affinity for the instrument’s nearly inexhaustible palette of tone colour was immediately apparent. In 1931 he was appointed organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris, a post he retained for over sixty years. His Messe de la Pentecôte (Mass for Pentecost) was written in 1949–1950, based, according to the composer, on earlier years of improvisation. The fourth of the five movements, Communion (Les oiseaux et les sources), with its fragments of bird-song reflecting a dominant strand in Messiaen’s work, is characteristic of his musical language and exploration of musical timbres.
Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548, was written in Leipzig between 1727 and 1732. The extended Prelude and the Fugue, known as ‘the Wedge’ because of the expanding series of intervals that form its subject, creating the shape of a wedge, are works calling for considerable virtuosity, displaying to Leipzig contemporaries Bach’s own genius as a performer and as a composer. The elaborate ritornello structure of the Prelude is balanced by the following Fugue, its progress allowing the introduction of contrasting episodes.