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ClassicsOnline Home » Organ Recital: Timothy Olsen
Timothy Olsen - Organ Recital
Bach • Bizet-Lemare • Franck • Reger • Duruflé • Rorem •
Sweelinck • Bruhns
Born into a musical family in Schleswig-Holstein in 1665,
Nicolaus Bruhns began his organ studies at a young age, taught by his father.
In 1681 he was sent to Lübeck, where he studied the violin and viola da gamba
with his uncle and organ and composition with Dietrich Buxtehude. Bruhns was
known to play concerted music by himself; he would play the upper parts on the
violin while playing the bass line on the organ pedals. In 1689 Bruhns was
appointed organist at the Stadtkirche in Husum, serving there until his
premature death at the age of 31. He left five organ works and a dozen vocal
works. The E minor Praeludium is written in the style of his teacher,
Buxtehude, and other North German organ composers. The style known as the
“fantastic style”, alternates free, improvisatory sections with strict, fugal
sections. The Praeludium is in five sections, toccata, fugue, middle free
section, fugue, and toccata.
The Netherlands composer, organist and teacher Jan
Pieterszoon Sweelinck was one of the most important musical figures of his
time, exercising strong influence over the pupils who came to study with him in
Amsterdam. Though the organs of Amsterdam were a source of great pride for the
Dutch, Calvinist practice prohibited the performance of organ music during the
services. Hence, Sweelinck held a civic organist position, performing concerts
at the Oude Kerk as entertainment for the merchants, visitors, and townspeople
of this important city. His compositions include many variation sets on both
secular and sacred tunes, including the present set of four variations based on
the secular folk-tune Onder een linde groen (Under the Green Linden Tree).
In the last decade of his life, Bach, since 1723 Cantor at
the Thomasschule in Leipzig, increasingly turned his attention to collecting
and revising his earlier work. The chorale prelude Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
is from the so-called Eighteen Chorales, a collection that was a part of this
retrospective effort. Included there are revisions or elaborations of earlier
works, with chorale preludes on some of the most well-known and often used
hymns of the German liturgy. The prelude on Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Saviour
of the nations, come), based on Martin Luther’s version of a Latin hymn for
Advent, assigns the chorale melody to a solo voice of the organ, and is treated
lyrically, even rhapsodically. While not stated strictly from beginning to end,
fragments of the melody permeate the piece, while the accompanying voices are
restrained, and help to create a mood of quiet expectancy.
“Myself, raised in Quaker silence, I craved Catholic sound,”
writes the American composer Ned Rorem in the preface to his eleven-movement A
Quaker Reader, written in 1976. Each essay bears an epigraph from writings of
those belonging to the Society of Friends. He also writes, “my intention has
been to meld, finally and practically, my nominal religion with my craft [of
musical composition]….The music represents a blaze of silence”.
A Secret Power: “When I came into the silent assemblies…I
felt a secret power among them which touched my heart.” (Robert Barclay)
The World of Silence: “There must be a hush from the din of
the world’s noises before the soul can hear the inward Voice; …a closing of the
eyes to the glare and dazzle of the world’s sights before the inward eye can
see that which is eternally Real…” (Rufus Jones)
This movement is a depiction of utter silence, where only in
this complete silence, writes Rorem, “is not the ‘silent world’…like the
deafening Niagara of our own bloodstream?…Sometimes [silence] calls forth noisy
epigraph for the third of the movements included here, “There Is a Spirit That
Delights to Do No Evil…” is taken from the dying words of James Naylor (1660).
The poignant, very simple tune depicts its title perfectly “…as a balm to James
Naylor who perished so painfully in London…”
Born in Belgium in 1822 and originally intended by his
father to be a virtuoso pianist, César Franck studied in Paris, where he spent
the rest of his career, serving as organist at Ste Clothilde, which acquired a
Cavaillé-Coll organ, an instrument whose many possibilities Franck was to
explore. During a period of two months in the summer of 1890 he composed his
last three masterpieces, the Three Chorales. Less than a month later Franck
became extremely ill, making his last corrections to the manuscripts on his
deathbed. The chorales were published posthumously one year later. The chorale
itself evolves throughout the work by the use of variation on two themes. The
opening idea, which is not the chorale tune itself, is of a grand and noble
character which establishes a strong harmonic foundation of E major. The
chorale (the second theme), gently placing itself within the established key,
makes its first entrance on the voix humaine (a light reed stop). Following
this initial statement of the chorale, the first variation beautifully
elaborates the opening theme and chorale. After this Franck launches into the
second variation, this time in the minor and slightly more ambiguous. Through
his evasive tonal language and further diversions, Franck continues to develop
the two themes by expanding the phrases of the chorale evoking the majestic and
noble qualities of the sublime. Using the complete tonal resources of the
organ, the climactic statement of the chorale is heard in imitation between
manuals and pedal.
Maurice Duruflé’s early musical training came as a choir boy
in Rouen. He studied with and later became the assistant of Charles Tournemire
at Ste Clothilde’s in Paris, going on to further study with Louis Vierne. In
1927 he was appointed organist at St Etienne-du-Mont where he remained the rest
of his life. In 1942 he became Marcel Dupré’s assistant at the Paris
Conservatoire. Duruflé was very critical of his own compositions, thus only
publishing ten works in his lifetime. The Scherzo, one of four organ pieces,
was his first published work. Written in 1924 it is dedicated to Tournemire.
The piece combines the typical playfulness of a scherzo with beautifully shaped
melodies and lush harmonies.
With a musical style often characterized as a synthesis of
romantic, chromatic tonal language and more classical, traditional forms, Max
Reger bridges the old to the new. He had an affinity with Bach’s music,
particularly the keyboard works, and his study of Bach’s keyboard works in the
1890s culminated in the composition of several of his large-scale chorale
fantasies and other free works. The Introduction and Passacaglia opens with a
fantasy in three distinct sections, the middle one of which is contrapuntal in
nature and, in contrast, has softer dynamics, lighter texture, and less
gravity. The Passacaglia, following the example of Bach, has a repeated
eight-bar bass-line, over which appears a series of variations, until the final
climax is reached, stated in the parallel key of D major.
The English-born organist Edwin Lemare held positions in
several churches and municipalities in England from 1882 to 1902, and in
America from 1902 to 1929. He did much towards raising the organ to the stature
of a symphony orchestra as a concert instrument. To this end he transcribed a
wealth of orchestral music for the organ, including the present arrangement of
several of the themes from Bizet’s opera, Carmen, into a quasi-fantasia. The
prominent themes used are Carmen’s Habanera, the Toreador’s theme, and Carmen’s
C.B. Fisk, Inc. Op. 83 (1983)
The Downtown United Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York
Great, 56 notes
Spire Flute 8'
Flute Harmonique 8'
Cornet V (from C1)
Mixture VI – VIII
Pedal, 30 notes
Bourdon 16' & 32'
Positive, 56 notes
Nazard 2 2/3'
Mixture IV – VI
Swell, 56 notes
Voix Celeste 8'
Quinta 1 1/3'
Cor de Nuit 8'
Italian Principal 4'
Swell to Positive
Swell to Great
Positive to Great
Swell to Pedal
Positive to Pedal
Great to Pedal Tremulant
Great to Pedal Reversible
Two pairs of combination pedals: adjustable at the
console; on and off for each stop jamb
Pairs of italicized stops above signify that the first stop
is available with the knob halfway drawn and the second stop is available when
the knob is fully drawn.
39 stops / 56 ranks / 2625 pipes
Wind Pressure 3"
Two single-fold wedge bellows
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Organ Recital: Timothy Olsen