Programme Notes

Concert 1

Brian Brown & Simon Harden

Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir BWV 686

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

This chorale-based setting of the psalm ‘Out of the depths I cry unto Thee’ was published by the composer in 1739 in the mature collection of keyboard works entitled the Clavierubung lll.   It is a monumental work in six parts, two of which are in the pedal.

Herzlich tut mich verlangen (No.9 and No. 10)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Brahms’ compositions for organ were made towards the end of his life and were much influenced by the works of Bach. These two choral preludes come from a set of eleven published in 1902 and are both based on the Lutheran hymn commonly known as ‘O sacred head, sore wounded’.

Crucifixion from Symphonie-Passion Op. 23

Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)

This is the third scene of a four-movement work and depicts the scene on Golgotha. The Symphonie is based on improvisations performed by the composer at a recital on Philadelphia’s famous Wanamaker Grand Court Organ towards the end of 1921.  The cruel and jagged harmonies of this movement eventually yield to a quiet setting of Stabat mater dolorosa.

O Lamm Gottes, unschulding BWV 618

Johann Sebastian Bach

One of 46 pieces from his Orgelbuchlein (Little Organ Book) composed between 1708 and 1717, Bach’s chorale prelude illustrates the grief of Lent. Unusually, the melody is confined to the alto and tenor lines which perform it in canon.

Elégie Op. 38

Flor Peeters (1903-1986)

The Belgian composer and organist was devastated by his mother’s death in 1935 and wrote this intense and personal work in her memory. It includes the plainsong ‘In Paradisum’ (May the Angels lead you into Paradise).

Toccata und Fuge ‘Mitten wir im Leben sind’

Ernst Pepping (1901-1981)

Pepping was a noted symphonist and composer of Protestant sacred music. His Toccata and Fugue, based on the words ‘In the midst of Life, we are in Death’, was premiered in July 1942 by Berlin organist Fritz Heitmann.    The medieval text is from Gregorian chant dating back to 1300.  The Latin ‘Media vita’ was sung as an antiphon during Lent. Later, Martin Luther translated the text into German and it is still included in both the modern Lutheran and German Catholic hymnals.

The Widening Gyre

Eric Sweeney (1948-2020)

Written in response to a commission from the Select Vestry of Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford, this work was premiered in 2003 at the inaugural recital on the Cathedral’s rebuilt organ. The title is from the first line of WB Yeat’s poem ‘The Second Coming’ in which he paints a vivid nightmarish scene.  The line quoted at the beginning of the music describes a falcon turning in a widening ‘gyre’ (spiral), unable to hear the falconer.

Introduction, Milonga y Muerte del Angel

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

The Argentine composer and bandoneon player is almost exclusively known for his Tangos. In this extended work he employs the dance form of the Milonga (Habanera) and finishes with a section entitled ‘Death of the Angel’. This realization for organ has been made by its performer, Vincent Thévenaz.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about major rethinking in the presentation of live music and its content. Thanks to ever developing technology, The Waterford International Organ Festival is able to not only present performers from Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland and Japan, but will also include all of them in each of the recitals playing the instruments of which they have charge. These well-structured concerts will take the listener through the emotional journeys of Despair, Promise and Hope.

Two composers feature in each programme, Johann Sebastian Bach and Eric Sweeney. Dr. Sweeney, composer, organist, conductor and teacher, was in charge of music at Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford from 1991 until his retirement in 2018. Eric, who sadly passed away in July of last year, was a much loved and respected friend and colleague, especially of those who worked with him in the Cathedral. His works are performed in memoriam.

The Festival performers are: Simon Harden (Ireland) who is the Lecturer in Organ at TU Dublin Conservatoire, Organist of Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford, and Director of the Waterford International Organ Festival; Olivier Salandini (France) who is a Professor at the Conservatoire Clermont-Ferrand and Organist of Bourges Cathedral; Vincent Thévenaz (Switzerland) who is a Professor at the Haute Ecole de Musique Geneva and Organist of the Cathédrale St. Pierre, Geneva; Megumi Tokuoka (Japan) who is a Lecturer at Tokyo University of the Arts and Organist in residence at the Toyota Concert Hall, and Stefan Viegelahn (Germany) who is a Professor at the Academy of Music and the Performing Arts, Frankfurt am Main.