Programme Notes

Concert 2

Brian Brown & Simon Harden

Praeludium et Fuga in A minor BWV 543

Johann Sebastian Bach

This work dates from Bach’s Weimar period between 1708 and 1713. It was known to and admired by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and Reger, many of whom made their own transcriptions. The film composer, Ennio Morricone, also an admirer, admitted its influence on more than one of his scores.

Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend BWV 655 & 709

Johann Sebastian Bach

These two chorale preludes are based on a hymn of praise attributed to William II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar (1598-1662) who studied music. The title translates as, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, be present now!’, literally ‘Lord Jesu Christ, turn to us’.  The first of these two settings is a jubilant trio with a fast-moving bass line in a vivacious Italianate manner.  The second is much simpler and possibly depicts the text of the first verse invoking the help of Christ in finding the path to truth.  A richly embellished soprano line is supported by a simple accompaniment.

Cantilene from ‘Symphonie Romane’ Op. 73

Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937)

Widor completed his tenth and last symphony for organ in the summer of 1899 subtitling it ‘Symphonie Romane’.  At this point in his career, he had begun to incorporate sacred melodies into his symphonies and in this movement, we hear the Easter hymn ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’ interwoven into the texture.

Christ lag in Todesbanden

Franz Tunder (1614-1667)

Franz Tunder was organist at Lubeck’s main church where he was succeeded by Buxtehude, by then his son-in-law. His Choral Fantasia is based on Martin Luther’s Easter hymn of 1524 ‘Christ lay in death’s dark bonds’. The seven-verse hymn refers, in particular, to the struggle between life and death and celebrates Christ’s resurrection.

Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott BWV 651

Johann Sebastian Bach

This grand chorale fantasia depicts the Pentecost hymn ‘Come Holy Spirit, Lord God’ based on ‘Veni Sancte Spiritus’. The notes of the upper parts, tumbling over one another, seem to depict the rushing mighty wind and tongues of fire from the Pentecost story as recounted in Acts 2.  The melody of the choral is heard solemnly in the pedal.

Agnus Dei

Frank Martin (1890-1974)

Between 1922 and 1926, the Swiss composer, Frank Martin, worked on his Mass for unaccompanied double chorus. This beautiful version of the introverted Agnus Dei is arranged by the composer for organ.

The Secret Rose

Eric Sweeney

This is one of a series of short pieces inspired by the poems of the Irish writer, WB Yeats. It was composed in 2002 and premiered the following year by Eric himself.

Sonata in C minor Op. 65, No. 2

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847)

Mendelssohn’s six Organ Sonatas were published in 1845 and premiered by the composer in the St Katherinen Church in Frankfurt, the venue for the present performance!  Interestingly, the opening Grave movement, which serves as an introduction, is followed by a further slow movement Adagio.  The following Allegro maestoso e serioso and fugue which is marked Allegro moderato are both majestic and joyous and bring this concert of promise to an uplifting close.

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.