Programme Notes

Concert 3

Brian Brown & Simon Harden

Toccata in E BWV 566

Johann Sebastian Bach

This early work of Bach resembles a north German Praeludium in the style of Buxtehude and even displays similarities with an Italian four-movement sonata da chiesa. The piece falls broadly into four sections comprising two fugues and a series of flashy flourishes including one for pedals.  The subject of the second fugue is a variation on that of the first.

Vogel als Prophet

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Schumann composed a cycle of nine episodes for piano in 1846 entitled ‘Waldszenen’ (Forest Scenes) as his opus 82. This is number 7, subtitled ‘Vogel als Prophet’ (The Prophet Bird). The bird in question is the cuckoo, a bringer of good tidings. The arrangement for organ is by Lionel Rogg.

Sunset, Nocturne, Sunrise

Lionel Rogg (b. 1936)  

The Swiss organist and composer, Lionel Rogg, was appointed organist of St. Boniface Church in his home city of Geneva at the age of 15. He has since recorded the complete organ works of Bach no less than three times. “Sunset, Nocturne, Sunrise” began life as an improvisation by the composer at the Haarlem organ festival in 2012.  The published composition followed.

Allegro from Concerto in C BWV 594

Johann Sebastian Bach

All of Bach’s Concertos for organ were composed between 1713 and 1714 and are transcriptions of other composers’ instrumental works. This one is based on the Allegro movement from Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in D. In places, Bach saw fit to adapt the musical text as Vivaldi was prone to write such directions as “qui sie ferma a piacimento” (“here one closes however one wishes”)!

Résurrection from Symphonie-Passion Op. 23

Marcel Dupré  

This final movement from Dupré’s Symphonie outlining the life of Christ is based on the Eucharistic hymn Adoro te devote.  The joyous depiction of the resurrection takes the form of a vast crescendo in French Toccata-style.  The filigree manual parts are underlined by a slow and booming melody in the pedals.

Le Cercle de Lumiere

Eric Sweeney

The Circle of Light was dedicated to the composer’s brother in 1999. Peter Sweeney, one time organist at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, performed the premiere at the end of July the following year. Composition began whilst the composer was holidaying in France and ended around the time of the solar eclipse some weeks later.  The composer wrote that the “lasting image…was of a circle of light around the eclipse”  The work is based on a continuous cycle of chords, rather in the manner of a baroque ground bass.

Fantasie Op. 16

César Franck (1822-1890)  

The Belgian-born composer, César Franck, composed this Fantasie as the first piece of a set of six. He performed the complete set on November 17 1864 at his own church, Sainte-Clotilde in Paris.  The use of counterpoint and canonic writing demonstrate the influence of JS Bach and mirror the compositional style of the Franck’s friend, Alexis Chauvet, to whom the piece is dedicated. It has three distinct sections: Poco lento, Allegro cantando/Quasi lento and Adagio.

Vers l’espérance

Thierry Escaich (b. 1965)

Escaich studied at the Paris Conservatoire and became joint organist at the city’s Saint-Étienne-du-Mond church in succession to Maurice Duruflé. He has over 100 works to his name. Vers L’Esperance (Towards Hope) is the third and final movement of his Poèmes pour Orgue inspired by the poems of Alain Suied. This challenging but exciting piece closes the festival with a flourish.

Qu’est-ce qui nous traque
et nous tord
et se joue de nous
derrière nos masques?
Qu’est-ce qui souffre
et se révolte
au fond de nous malgré nos rêves?
Qui es-tu, triste
matière silencieuse?
De quel parage du ciel
es-tu messagère
oublieuse, de quelle détresse
es-tu le gouffre indéchiffrable?
Qu-est-ce qui nous porte
et nous appelle

et nous élève au-dessus de nous
dans l’espérance?


What hounds us and twists us and deceives us beneath our masks?
What suffers and rebels deep down inside us, despite our dreams?
Who are you, sad, silent matter?
Of what region of heaven are you the forgetful messenger?
Of what distress are you the unfathomable abyss?
What bears us up and calls to us and raises us above ourselves, in hope?

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.