Organ Spectacular VI
The Chamber Orchestra’s Organ Spectacular blazes new trails with four of the region’s finest organists and a world premiere by Dr. Roderick Gorby. With the world-class organ at First United Methodist Church, we will shake the building in performances of Hindemith’s psychedelic Kammermusik No. 7 and the Widor’s majestic Symphony in G Minor. A hidden baroque gem for organ and violin is the icing on a stunning afternoon of live music. A consistent audience favorite, the Organ Spectacular is one of the most exciting arts events all season and not to be missed!
Sunday, September 12, 2021, 2:30pm
FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
420 N Nevada Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Roderick Gorby An American Tone Poem (World Premiere)
NOTE for our Organ Spectacular: First United Methodist Church is following the El Paso County Health Department recommendation regarding masking in public settings. El Paso County Health Department is strongly recommending wearing a mask in public indoor settings regardless of your vaccination status. For all Chamber Orchestra of the Springs performances at First United Methodist Church, patrons are strongly requested to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status.
PROGRAM NOTES by Jennifer Carpenter
Organ Spectacular VI Program Notes
Roderick Gorby: An American Tone Poem
Tone poems are instrumental works that evoke imagery through imaginative orchestration, but without the use of words. In An American Tone Poem, composer and organist Roderick Gorby wants to explore this question: What kind of place is America? He believes “America is wild and exciting, free and soul-searching, civilized and dignified, patriotic and prayerful. America is worth the past, present, and future sacrifice of so many brave men and women, and America is full of life today because of their collective sacrifice.”
Gorby’s tone poem was inspired by the poem “America the Beautiful” by Katherine Lee Bates (1859-1929) and set to music by Samuel Ward (1848-1903). Gorby writes that “each verse of Bates’s ‘America the Beautiful’ captures fantastic imagery with wonderfully memorable, rhythmic, and alliterative locutions. The title and character of each movement of this composition are drawn directly from those imaginative morsels of Bates’s poem: I. Purple Mountain Majesties, II. Pilgrim Feet, III. Every Gain Divine, and IV. Alabaster Cities. The wildly differing characters of each movement of An American Tone Poem are unified by the ever-presence of Ward’s well-known melody, often fragmented, playfully reimagined, or motivically rearranged.”
Today’s program features the final two movements.“III. Every Gain Divine” is in an altered strophic form. Strophic form is a form of music in which one verse or musical structure is repeated over and over. Gorby reorganizes and harmonizes Ward’s melody in the style of a Lutheran chorale - a genre using strophic form, and each instrumental family of the orchestra offers a verse.
Regarding “IV: Alabaster Cities,” Gorby recounts that “on her way to Colorado Springs, Bates attended the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago where she encountered a futuristic scene of buildings covered with ‘white staff’. The scene made such an impression on her that she used the phrase “alabaster cities” in the fourth verse of her poem, to capture her great optimism for the future of American cities. With this movement, I aimed to represent the excitement of the hustle and bustle of a late 19th-century American city. The movement ends with an overt and surely recognizable patriotic tribute to the United States of America.”
Paul Hindemith: Kammermusik No. 7, op. 46 no. 2 (1927)
The German composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) loved and respected the steep musical traditions of his country. His admiration of the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Bruckner, etc., meant that his music remained accessible during a period of the 20th century when other German composers were compelled to push music forward by breaking the traditional molds. Hindemith championed a movement known as Neoclassicism, which was a compositional trend where composers borrowed elements from the Baroque and Classical eras. Hindemith composed in a way that revitalized old forms, strengthening their structures while bringing in refreshing compositional elements and harmonic language.
Kammermusik (Chamber Music) is the title for eight compositions that run the gamut from true chamber pieces with equally important parts to concertos where a solo instrument is pitted against a chamber orchestra. These latter pieces (Nos. 2-7) resemble J.S. Bach’s six Brandenburg Concertos, which are also for different combinations of solo instruments with chamber orchestra. Hindemith’s Kammermusik No. 7 is a concerto for organ and a chamber orchestra comprising the orchestral wind section and the low strings. This combination is striking in its recognition of the organ as a wind instrument itself. Hearing it in combination with what is essentially a wind ensemble showcases the timbral similarities and unique differences between the various wind instruments, particularly their articulative capabilities and the way they can shape the air.
Kammermusik No. 7 is a grand example of Hindemith’s combination of a neo-Baroque style with a revitalized harmonic palette. It’s three-movement form harkens back to the genre’s baroque predecessors. The neo-Baroque outer movements both begin with an orchestral tutti where Hindemith introduces the thematic material and melodic fortspinnung (spinning out or constant forward movement of the melody) that is then taken over by the solo organ. Hindemith modernizes the technique within the harmonic language, which is much more chromatic albeit without losing a tonal center. Hindemith does a masterful job of contrasting the articulations of the individual orchestral wind instruments with that of the organ in the final movement. The spritely fugue-like entries of the winds set up for the lofty entrance of the organ, which comes in playing the melody more smoothly yet still energetically.
The middle movement (Nicht zu schnell (Not too fast)) opens with solo organ in a winding melody that uses all 12 chromatic pitches before the rest of the instruments enter. Hindemith strays from his baroque predecessors in both the length and the motivic and chromatic development within this slow movement.
Kammermusik No. 7 premiered in Frankfurt on August 1, 1928 and was dedicated to the Frankfurt radio station (Dem Frankfurter Seder gewidmet). Hindemith took into consideration the then trenchant music broadcasting problems when considering the work’s instrumentation and the elaboration of the musical setting.
Padre Bicajo (Diogenio Bigaglia): Concerto for Violin & Organ in G Minor (between 1700-1745)
This concert presents quite the opportunity to compare and contrast a neo-Baroque organ concerto with a true Baroque one. The composer of the Concerto for Violin & Organ, however, is a bit of a mystery. Diogenio Bigaglia (c1676 - c1745) was a Venetian composer and Benedictine priest at S Giorgio Maggiore who often signed his manuscripts as Padre Benedettino Bigaglia or Padre Bicajo. His existing manuscripts show considerable compositional skill with a Vivaldian flare. Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was a direct, albeit more well-known contemporary, Roman Catholic priest, and worked directly across the canal from Bigaglia at the Ospedale della Pietà. Therefore, it is of little surprise that their musical language is quite similar.
Bigaglia’s Concerto for Violin & Organ in G Minor follows the standard three-movement concerto form. Both the outer Allegros begin with an energetic orchestral tutti with the soloists joining the ripieno strings. The soloists (concertino group) then break to share the motivic material back and forth before rejoining intermittent orchestral tuttis. Bigaglia develops his short melodic motives by using sequences, intervallic changes, and simple repetitions. The drive forward comes from the constant 8th-note movement in the lower strings and organ.
When thinking of baroque music and tempos, it is helpful to know that terms such as Allegro and Grave did not refer to a specific range of tempo, but rather the Affect or character of the movement. Allegro simply meant happy, fresh, joyful. Grave could mean sadness, seriousness, sorrow, or even pride. The middle movements of multi-movement baroque works often have a contrasting Affect and we can hear the different character vividly in Bigaglia’s Grave. The movement begins with short yet weighty chords interspersed with fluid motives from the soloists. An undulating, pensive melody quickly takes us to the final few bars where the final few chords leave us wanting the joyful return of the final Allegro.
Charles-Marie Widor: Symphonie pour orgue et orchestre, op. 42bis (1882)
The French organist and composer Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) hails from a family of organ makers and performers. By the age of 11 the young Widor was the organist at the lycée (school) in Lyons. He later studied composition with the Belgium composer François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871) before landing a position at St. Sulpice in Paris where he remained for 64 years. Although Widor achieved a considerable compositional output, his ten organ symphonies remain his most widely performed pieces. The term symphony typically denotes a work for a large ensemble, most often an orchestra. However, Widor used a new organ design pioneered by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811-1899) that was "symphonic" in style. Organs from the Baroque and Classical periods projected a clearer sound capable of handling thickly textured writing. Cavaillé-Coll's organs had a much warmer sound and a vast array of stops that extended the timbre and dynamic possibilities of the instrument. This new style of French organ with it's expanded orchestral range of voicing encouraged Widor to write music that was symphonic in scope. Today's Symphonie is an adaptation of two of his organ symphonies expanded to include the orchestra.
Widor’s Symphonie pour orgue et orchestre, opus 42bis launched a renaissance in organ with orchestra compositions. His expertise in instrumentation led him to masterfully perceive the essential differences between the organ and the orchestra, leading to this particular work having successful premieres across the world. This Symphonie does not fulfill the conventional expectations of a symphony, nor does it behave like a classic concerto that juxtaposes a soloist(s) with the ensemble. Part of this is due to the three movements coming from the composer’s solo organ symphonies. Movements 1 and 3 come from his Symphonie VI in G minor and movement 2 comes from his Symphonie II in D major. Widor scores the outer movements for the full orchestra while using sparer scoring for strings and organ in the 2nd movement.
In his Souvinirs autiographiques Widor relates what prompted him to create the Symphonie pour orgue et orchestre: “At that time, the future Edward VII, prince of Wales was spending the autumn in Paris and coming every evening to the opera....Before leaving Paris, he asked me if I would accept to come and play the organ in Royal Albert Hall on the occasion of a festival that he was organizing for the profit of his hospital in London…For the occasion of the Albert Hall concert, I orchestrated my Symphony in G minor, with which I played 2 pieces of Bach...I stayed a week or so for the rehearsals and dined two or three times at the duke of Edinburgh’s.”
Contemporary press reviews reveal that Widor actually premiered the new work in a concert at the Trocadéro on Thursday, April 13, 1882. “The last festival of the Trocadéro drew an enormous audience….One of the principal interests of the performance was the premiere of a symphony for organ and orchestra of M. Widor. The young master himself interpreted his work. The first movement of this symphony, a highly developed choral, first exposed by the full organ, is of an imposing effect. Nothing is lost from the numerous episodes of this piece, thanks to the wonderful virtuosity of the composer. The andante that follows left a lovely impression; the flute stops of M. Cavaillé-Coll found there an excellent opportunity to display their charm. The third movement, a very brilliant Tempo de marcia, would have gained, it seems to us, from having been taken less fast. In sum, this new symphony of M. Widor is a magisterial composition that perfectly puts in relief the resources of the modern organ, united with the powerful orchestra of our day.”
The work premiered in London’s Royal Albert Hall a few weeks later on Saturday, May 20, 1882.