Program notes

Praeludium in G minor, Dietrich Buxtehude

The brilliant organ preludes of Buxtehude, the pre-eminent North German composer of the 17th century, are known mainly through manuscripts of Bach's family and pupils. They typically consist of two or more fugal sections alternating with free sections. This G minor Praeludium opens with a ciaccona based on a repeated bass line.

Magnificat du premier ton, J.A. "Guilain" Freinsberg

Jean-Adam Guillaume Freinsberg, known as Guilain, lived in Paris during the first decade of the 18th century, where his four organ suites were published in 1706. Each suite consists of several short movements called versets which alternate with chant in a liturgical performance. The Magnificat was sung at Vespers or Evensong, and consisted of six versets alternating with five chant interludes. Guilain made excellent use of the sounds available on the French classical organ. Most versets take their title from registrations or stops of the organ, including the following:

plein jeu
full organ tone with bright mixtures, playing slow, thick chords and pungent dissonances.
basse de trompette
trompette (a reed stop), with prestant and tierce, playing lively melodies and leaping figurations in the bass register, in imitation of the viola da gamba.
treble solo and accompaniment, derived from vocal models.
grand jeu
reeds, prestant and cornet stops—heard in fugues and dialogues.
petit plein jeu
a plein jeu on the smaller, brighter division, frequently in improvisatory style, often as a finale.

Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, J.S. Bach

Although written before 1719, this affective setting of the well-known communion hymn "Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness" was one of eighteen chorales revised and copied by the composer shortly before his death.

Trauermusik (1674), Dietrich Buxtehude

The death of Buxtehude's father, an organist in Denmark, inspired this contrapuntal masterpiece. The first four verses incorporate the melody "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin," the German Nunc dimittis, associated with funerals. This is followed by a vocal Klaglied (lament) containing a personal vision of his musical father in the afterlife.

Sonate III (1940), Paul Hindemith

Paul Hindemith was the most important German composer of the early 20th century, as well as an influential teacher. He was an early advocate of the classic organ revival; his organ sonatas, with their clear contrapuntal voices and terraced dynamics, are well-suited to the traditional pipe organ. Each movement of his third sonata is based on a medieval melody, surrounded by dissonant harmonies. All three of the melodies appear also as part-writing exercises in Hindemith's treatise, The Craft of Musical Composition.

Praeludium and Fugue in C major, J.S. Bach

During his lifetime Bach was better known as a keyboard performer than as a composer. Like most of his organ works, his Praeludium in C major was written before 1717; it shows the influence of Buxtehude in its combination of contrapuntal rigor and technical brilliance, but is organized into two clear-cut movements.

David Warren Steel