The University of Mississippi

David Warren Steel, organ

Baroque Pearls: Rediscovered Gems from France and Spain

   Ave maris stella (1623)                     Jehan Titelouze
      [Plein chant en basse]                     ca. 1563-1633
        Canon in diapente  
         [Point d'orgue] 

   Tiento de medio registro de baxones de primero tono (1626) 
                                    Francisco Correa de Arauxo

   Tiento partido de dos tiples de segundo tono
                                               Juan Cabanilles

   Prélude (1654)                               Louis Couperin
     "Il faut jouer cecy d'un mouvement fort lent"   1626-1661

   A solis ortus cardine (1656)                 Louis Couperin        
      [Plein chant] en taille  
        En hault-contre
          En basse

   Fugue sur le Cromorne (no. 20, 1655)         Louis Couperin
   Fugue (no. 17, 1656)
   Fugue (no. 61, 1656)                             
   Fugue (no. 62, 1656)                          

   Ensalada obra de octavo tono alto  
                                 Sebastián Aguilera de Heredia
                                                 ca. 1565-1627

   Pasacalles de cuarto tono                   Juan Cabanilles

   Prélude du premier ton (1686)               Nicolas Gigault

   Ave maris stella (1699)                   Nicolas de Grigny
      [Plein chant en taille]                        1672-1703

Sunday, July 11, 2004, 4:00 p.m.
First Congregational Church
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Organ by Karl Wilhelm, Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Québec, 1984
Three manuals and pedal, 39 stops, 57 ranks.

Poster (60 kB PDF)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004, 8:00 p.m.
Paris-Yates Chapel
University of Mississippi

Poster (79 kB PDF)

Organ by Karl Wilhelm, Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Québec, 2001
Two manuals and pedal, 26 stops, 33 ranks.

[ MP3 samples ]

Program Notes

Organ music of the 17th century is still played today, and forms a part of a comprehensive organ curriculum, but it is much less familiar than that of the 18th century, especially that of J.S. Bach. The music of Spain is little known in the U.S. That of Louis Couperin is almost unknown: discovered over forty years ago, it was only published in 2003. This music is like a baroque pearl; eccentric, individual, and often miniature, it is both stylish and moody, fresh and spontaneous. Today's program is inspired by my encounter with Louis Couperin's music, and with Spanish music as played on the surviving baroque organs of Oaxaca, Mexico, where I attended a festival last fall.

Born in the Spanish Netherlands, Titelouze settled in Rouen, where he served as a canon (priest) and organist at the cathedral. His music, though grounded in a Renaissance idiom, explores new colors and dissonances. His hymn settings consist of several versets, originally performed in alternation with chant. The final verset of Ave maris stella is a remarkable exploration of fugal counterpoint over a drone bass.

Medio registro is a distinctively 17th-century Iberian idiom in which a single manual is divided into treble and bass ranges whose stops may be drawn separately to provide contrast between the two, usually with one hand as a solo and the other as an accompaniment. Correa de Arauxo of Seville was one of the first composers to explore its possibilities. His tiento baxo pits a bass solo against three voices of treble accompaniment. It also features an unusual section in 7/8 time. The music of the Valencian organist Cabanilles represents the culmination of the Iberian style. His tiento de dos tiples features an imitative duet for the right hand accompanied by the left, filled with rich harmonic colors, sequences, and rhythmic shifts.

Louis Couperin was the first of his musical family to achieve fame on the Parisian scene. In a short career of only eleven years, he established himself as a highly original composer for the harpsichord. His organ music is equally original in form and technique, but most of all in expression, showing a deep strain of melancholy that surfaces even in his most jubilant or playful pieces, but especially in his fugues and fantasies.

Spanish composers were not confined to medio registro, but also wrote music for one or two undivided manuals. Aguilera's ensalada (hodgepodge) is a lively, accessible piece with strong rhythms and highly contrasting sections. Pasacalles denotes variations on a repeated bass or chord pattern, originally a theatrical "vamp" or traveling music associated with the Spanish guitar. The present example is unusual in its stately duple time, also its somber E tonality suggesting flamenco music.

Parisian organist Nicolas Gigault was a prolific but uneven composer; his first mode prelude for plein jeu (full organ) is a startling exploration of pungent dissonances. Rheims organist Nicolas de Grigny lived barely thirty years, but he created a single collection of organ music of such depth and beauty that J.S. Bach hand-copied the entire book for his own study. His versets combine the contrapuntal skill of Titelouze with the bold rhythms and colors of the French opera and ballet.

David Warren Steel

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