The Paul Manz Organ Series
Last Blast Before Lent: PMOS Celebrates Mardi Gras
February 20, 2014 -- On Shrove Tuesday (March 4), Artistic Director Thomas Wikman will play a celebratory concert for the last midday event before Lent in the Paul Manz Organ Series. The program features a series of energetic works from a colorful variety of composers.
Today, J.S. Bach's "other" E minor Prelude and Fugue stands in the shadow of his more famous creation, known colloquially as "The Wedge". But 100 years ago, the piece that came to be nicknamed "The Cathedral" was played constantly.
"French organists especially loved to play it at a glacial speed in their immensely reverberant cathedrals," said Wikman. Though only four pages long, "The Cathedral", with its many-voiced chords, could amply fill the grand space for which it was named.
"It sounds very little like what we now consider to be Bach," Wikman continued. "In fact, it is a stirring example of the preludes and fugues that were being written in Bach's youth. As is apparent, it is a very youthful work."
The celebration continues with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck's Balletto del Granduca, one of a number of dances that the Dutch composer transcribed for the organ complete with dazzling variations.
In the traditional Christian liturgy, Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday. It is the last occasion before Easter when a Gloria may be sung or played at worship. Francois Couperin's verses exploit the organ's resources with great color and ornamentation. Many of the verses are dances. Among the slower verses is a beautiful long aria, the Tierce en Taille. The final verse is a rollicking Grands Jeux.
Pietro Yon was inspired to compose his bubbling humoresque L'organo primitivo after seeing an old Italian organ in a New York museum. It is a fine example of a perpetuum mobile.
Paul Benoit's beautiful, impressionistic Gaudeamus omnes is based on a plainsong introit that is sung at several important festivals in the church year.
Finally, the Toccata in E minor by Joseph-Jacques Callaerts is, according to Wikman, "simply a fantastic piece."
"The keyboard part incorporates virtuosic elements of both Beethoven and Chopin," he said. "A good conclusion to our Mardi Gras concert."