The Paul Manz Organ Series
Season Concludes with Bach, Jongen, and Vierne
April 29, 2013 -- An exquisite musical prayer, seldom heard, will be framed by two popular masterpieces of Bach and Vierne for the May 7 concert of the Paul Manz Organ Series. Artistic Director Thomas Wikman will perform, closing the series' 2012-13 season.
Bach's massive E-flat Major Prelude and Fugue were written as bookends to a much larger work: the Klavier-Übung dritter Teil or Keyboard Practice Part III. For the past two centuries, however, these two pieces have been paired as a typical prelude/fugue set. The prelude alternates the swinging rhythm of a French overture with fugal episodes typical of Bach.
The fugue is known in English-speaking countries as the "St. Anne" because its theme resembles the hymn to St. Anne known to most as O God, Our Help in Ages Past. It is truly one of the monumental works of the literature, and much has been written about it. It is a triple fugue. Second and third themes are layered upon the first, so that the third fugue is the culmination of the work. Many writers interpret this as Bach's description of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Joseph Jongen's Prière, much like Franck's, is truly mystical -- lengthy, but never rising to any great volume. The Belgian composer utilizes the beautiful strings, reeds, and foundation colors of the organ. After a beautiful exposition of the first theme, the pace quickends and a second theme is introduced. The two melodies alternate throughout the piece. Remarkably, each is presented in canon -- sometimes at the measure and sometimes at the beat.
Vierne's Allegro Risoluto is the first movement of his Second Symphony in E minor. This brilliant, muscular masterpiece has been a favorite of organists and audiences since its premiere in 1903. The young Debussy, as a music critic, praised it highly. It has two basic themes -- one very dramatic and one more lyrical -- which combine and eventually drive the piece to a thrilling conclusion. The final section features six voices played on the manuals over a pedal ostinato in sixteenth notes.