The Paul Manz Organ Series
Election Day Concert: A Celebration of C minor
One of J. S. Bach's favorite musical keys will be explored during the Nov. 6 installment of the Paul Manz Organ Series, as Artistic Director Thomas Wikman takes over the bench from colleagues David Schrader (September) and Daniel Schwandt (October).
The free midday concert will begin with Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C minor (BWV 546). Sometimes known as "the Great" or "the Leipzig," this is the last of Bach's great organ works in that key.
"Bach had an especial affinity for C minor," said Wikman. "In this key, he expressed some of his most noble ideas." Other famous Bach works in C minor are the Passacaglia and Fugue for organ and the final choruses of both the St. John and St. Matthew Passions.
The Leipzig prelude comprises a magnificent outpouring of chromatic harmony. It speaks the same language as the Passions, with expansive chords and a continuously running triplet figure that surges throughout the whole piece. The fugue, with its walking tempo, is in the alla breve style, with the half note as the basic pulse. Five sections link continuously and build to a great climax.
Following the Bach, Wikman will perform La Fête-Dieu in C Major by Théodore Dubois (1837-1924). Perhaps Dubois' greatest organ piece, it flows in one continuous movement. It begins and ends with ethereal passages on soft string stops. Twice, it reaches a great climax -- the first time briefly; the second time during a statement of the principal themes, in which the melody is played in unison in four different octaves and punctuated by dense chords. The entire piece is based on Latin melodies for the Eucharist.
"This," said Wikman, "is late Romantic music par excellence."
The recital will conclude with the Finale from the Symphony in D Minor, Op. 42, by Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911). Guilmant's fiery Finale has long been a virtuoso organist favorite. Its basic toccata-like figuration is drawn from brilliant Baroque violin music. "Indeed," said Wikman, "many of the harmonies sound Bachian."
However, the piece soon takes on more Romantic overtones. Much of the music reimagines itself in different keys and different voicings of the violinistic material. One of its biggest statements comprises more than a page of very dense polyphony.
"The final section, when the basic rhythm of the toccata comes to an end, is a massive march," said Wikman. "You have chords of up to 11 voices, with four notes in each hand and three notes played by the feet."
The Guilmant ends with a return of the original material, accelerating to a final outburst of glory.
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