The Paul Manz Organ Series
November concert celebrates Saints, Souls, and the Reformation
October 25, 2013 -- Seasonal repertoire is on the menu for the November concert of the Paul Manz Organ Series, with music honoring the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, Totensonntag, and Reformation Sunday.
In recognition of the latter, Artistic Director Thomas Wikman will play Michael Praetorius' Fantasie on the famous Reformation hymn Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott ("A mighty fortress is our God"). Although the piece flows in one sweeping motion, Praetorius treats each phrase of the hymn as a fugue. In the last section, the rhythm doubles in time, creating a thrilling, virtuosic effect.
On November 24, the Lutherans of Germany will observe Totensonntag (Sunday of the Dead) by visiting the graves of their families. A chorale associated with this day is Valet will ich dir geben ("Farewell I Gladly Bid Thee"). Johann Sebastian Bach wrote two marvelous pieces on this tune. The first is called "Fantasia Super: Valet will..." The elegant polyphony wraps itself around the hymn tune, ranging up and down the keyboard. A second setting of this chorale rolls along in a brilliant, virtuosic fashion with sweeping sextuplets in the manual parts. These pieces are Bach at his most inspired.
A Requiem mass is sung on the Feast of All Souls, November 2. Many famous Requiems contain the text in Paradisum. Wikman will play a particularly beautiful setting by the 20th century French composer Daniel Lesur. It is very impressionistic in tonality. He will follow with Litanies by the French composer Jehan Alain, one of the 20th century's most gifted composers who was tragically killed in World War II at the age of 29. He was buried by the Germans with full honors as a military hero. Litanies is his most famous work, a fiery piece influenced by Oriental rhythms and harmonies.
Two pieces represent All Saints Day, November 1. The first is a setting of the Offertory of the Mass, Justorum Animae by Charles Tournemire. It is based on the plainsong proper and is very atmospheric. The program ends with a toccata on Placare Christe Servulis, a hymn sung at Vespers on All Saints. The toccata was penned by Paul Benoit, a 20th century composer from Luxembourg who was a Benedictine priest. He wrote fiery, brilliant figuration in the manuals, with the pedal booming out the plainsong hymn.