Lunchtime Organ Recital

February 10, 2021
1:15 pm

Roger Sayer

Flourish for an Occasion, William Harris

Elegiac Romance, John Ireland

Iste Confessor Domini from Le Tombeau de Titelouze, Op. 38 no. 12, Marcel Dupré

Final in B flat, Op. 21, César Franck

William Harris made a significant contribution to English Church music, writing some of the 19th Century’s most treasured choral classics, including Holy Is The True Light, Faire Is The Heaven, and Bring Us O Lord God. During his time as organist of St George’s Chapel Windsor Castle he became familiar with the pageantry of royal services and ceremonies. Flourish for an Occasion dates from 1947, the year of the marriage of Princess Elizabeth, and exploits the huge variety of colour and power available to the Romantic organ in delicate textures, lightning-fast scales and powerful antiphony between full organ and solo tuba.

John Ireland was a major British musical figure of the 20th Century. His compositions ventured into many genres, and his influence as a teacher at the Royal College of Music was profound, guiding and shaping the development of a number of successful students, including Benjamin Britten. Ireland’s own output includes music for solo voice, choir, orchestra, piano, and organ. The Elegiac Romance is his earliest work for organ. It is a beautiful and emotional tour de force, characterised by Ireland’s distinctive Impressionist style, mysterious harmonies and orchestral writing. It subtly shifts from gentle solo melodies and flowing accompaniments to a monumental chorus, and back to a recapitulation of the opening melody.

Marcel Dupré was one of the most significant organists of the 20th century. This year marks the 50th anniversary of his death in 1971. He wrote a colossal array of music, whilst maintaining an active recital career and holding the post of Organist Titulaire at the church of Saint Sulpice, Paris. This short and prayerful choral prelude is based on a Latin hymn used in services on the feasts of confessors. The chorale is in the pedals, supported by a sumptuously rich accompaniment.

There can be no dispute of the importance of César Franck in the musical life of Paris. His approach to organ composition brought about major change with a new ‘symphonic style’ which matched the colours, textures and dynamic range of the Romantic orchestra. Dupre’s music is often complex, using a harmonic language that is prototypically late Romantic, and betrays the influence of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. The ‘Final’ is dedicated to Lefébure-Wély, a contemporary of Franck whose playing was virtuosic, and compositional style rather frivolous. One can hear both of these elements in the ‘Final’ which features much joy, as well as the typical rich harmonic counterpoint so prevalent in Franck’s other music.

This performance will be live-streamed on the Church’s YouTube Channel