|February 17, 2021|
Charles Andrews Organ
Fantasia in C minor BWV562 (Bach)
Two settings of Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier BWV731, 730 (Bach)
Jesu dulcis memoria (Walford Davies)
Attende Domine (Demessieux)
Prelude & fugue in F minor BWV534 (Bach)
Today’s programme is intended to reflect the penitential mood Christians observe on this day in the church calendar, Ash Wednesday. Bach’s Fantasia in C minor betrays his admiration for French contemporaries with its five-part texture. No complete accompanying fugue has survived, but the plangent Fantasia feels quite complete by itself.
Two settings of the chorale “Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier” follow. The text, in Catherine Winkworth’s translation, is, “Blessed Jesus, at your word we are gathered all to hear you. Let our hearts and souls be stirred now to seek and love and fear you. By your gospel pure and holy, teach us, Lord, to love you solely.” Chorale preludes are played, in German traditions, before the first verse of a hymn is sung. Bach’s serene music must have been meant to inspire an attentive attitude to this hymn text.
Henry Walford Davies was Organist at the Temple Church from 1898-1923. An extremely eminent musician of his day, he was Master of the King’s Music from 1934-41 and Organist of St George’s Chapel, Windsor from 1927-32. His most famous works include RAF March Past, Solemn Melody for organ and strings and the short anthem, “God be in my head”. He was known as a very fine choir-trainer and a man of exceptional Christian devotion. Jesu dulcis memoria is based on a motif composed by Walford Davies to words by Julian of Norwich, “The place that Jesus taketh in our Soul, he shall never therefrom remove, without end; For in us is his homeliest home, and his endless dwelling.”
The successor of Walford Davies at the Temple Church, George Thalben-Ball’s glorious tenure lasted nearly sixty years until 1982. Widely acknowledged as the most brilliant organ virtuoso of his day, his teachers included the composers Stanford and Parry and the organist G D Cunningham. Thalben-Ball apparently improvised the melody of his famous Elegy at the request of Walford Davies, after a service broadcast by the BBC. He later formed it into the present composition. Elegy consciously mimics the spirit of Solemn Melody by Walford Davies but the result is sincere and touching and one of Thalben-Ball’s most satisfying compositions.
Favourite student of celebrated organist-composer Marcel Dupré, Jeanne Demessieux wove the two distinctive melodies of the ‘Lent Prose’ into a rich and intense tapestry in her prelude Attende Domine. The translation known best in England is, “Hear us, O Lord; have mercy upon us: for we have sinned against thee”.
Many scholars today consider the Prelude & fugue BWV534 unlikely to have been composed by Bach. Though the counterpoint and balance of form are not consistently so fine as in the master’s best works, BWV534 packs significant emotional punch and makes a most satisfying work to perform.
This recital will be available on the Church’s YouTube Channel.