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Don't miss - Wesley 'The Wilderness' - York Minster today's Evensong


Martin Cooke
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Absolutely wonderful performance of this great piece, not often heard these days, at York today. It's here. Splendid from beginning to end but noteworthy for me because of the organ accompaniment which is quite an ordeal in its own right, and the excellence of the solo treble - but all of it simply delightful. I love the ending but have seen it questioned as to why Wesley chose to write this in penitential style instead of rejoicing over the fact that 'sorrow and sighing shall flee away.' I once had the pleasure of being at close quarters to John Birch accompanying this on the Allen at Chichester. He waited downstairs in the choir until the beginning of the collects before ascending to the console on the Bell screen, almost giving the assistant a heart attack, as he hadn't practised it because JB ALWAYS played it!

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12 hours ago, Martin Cooke said:

I love the ending but have seen it questioned as to why Wesley chose to write this in penitential style instead of rejoicing over the fact that 'sorrow and sighing shall flee away.' 

Strikes me that Wesley meant the ending to be gentle and consolatory, rather than penitential. The effect of banishing sorrow and sighing being viewed as peace and calm, rather than (say) rambunctious jollity. Given Wesley’s troubled nature I can imagine that idea appealing to him, though it’s not the obvious way to set the text.

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Quite a bit to read in it, but this article is helpful.  ‘The Wilderness’ was a very early work when S S was newly-arrived in Hereford in his early 20s.  I think the comparison with “Lead me Lord” is telling.  

Didn’t Liszt do something similar, ending some of his major organ pieces with a harmonisation of a Lutheran chorale - thought-provoking and, as you say, consolatory and in total contrast after the massive sounds which had preceded them.

https://www.church-music.org.uk/articles/samuel-sebastian-wesley.asp

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