Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

What Is The Right Repertoire For Recitals?


Recommended Posts

  • Replies 83
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I think the real question is this. What right has any player to expect other people to sit through a programme in which he/she plays (without break) the hardest pieces in his/her repertoire?

 

Though it is fun to watch a premier pianist playing Liszt's Transcendental Studies, or  a violinist playing Paganini, they don't give us this at every recital for the very best reason: great music is not there simply to display talent... music is more than that.

 

This is not to say that I disapprove of a cathedral organist playing the complete Nativite cycle in the Christmas season. If there's an audience that will enjoy this, it's a good idea. I have, however, met people who have been to such performances not knowing what to expect and found it rather alarming. This has to do with poor pre-recital publicity or lack of sufficient explanation at the event itself. A well-designed poster will provide some slight insight into the fact that such an evening is not your average 'organ recital'.

 

My answer to your question is:

Pieces should be chosen with

1. the occasion in mind,

2. the audience in mind,

3. the organ in mind and

last of all whether they give an opportunity for showing off.

 

=====================

 

 

Well that's it then!

 

I shall play what I said, including the Reubke, on the basis that the small audience will comprise of organists or organ-students.

 

Actually, I am always at great pains to ensure that everything I ever play in recital has to have a good tune or two, and also a bit of rhythmic life, and the Eastern Bloc pieces have just that in abundance.

 

I'd like to bet that people will be humming the little "Jan of Lublin" pieces, puzzling over the theme of the Seger Fugue based on the Czech carol and skipping along the pavement when they've heard the Brixi; unless of course, they are clutching at their prayer-books after hearing the "Rebuke."

 

Actually, I first heard the Reubke when I was 12, and I loved it immediately. In the technical stakes, it is perhaps one of the more accessible "big-works," and as music, one of the more immediately understandable. Apart from being quite exciting, it also contains extended moments of great lyrical beauty. It also tonal, which tends to help a bit.

 

Anyway, it's a damned sight better than anything Liszt ever wrote for organ IMHO.

 

Anyway, the "committee" can continue to offer their advice, but I retain the only vote!

 

Is the Reubke THAT awful as a recital work?

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
Why not combine the Messiaen with choral works? Such as this:

 

La vierge et l'enfant 

Hymn à la Vierge (Pierre VILLETTE)

Les bergers

Quem vidistis pastores dicite (Francis POULENC)

Desseins eternels

O Sacrum convivium (O.M.)

Le verbe

Que j'aime ce divin enfant (Jehan ALAIN)

Les enfants de Dieu

O magnum mysterium (Francis POULENC)

 

Interval

 

Les Anges

Hodie Christus natus est (Francis POULENC)

Jesus accept la souffrance

Tota pulchra es (Maurice DURUFLE)

Les Mages

Ubi caritas (Maurice DURUFLE)

Dieu parmi nous

 

This would for me, make a fine devotional evening. Choir would create an added attraction and the whole, a musical experience with purpose. It also gives  No 1 the opportunity to play La Nativité and the Assistant to conduct the unaccompanied choir for a change.

 

Just a seasonal thought and

With best wishes,

Nigel

 

 

=====================

 

This just goes to show how "different" even organists can be.

 

If I had to sit through that lot, I'd probably be slashing my wrists at the interval, even if I would approve of the Alain. If I survived long enough, I could probably feel that it was worth the effort to attend, if I could time it so as to expire as the strains of the Durufle "Ubi caritas" floated away with me.

 

:lol:

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
"Is the Reubke THAT awful as a recital work?"

(Quote)

 

If you had me as the public, certainly not...BUT you

should add Tournemire, Reger and a certain Herbert

to fill the bill, then...Amateurs have their manics!

 

Pierre

 

 

=============================

 

OMG.....you dare to tread on the respective deities of Tournemire and Reger, and even dare to mention them IN THE SAME BREATH as Herbert Howells?

 

Horses for courses, so to speak.....which reminds me.....

 

Never mind about organ recital programmes, how do I survive the following?

 

I shall shortly be at a "do" with Michael Owen and the England goalkeeper, at the "Lowrey" gallery in Salford Quays, Manchester.

 

The event is concerned with modern art, and the theme of football in particular. I probably know as much about football as Michael Owen knows about modern art, and the artists will know as much about music as I do about "colouring" things.

 

To make matters worse, I have been invited by my relatively uneducated, but hugely wealthy friend (who owns quite a few Lowrey paintings), and he in turn was invited by a mega-rich businessman worth a fortune, of 'Eastern Bloc' origins, who doesn't speak very good English but lives for football.

 

I am being dragged along to this event because my friend has misgivings, and isn't quite sure what he will be able to talk about.

 

HE isn't sure?

 

Wait 'til he hears MY contribution to the inevitable conversation.

 

On reflection, I think this is one of those moments in life when I would prefer to go to a Howells recital, where I could at least moan about it from a position of some knowledge!

 

Maybe I hould just wear a beret and a smock; waving my arms around and talking pretentiously, like Tony Hancock did in that film.

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
=====================

Well that's it then!

 

I shall play what I said, including the Reubke, on the basis that the small audience will comprise of organists or organ-students.

 

Actually, I am always at great pains to ensure that everything I ever play in recital has to have a good tune or two, and also a bit of rhythmic life, and the Eastern Bloc pieces have just that in abundance.

 

I'd like to bet that people will be humming the little "Jan of Lublin" pieces, puzzling over the theme of the Seger Fugue based on the Czech carol and skipping along the pavement when they've heard the Brixi; unless of course, they are clutching at their prayer-books after hearing the "Rebuke."

 

Actually, I first heard the Reubke when I was 12, and I loved it immediately. In the technical stakes, it is perhaps one of the more accessible "big-works," and as music, one of the more immediately understandable.  Apart from being quite exciting, it also contains extended moments of great lyrical beauty. It also tonal, which tends to help a bit.

 

Anyway, it's a damned sight better than anything Liszt ever wrote for organ IMHO.

 

Anyway, the "committee" can continue to offer their advice, but I retain the only vote!

 

Is the Reubke THAT awful as a recital work?

 

MM

 

 

Stick to your prog. MM - sounds very interesting.

 

I hope to travel the 150 miles (sorry,not on foot!) to swell the crowd.

 

A

Link to post
Share on other sites

"OMG.....you dare to tread on the respective deities of Tournemire and Reger, and even dare to mention them IN THE SAME BREATH as Herbert Howells?"

(Quote)

 

Hé oui... this may be a sure sign of a lack of education, but, mind you,

to me these three belong exactly to the same league.

(To the point my ideal syntesis organ is aimed exactly to those three) :lol:

 

Crazy Pierre. :lol:

Link to post
Share on other sites
"OMG.....you dare to tread on the respective deities of Tournemire and Reger, and even dare to mention them IN THE SAME BREATH as Herbert Howells?"

(Quote)

 

Hé oui... this may be a sure sign of a lack of education, but, mind you,

to me these three belong exactly to the same league.

(To the point my ideal syntesis organ is aimed exactly to those three) :lol:

 

Crazy Pierre. :lol:

 

 

Personally, I cannot reconcile the idea of Howells as a great composer. Certainly, I do not think that he compares in stature to Reger, for example. Aside from the fact that he was not nearly so prolific (Reger's ouvre is enormous....), he is simply not in the same league.

 

This is not to say that he did not write some wonderful music - even some great music. Within his songs there are many good pieces; much of his church music is exemplary. The motet Take him, earth, for cherishing is a fine piece, as is his Requiem. But a musical giant - no, I personally do not think so.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Duruflé composed even less....And is not underrated

for that reason.

This is not the right thread to start a discussion more about H.H.; let us say

only: we'd meet in twenty years to see how the ratings will evolve.

(I mean in Britain, here it is done)

 

Pierre

Link to post
Share on other sites
Duruflé composed even less....And is not underrated

for that reason.

This is not the right thread to start a discussion more about H.H.; let us say

only: we'd meet in twenty years to see how the ratings will evolve.

(I mean in Britain, here it is done)

 

Pierre

 

Agreed - but I did not say that he was (or should be) under-rated; simply that I could not agree with your statement that he was on a par with Reger!

 

For that matter, I doubt that Duruflé is regarded (in the UK, at any rate) as a great composer outside the field of church music.

 

Pierre, please do not think that I despise the music of Howells - I have a great liking for the choral music, at any rate. I very much enjoy playing for his settings of various canticles. About his organ music, I am less sure. I used to play a number of pieces by Howells, but I do not seem to have played any of his solo organ music for several years, now.

Link to post
Share on other sites
=====================

 

This just goes to show how "different" even organists can be.

 

If I had to sit through that lot, I'd probably be slashing my wrists at the interval, even if I would approve of the Alain. If I survived long enough, I could probably feel that it was worth the effort to attend, if I could time it so as to expire as the strains of the Durufle "Ubi caritas" floated away with me.

 

:(

 

MM

 

The three Poulenc motets Nigel suggests are possibly THE most exciting and colourful choral pieces ever created by anyone. I want them at my funeral (but not yet, please) and would certainly cross oceans to hear them done in this context.

 

The question of what is right for recitals does seem rather like asking what is appropriate for us all to have for dinner. What is NOT right for recitals is an easier question to answer, and the mystifying (to me) appeal of Lefebure-Wely is an excellent example. Supposedly he was a fantastic improviser and once made an amazing offering on an occasion when there had been a terrible flood, in which you could hear the rushing waters and the screams of people drowning. Why on earth he sealed his fate forever with those horrible trite Sorties is completely beyond me. I can't decide whether he is better or worse than Caleb Simper. You could programme two hours of my favourite music and perform it in my front room and I would still get up and walk out involuntarily after three bars of Sortie in Bb.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Stick to your prog. MM - sounds very interesting.

 

I hope to travel the 150 miles (sorry,not on foot!) to swell the crowd.

 

A

 

Yes, stick with it, and don't let Philip talk you out of it. The best recitals are the ones that don't follow the pattern. Three or four years ago the then organ scholar from Leeds Parish Church gave a recital that was mainly Buxtehude but with a couple of Bach works thrown in (on the 1929 Harrison and Harrison!). It was quite superb, and it put Bach into such a different light to hear him as the most modern composer in the programme.

 

Alistair, if you do come, the organ will be available for you to play after the recital, provided there isn't a wedding following hard on its heels, although the present vicar tries to avoid that secnario. Or you could just come to the pub.

 

Right, now I'd better start planning a programme for my recital at Halifax in September, because I will need ten months to practice it!

Link to post
Share on other sites
The three Poulenc motets Nigel suggests are possibly THE most exciting and colourful choral pieces ever created by anyone.  I want them at my funeral (but not yet, please) and would certainly cross oceans to hear them done in this context.

 

The question of what is right for recitals does seem rather like asking what is appropriate for us all to have for dinner.  What is NOT right for recitals is an easier question to answer, and the mystifying (to me) appeal of Lefebure-Wely is an excellent example.  Supposedly he was a fantastic improviser and once made an amazing offering on an occasion when there had been a terrible flood, in which you could hear the rushing waters and the screams of people drowning.  Why on earth he sealed his fate forever with those horrible trite Sorties is completely beyond me.  I can't decide whether he is better or worse than Caleb Simper.  You could programme two hours of my favourite music and perform it in my front room and I would still get up and walk out involuntarily after three bars of Sortie in Bb.

 

 

====================

 

 

It's probably just me, but I don't think I've ever liked a single thing I have heard by Poulenc; including the organ concerto.

 

Maybe I just don't think vertically like most people; much preferring the contrpuntal and linear. I think that to be so moved by Reger, as I am, is perhaps unusual, but certainly not unique. Oddly enough, I quite like some of the more contemporary repertoire from central europe, as everyone now knows, and yet, it owes much to French harmony very often. Perhaps the difference is actually a very basic one, in so much as French music tends to be expressive moment by moment, making full use of the expressive qualities of French organs, whereas the central european way is to have alternating, and therefore "contrapuntal" cedents and anticedents, with a clear linear drive often dominated by rhythm.

 

Counterpoint is not restricted to the classical methods of Bach of course, and even rhythmic motifs can be replicated, and operate in dialogue. This is what Eben seems to do quite a lot, and that is not very far removed from Messaiens "chordal counterpoint."

 

I think something else occurs with Reger, insomuch as the classical counterpoint is what holds together the often rapidly changing extremes of dynamic and harmonics, and without it, it would almost be Schoenberg.

 

Of course, the other expressive technique which does not rely on either stop changes or swell-boxes, is the Rossini technique of increasing tension by doubling the rhythmic tempo; in fact a component of most Rossini Overtures and some of the Arthur Sullivan works.

 

As for the music of Lefebure-Wely, we shouldn't be too hard on the poor man. On a scale of one to ten, where no.1 represents a typical campfire song such as "I know a bear that you all know, Yogi,Yogi" and no.10 represents the Bach B-minor Mass, I think L-W's works would fall at around no.3, making them MUCH better than a campfire song, and marginally better than the theme to "Eastenders."

 

Not one to take undue liberties with music (my name isn't Virgil Fox!), I must confess to taking great delight in completely screwing-up the ending of the Bolero, by playing (on a solitary 8ft Swell reed) the falling bit heard at the end of Ravel's equivalent, (the bit where Torvill and Dean collapsed in a heap on the ice) and then finishing with an absolute blast of a jazz-chord on full organ. (Think chords of C major and G major at the same time, but with added dissonance).

 

I find that this makes a wonderful improvement to what is essentially fairground-music, and if not quite elevating it to no.10 status, at least lifts it from the sewer and places it gently in the gutter, where it can be conveniently kicked around or trampled under foot.

 

It's just a bit of fun, as the actress said to the bishop.

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
====================

 

As for the music of Lefebure-Wely, we shouldn't be too hard on the poor man. On a scale of one to ten, where no.1 represents a typical campfire song such as "I know a bear that you all know, Yogi,Yogi" and no.10 represents the Bach B-minor Mass, I think L-W's works would fall at around no.3, making them MUCH better than a campfire song, and marginally better than the theme to "Eastenders."

 

Not one to take undue liberties with music (my name isn't Virgil Fox!), I must confess to taking great delight in completely screwing-up the ending of the Bolero, by playing (on a solitary 8ft Swell reed) the falling bit heard at the end of Ravel's equivalent, (the bit where Torvill and Dean collapsed in a heap on the ice) and then finishing with an absolute blast of a jazz-chord on full organ. (Think chords of C major and G major at the same time, but with added dissonance).

 

I find that this makes a wonderful improvement to what is essentially fairground-music, and if not quite elevating it to no.10 status, at least lifts it from the sewer and places it gently in the gutter, where it can be conveniently kicked around or trampled under foot.

 

It's just a bit of fun, as the actress said to the bishop.

 

MM

 

 

By the time one has played 'The' Toccata and Fugue in D minor and 'The' Widor over 200 times these have lost a certain amount of their attraction. The fact remains, they (like two or three Lefbure-Wely items) give real pleasure to others. For me, this is a sufficient reason for getting them out from time to time. I ration them, however. Anyone at church who says 'could you/can you play the Widor?' etc. I always say, 'I usually play it at the Midnight Service at Christmas'. And I do.

 

Even so, I get the odd day - or the occasional organ - where to sit and thump through the Widor 'flat out' mostly for myself is pure fun. I get a similar rush from playing Sousa's 'Liberty Bell' or Leroy Anderson's 'Sleigh Ride' on fullish organ. Pity these are frowned upon as voluntary fodder!

 

The fact that something isn't great music ought not to put us off. Actually, that thought doesn't bear thinking about in detail - how much we already sing or play that isn't great music and might thus have to be abolished in one bold, puritanical stroke. Even with the upside that this would save us from all but about ten hymns written since 1920, we would be the poorer, I'm quite convinced. I still come back to the magic word: variety. There's a place for everything.....just don't ask for it every day!

 

I've been trying to think (as a sort of Codetta) of a real bete noir - a piece I can't bear to hear again. The nearest I can think of is Messiaen's* Dieu Parmi Nous in the context of the King's College Broadcast Carol Service. Assuming that it's one of the better-rehearsed broadcasts, we have heard championship-class singing, decent diction, some of the finest bible passages read to us and enjoyed a varied diet of major/minor masterpieces. We've heard the much loved carols (every verse accompanied on Great to Mixture with full Swell coupled and a fat pedal reed - for no terribly obvious reason) and then with one enormous jolt we are heaved into 'avant-garde Paris, 1935-style' with chords so out of keeping with the rest of the service that you can picture thousands of the middle-aged and elderly right across the civilised world in positive paroxysms as they attempt to leap from their chairs in order to switch the radio off as fast as possible. It's the equivalent of a wonderful Christmas meal (with all the trimmings) finishing not with chocolate mints and coffee but with a red-hot vindaloo chaser.

 

 

*Don't get me wrong - a great piece in another context. And, of course, perfect for showing that this year's organ scholar is no slouch.....Real reason for this 'tradition'?

Link to post
Share on other sites
... and then with one enormous jolt we are heaved into 'avant-garde Paris, 1935-style' with chords so out of keeping with the rest of the service that you can picture thousands of the middle-aged and elderly right across the civilised world in positive paroxysms as they attempt to leap from their chairs in order to switch the radio off as fast as possible.  It's the equivalent of a wonderful Christmas meal (with all the trimmings) finishing not with chocolate mints and coffee but with a red-hot vindaloo chaser.

:(

 

MM, I'm going to try and find out recordings of those Poulenc pieces to send you. Moment by moment is a good description but the overall structure is instantly visible too.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

Indeed - each to his/her own. How boring life would be if we all liked the same!

 

I get very muddled on this site because we go off at so many tangents. Somewhere, I read about what people wanted to play at the end of an Advent Carol Service. I (and somebody said they liked a Minor key) suggest the Andriessen Theme and Variations. Its a grand opening with a touch of hope for the future, in the ending. As for a Christmas Carol Service, I quite agree. Messiaen is quite the wrong thing to tickle the ears. For a spectaclular and magesterial piece, I play the Sinfonia da Chiesa in D of Helmich Roman. A great favourite with the punters and choir (and a whiz choice to get a bride out of the church). Or, for a gentler start but overwhelming conclusion, try Offertoire en Symphonie Concertante by Jean-Jacques Beauvarlet Charpentier (organist of Notre Dame, Paris and not to be confused with a Te Deum composer, before you all groan!)

 

Have a good Sunday with all your organs. I am off to hear our electric substitute. I can only go to heaven after suffering purgatory all these years.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

Link to post
Share on other sites
Indeed - each to his/her own. How boring life would be if we all liked the same!

 

Chacun a son goût - or chacun a son égoût, (each to his own sewer), if you prefer.

 

What's right depends obviously on the context, however you car to define that - time, place, setting, season, audience, instrument etc etc.

 

In this country there seems little scope for the 'liturgically or scripturally informed' recital, that is where the pieces are chosen to reflect a particular devotional theme. One distinguished exception is the recital series at the Brompton Oratory, where players are expected to select pieces of appropriate religious character and overtly secular works are discouraged. This might seem unduly restrictive, but, in practice, it can often be a revelation to hear, say, selected plainsong themes or chorale melodies treated in different ways by different composers, or, at the other end of the scale, a Tournemire mass setting in its entirety. The point is that the recital acquires a context and a framework which gives added understanding to its component pieces.

 

A good example of this is the Orgelvesper, a form of late-Sunday afternoon organ recital-cum-devotional address to be heard in many German churches, both Protestant and Catholic. It usually lasts about 40-45 minutes, with organ music on either side of a 10-minute devotional address from the priest or pastor, with both parts sharing a similar theme or mood. I recall such Orgelvesper at such wonderful places as St Jakobi, Lübeck, St Marien, Berlin and the Freiberger Dom, all of which were very satisfying musical (and spiritual) experiences - and almost always well-attended, to boot.

 

Sensitively and intelligently done, it can be a welcome change from the usual recital fare - at its worst an unrelated and inconsequential ragbag of superficially ear-tickling and showy pieces designed to please the punters, perhaps with the odd bit of JSB thrown in for respectability.

 

I'm not decrying populist recital programmes - Lefébure-Wély and all - or the entirely laudable wish of organists to reach a wider audience. The alternative I've described may not work over here - it certainly requires more work to prepare, not to mention the active support and cooperation from the clerical wing. I just wonder if anyone would be brave enough to give it a try sometime. (or may even have done so).

 

JS

Link to post
Share on other sites
:(

 

MM, I'm going to try and find out recordings of those Poulenc pieces to send you.  Moment by moment is a good description but the overall structure is instantly visible too.

 

====================

 

Thanks David.

 

Well I don't have a closed mind, and I have no axe to grind over Francis Poulenc, so perhaps I could become a convert.

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
By the time one has played 'The' Toccata and Fugue in D minor and 'The' Widor over 200 times these have lost a certain amount of their attraction.

I only have to hear those opening three notes of BWV565 to break out in a cold sweat, go down on bended knee and plead for mercy. It's quite scary, really. :(

 

I've been trying to think (as a sort of Codetta) of a real bete noir - a piece I can't bear to hear again. The nearest I can think of is Messiaen's Dieu Parmi Nous in the context of the King's College Broadcast Carol Service.

I'm with you on that one, Paul, but also the preceeding obligatory Bach In dulci jubilo. For me, the best way to end the Christmas service, as I think I have previously admitted, is for the final hymn to be immediately followed by Sortie sur Adeste Fideles by Pierre Cochereau, a work I would imagine the King's organ scholars could eat for breakfast!

Link to post
Share on other sites
 

I'm with you on that one, Paul, but also the preceeding obligatory Bach In dulci jubilo.

 

The handy thing about the Bach is though that you canm play almost anything after it such as messiaen, eben, vierne, etc which wouldn't work straight after a final hymn because it has once again adjusted the congregations mind to 'organ music.'

 

Also at Kings, they normally play 2 or 3 movements of La Nativite before the service which makes a bit more sense. They have all their old programs on their website for the lsat 8 years or so

Link to post
Share on other sites
Indeed - each to his/her own. How boring life would be if we all liked the same!

 

I get very muddled on this site because we go off at so many tangents. Somewhere, I read about what people wanted to play at the end of an Advent Carol Service. I (and somebody said they liked a Minor key) suggest the Andriessen Theme and Variations. Its a grand opening with a touch of hope for the future, in the ending. Best wishes,

Nigel

 

Yes - me. Thank you for your suggestion. Now, if I can just find a copy of the Andriessen piece and learn it in time....

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...