Ahreum Han, winner of many organ playing competitions and a graduate of Curtis, Yale, and Westminster as a student of Ken Cowan, Alan Morrison, and Tom Murray, plays the 61-rank Casavant (1980/1998) at First Presbyterian Church, Davenport, Iowa, where she served 2010-2018 as Principal Organist, Assistant Director of Music, and Artist-in-Residence. She is Director of Music and Organist at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
Jean Berveiller 1904-1976: Mouvement
Jacques Offenbach 1819-1880: Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld trans. Ahreum Han Congdon
Johann Sebastian Bach 1685-1750: Trio Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, BWV 527
Guy Bovet born 1942: Hamburger Totentanz
Louis Vierne 1870-1937: Naïades, op. 55, no. 4
Charles-Marie Widor 1844-1937: Toccata from Symphony No. 5, op. 41, no. 1
Johannes Matthias Michel born 1962: Organ, Timbrel, and Dance: Swing Five, Bossa Nova, Afro-Cuban
Joseph Jongen 1873-1953: Sonata Eroïca, op. 94
by Matthew Bishop, Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church, Davenport, Iowa
Jean Berveiller: Mouvement
Jean Berveiller (1904-1976) was a leading figure of the Parisian music scene. While many of his organ and compositional contemporaries (Olivier Messiaen, Jean Langlais, Jeanne Demessieux) became known for their contributions to twentieth-century classical music, Berveiller’s broad musical interests and his associations with a number of important French jazz musicians eventually led to his hiring as the leader of the famed Parisian jazz club Boeuf sur le Toit. More than a music hall, Boeuf sur le Toit was and still is a focal point of Parisian society life, a cultural meeting place for musicians, painters, writers, and fashion designers.
Berveiller was dedicated to music throughout his life, although his primary means of income came from working in the financial industry. Like many of the leading twentieth-century French organists, Berveiller studied with the great organ and composition teacher Marcel Dupré at the Paris Conservatoire. Berveiller’s compositional output was small (he stopped composing two decades before his death), but his interest in jazz is obvious in his few but acclaimed published compositions for the organ.
Mouvement is Berveiller’s final composition, and probably his most performed. The composer enjoyed a close friendship with the famous organist Jeanne Demessieux, and dedicated Mouvement and four other works to her. Demessieux frequently performed his music in concert, and made two recordings of Mouvement prior to her tragic death in 1968. Mouvement is a short but exciting composition based on a perpetuum mobile idea and unrelenting jazz chords.
Jacques Offenbach, transcribed by Ahreum Han:
Overture to Orphée aux enfers
Of all the composers of French popular opera and operetta during the nineteenth century, Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) was one of the most controversial, thanks to his irreverent and politically charged Orphée aux enfers. A familiar synopsis to Parisian audiences, the classic myth from Greek antiquity describes how the great musician, Orpheus, descended into the underworld to win back his departed bride, Eurydice, from Hades; Hades allows Orpheus to lead Eurydice out of the underworld, but only if he does not look back until they reach the surface. Of course, Orpheus looks back and is doomed to life without Eurydice.
The tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice has been retold many times in Western culture, and is the basis of several operas. No operatic telling was more revered in the nineteenth century that Christoph Willibald Gluck’s “reform opera” Orfeo ed Euridice, which is rife with seriousness and morality. When Offenbach’s version premiered in 1858, its comedy and satirical references to the French Second Empire created a scandal. As news of the scandal broke, the Parisian public flocked to subsequent performances of the work to witness the spectacle. If for no other criteria than ticket sales, Orphée aux enfers was a smashing success.
Because traditional practices and musician limitations at the Champs Elysées theatre did not allow for lavish overtures, new productions in different cities called for conductors at other opera houses to create their own overture. The version of the Orphée aux enfers Overture that most orchestras play today was pastiched together by Carl Binder (1816-1860) for the Vienna premiere of the opera. Binder’s overture pulls from the opera’s most recognizable music, including part of Offenbach’s pithy original overture, a violin solo from Act I, and finally the famous can-can. Although a performance on organ of this riotous music is far removed from an operatic production, Offenbach’s colorful, striking music lends itself well to a rendering on the “King of Instruments.”
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, BWV 527
Much of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was largely forgotten for a few generations after his death, only to be “rediscovered” by nineteenth-century musicologists and later by Felix Mendelssohn. This, however, was not true of his massive output for his primary instrument, the organ; organists throughout Germany continued to play his music after his death, and he was widely remembered as a great recitalist. It is also true that the catalog of Bach’s music can be divided fairly cleanly using genre as a function of location: he wrote most of his great sacred choral music during his early and later years in Mühlhausen and Leipzig, and he composed much of his instrumental music near the middle of his life while working in Weimar and Köthen; but he wrote for the organ throughout his entire career.
It was during his first decade in Leipzig that Bach composed his Six Organ Sonatas (sometimes called “Organ Trios” or “Trio Sonatas for Organ”). An analysis of Bach’s handwriting places composition of these pieces even more precisely, to 1730. Bach wrote these challenging works as teaching pieces for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. In writing these pieces, Bach effectively created a new genre of organ music by adapting a popular form from the Baroque instrumental repertory. Originating from the Italian Baroque tradition, instrumental trio sonatas involve two contrapuntal parts above a basso continuo line (frequent instrumentations for this form include either two violins, two flutes, or one violin and one flute, accompanied by a continuo group of harpsichord and cello). For his organ trio sonatas, Bach placed the two solo parts in the manuals and the bass line in the pedals. These sonatas stand out in Bach’s output for two important reasons: for the galant style of their dance rhythms since most of Bach’s other organ music was intended for liturgical purposes, and for the technical demands created by repurposing the organist as a single chamber musician.
The D Minor Sonata is perhaps the most famous of the six. While some of the material in the six sonatas is newly composed, much of it involves reworkings of pre-existing instrumental works. The D Minor Sonata, however, forms the basis of a later work, the Triple Concerto for Flute, Violin, Harpsichord, and Strings (BWV 1044). The Andante opening movement is a winding duet between the upper voices with a relatively simple bass line. The middle movement is a tender Adagio in F Major in compound meter, almost Mozartean in its refinement. The pedals demand a more active role in the final Vivace, again utilizing a dance meter.
Guy Bovet: Hamburger Totentanz
Now retired from his posts as Professor of Organ at the Musikhochschule in Basel and organist at the Collegiate Church of Neuchâtel, Swiss organist and composer Guy Bovet (b. 1942) remains highly active in the organ world through his devotion to scholarship, teaching, rebuilding, recording, and a busy international performance schedule. A specialist in Spanish and Latin American organ music, Bovet has authored many articles on the subject and regularly teaches masterclasses at the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain. Bovet’s award-winning discography includes more than fifty recordings.
Bovet’s compositional output is highly diverse, ranging from sacred works, to transcriptions of orchestral pieces, to retrospective orchestral film scores (new scores to older movies). While the organ has always been a large part of this output, his compositions especially from the last decade have almost exclusively featured the instrument.
Bovet’s Hamburger Totentanz is the final portion of his Trois Préludes Hambourgeois, published as opus 136 in 1987. The three preludes, Salamanca, Sarasota, and Hamburger Totentanz, had an earlier genesis, however, dating back to 1971 when Bovet published them as part of his opus 64, 5ème livre d’orgue, which he revised and republished in 1974. In the early 1970s, Bovet was involved in a number of film projects, which is evident in these highly cinematic and often comedic preludes. The Hamburger Totentanz is a work of deranged satire, quoting such disparate classical themes as the Barcarolle from Offenbach’s opera Les contes d’Hoffmann and the opening notes of Beethoven’s Für Elise.
Louis Vierne: Naïades op. 55, no. 4, from 24 Pièces de fantaisie pour grand orgue
While it was German organists who established the importance of the instrument in the 18th century, the most influential organists and organ composers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were based in France. Following in a line of great Parisian composers that began with César Franck’s work in the mid-nineteenth century, Louis Vierne (1870-1937) contributed greatly to this tradition in terms of both his prolific output and his many great students (including Olivier Messiaen, Marcel Dupré, Maurice Duruflé, and Jean Langlais). When he was sixteen years old, Vierne became a devoted pupil of Franck at the Paris Conservatoire, and later of Franck’s successor, Charles-Marie Widor. In 1900, Vierne became organist at Notre-Dame de Paris, a position he held until his death (on the organ bench) in 1937.
Continuing a genre championed by Widor, Vierne composed six large-scale “organ symphonies.” While the symphonies are proof of Vierne’s masterful compositional prowess, it is in his shorter works that we see the full extent of his creativity and the diversity of his style. In the years preceding World War I, Vierne composed his 24 Pièces en style libre, but it was his later set of miniatures, the 24 Pièces de fantaisie that solidified his place in the pantheon of great organ composers. Vierne composed the set in 1926 and 1927 for his American tour; thanks to such components of the set as the famous Carillon de Westminster, his tour was by all accounts a great success.
The composer arranged the twenty-four pieces of his later set into four suites of six movements; Naïades is the fourth piece of the final suite. Descriptive of the flighty naiads, the water nymphs from Greek mythology, the piece involves bubbly perpetuum mobile figurations in the right hand with more placid harmonies in the left hand and pedal. Although Vierne is not remembered as an impressionist composer like his contemporaries Debussy and Ravel, Naïades does seem to serve as an homage to those composers, who often composed music depicting water and water-related themes.
Charles-Marie Widor: Toccata from Organ Symphony No. 5 in F Minor, op. 42, no. 1
Of the many organists and composers of the fin-de-siècle era of French music, Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) remains the most influential and his music (particularly the Toccata from the Fifth Symphony) the touchstone of every young organ student. Church musicianship was the likeliest path for him to follow: his father served as organist for many years at Saint François-de-Sales in Lyons and taught him to play the instrument with considerable skill. When Widor was nineteen, the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, on the recommendation of the renowned French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, accepted him as a student of virtuoso organist Jacques Lemmens. Upon his return from the conservatory, Widor continued to benefit from his connection to Cavaillé-Coll, who arranged for him to play on a number of important recitals, eventually in 1870 garnering him a highly-coveted position as interim organist at Saint-Sulpice in Paris, which housed the most monumental organ Cavaillé-Coll had built up to that point. The church never technically removed his interim designation, despite the fact that he continued in the position for sixty-four years.
Widor remained active as a composer and performer his entire life, but his legacy lives on through the many students who studied with him. In 1890, the Paris Conservatoire named him Professor of Organ, succeeding César Franck; six years later the Conservatoire added Professor of Composition to his list of duties, succeeding Théodore Dubois. He taught such luminary organists as Marcel Dupré, Louis Vierne, and Charles Tournemire, as well as the composers Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, and Edgard Varèse.
Widor’s significant output spans many genres, including chamber music, ballet scores, three operas, and three symphonies; but it is his organ music that solidified his eminence as a composer, most notably his ten organ symphonies. Widor did not create the genre of the organ symphony, a typically multi-movement work that is symphonic in scope and length, but he was early to give it prominence in his oeuvre. Widor premiered his Fifth Symphony in October of 1879 at the Palais du Trocadéro in Paris. The symphony, cast in five movements, is the most frequently performed of Widor’s large-scale works. The final movement, the exuberant Toccata for which Widor is best remembered, launched an entire genre, with many subsequent twentieth-century composers seeking to out-do Widor in unbridled energy and brilliance.
Johannes Matthias Michel: Organ, Timbrel, and Dance: Three Jazz Organ Preludes
German organist, composer, and conductor Johannes Matthias Michel (b. 1962) was born into a musical family (his father was the great church music composer Josef Michel). Beginning his studies in Heidelberg and Frankfurt, Michel graduated with a degree in organ performance from Musikhochschule Stuttgart. Michel is based in Mannheim where he teaches organ at the Staatlichen Hochschule for Musik and conducts several choirs, including the Kammerchor Mannheim and the Bachchor Mannheim. Michel performs widely and has made extensive recordings, especially of the organ music of Sigrid Karg-Elert.
Michel is a very prolific composer primarily of liturgical music. Many of his works incorporate his predilections for various jazz idioms, which are highly evident in his 1998 triptych of organ preludes, Organ, Timbrel, and Dance, in which Michel recontextualizes three standard German Lutheran chorales with jazz styles. The first prelude is an homage to Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, on the chorale tune Erhalt uns, Herr. The central prelude, Bossa Nova, utilizes the Brazilian rhythm for a lively rendering of Wunderbarer König. In the final movement, Afro-Cuban, Michel resets In dir ist Freude using the hemiola rhythm (and portions of the melody) of America from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.
Joseph Jongen: Sonata Eroïca, op. 94
Joseph Jongen (1873-1953) remains an important and well-known Belgian composer, if for no other piece than his splashy Symphonie concertante for organ and orchestra. Although Jongen composed music for a variety of genres (including orchestral music, chamber works, songs, and music for the piano), it is through his organ music (and through organists’ great admiration for his oeuvre) that he is known at all. A likely explanation for why he is often overlooked is the neo-romantic leanings of his compositions at a time when many of his contemporaries had long since abandoned tonality; but what Jongen’s music lacks in cutting-edge compositional techniques, it handily compensates through its lyricism.
Jongen studied at the Liège Conservatory and soon won the Belgian Prix de Rome, which allowed him to travel to Germany, Italy, and France, and to study composition with Richard Strauss and Gabriel Fauré. After serving as organist at a number of prominent churches in his home country, he was appointed director of the Royal Conservatory of Brussels following an escape to England during World War I. As director of the conservatory, Jongen drew much attention to his work and soon saw a flourish of commissions, none more career-defining than Rodman Wanamaker’s 1926 commission of Symphonie concertante for the great Wanamaker Organ with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Four years after his enormous success in Philadelphia, Jongen was asked to compose a dedication piece for the new organ of the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels; to satisfy the request, he wrote an equally demanding, large-scale solo organ work, which he eventually titled Sonata eroïca. Jongen originally intended the work as a set of variations, but later realized the scope of the work fits better with the narrative qualities of a single-movement sonata. In this respect, many musicians are quick to point out the affinities to Franz Liszt’s piano masterwork, the Sonata in B minor. Jongen’s sonata is similar to Liszt’s in many respects, including its transformation of a simple melody played at the opening and its gradual build-up to a dramatic fugue only to be abandoned in a rhapsodic frenzy.
Organist Ahreum Han’s imaginative, powerful, and extraordinary performances have thrilled audiences throughout North America, Asia, and Europe. She has appeared at the International Organ Festival in Arbon, Switzerland, Jack Singer Hall (Calgary, Canada), Michaeliskirche (Leipzig, Germany), Oxford Town Hall (UK), Nottingham Albert Concert Hall (UK), and Esplanade Hall (Singapore). Han was a featured soloist at the National Convention of the American Guild of Organists held in Nashville, Tennessee in 2012. She was featured at AGO Regional Conventions held in Cedar Rapids, IA (2017); New Haven, CT (2015), Atlanta (2007), and played for the AGO Winter Conclave in Sarasota, Florida (2010), the Young Virtuosi Festival held at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, Colorado State University, and the White Mountain Musical Arts Bach Festival in New Hampshire.
Han has appeared as a solo recitalist in major venues include the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall (Philadelphia); Riverside Church, St. Bartholomew’s Church, and Trinity Church, Wall Street (NYC); Princeton University Chapel; Memorial Chapel at Harvard University (Boston); Ocean Grove Auditorium (Ocean Grove, New Jersey), St. Philip’s Cathedral (Atlanta), Broadway Baptist Church (Fort Worth), Merrill Auditorium (Portland, Maine. She has appeared as organ soloist with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra at Kimmel Center and the University of Pennsylvania Orchestra at Irvine Auditorium.
Han has received top prizes from numerous competitions including the Oundle Award (UK), undergraduate division of Westminster Choir College Scholarship Competition, the Music Teachers National Association National Young Artist Performance Competition, the Albert Schweitzer organ competition, the Carlean Neihart Organ Competition, the West Chester University Organ Competition, and the Edwin Seder prize at Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Her live performances have been featured on the radio show Pipedreams from American Public Media.
Han was born in Seoul, Korea. Her family immigrated to Atlanta when she was sixteen. She received a Bachelor’s degree in organ performance from Westminster Choir College, a Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, Master’s degree from Yale School of Music and Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Her teachers include Ken Cowan, Alan Morrison, and Thomas Murray.
Han is Director of Music and Organist at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas, having served 2010-2018 as Principal Organist, Assistant Director of Music, and Artist-in-Residence at First Presbyterian Church in Davenport, Iowa. She served on the organ faculty at Iowa State University, Ames, and as College Organist at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. She has also worked as Principal Organist at First Presbyterian Church, West Chester, Pennsylvania, as an organist at Marquand Chapel of Yale Divinity School, as an organist the Berkeley Divinity School of Yale University, and as organist at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Stamford, Connecticut.
Ahreum Han is married to Todd Congdon and they have two sons: Daniel and Bradley.
The Magnusson Memorial Organ
The organ of First Presbyterian Church is a 61-rank organ built by Casavant Frères Limitée of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, opus 3455. The original installation of 45 ranks was financed by the congregation and was completed in 1980. With a generous bequest from the Alfred Magnusson Estate, a major renovation of the organ took place during 1997 -1998. The work included tonal revision and enlargement of the organ to its present 61 ranks and addition of a new coupling-switching system and combination action with 128 levels of memory. There is separate expression for the swell, choir and solo divisions and the crescendo pedal covers all stops and couplers with four programmable modes.
Casavant Frères Limitée, St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, opus 3455, 1980/1998
The Magnusson Memorial Organ, First Presbyterian Church, Davenport, Iowa
* 1998 additions
Spitzflöte 16’ (Ext.)
Bordun 8’ (Swell)*
Great Unison Off
Tuba 8’ (Solo) *
Bordun 16’ (Ext.)
Prinzipal 8’ *
Vox Coelestis 8’
Flute douce 8’ *
Flute celeste 8’ *
Swell Unison Off *
Swell 4’ *
Italienisch Prinzipal 2’
English Horn 8’
Choir 16’ *
Choir Unison Off *
Tuba 8’ (Solo) *
Tuba Clarion 4’ (Solo) *
Solo * expressive
Montre 8’ *
Flute majeure 8’ *
Flute harmonique 8’ *
Prestant 4’ *
Cornet II-IV *
Hautbois 8’ *
Solo 16’ *
Solo Unison Off *
Solo 4’ *
Tuba 8’ *
Tuba Clarion 4’ *
Soubasse 32’ * (electronic)
Bourdon 32’ * (electronic)
Spitzflöte 16’ (Great)
Bordun 16’ (Swell)
Spitzflöte 8’ (Great)
Bordun 8’ (Swell)
Theorbe III *
Contra Trompete 32’ * (electronic)
Trompete 16’ (Great)
Tuba 8’ (Solo) *
Trompete 8’ (Extension)
Klarine 4’ (Swell)
Tuba Clarion 4’ (Solo) *