Barbara Raedeke plays the Juget-Sinclair organ op. 32 completed in 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri, at St.
Mark's Episcopal Church, a smaller but acoustically
splendid building constructed in 1938 with great architectural integrity
and interest. Her program demonstrates the organ via repertoire in romantic and
classical eras from the German and French national styles. The CD
booklet contains the stoplist, registrations, photos of the organ and
building, and essays: one by John Speller on the organ and the building,
and another by Barbara Raedeke on the music.
Nicolaus Bruhns: Praeludium in E Minor
J. S. Bach: Pastorella, BWV 590
Brahms: O Gott, du frommer Gott (no. 7); Herzlich tut mich verlangen (no. 10) from Eleven Chorale Preludes, op. 122
J. S. Bach: Prelude & Fugue in G Major, BWV 541
Franck: Prélude, Fugue & Variation, op. 18
Vierne: Clair de lune, op. 53, no. 5, from 24 Pièces de Fantaisie, Suite 2
Widor: Mvt. 1 Allegro, Symphony No. 6 in G Minor, op. 42
About the Organ by John Speller
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in St. Louis, Missouri, is famous as an outstanding example of the Moderne style and was designed by the architectural firm of Nagel & Dunn in 1938. It is noteworthy for its Art Deco detailing, including a set of stained glass windows designed by Robert Harmon and executed by the Emil Frei Studio. The building, seating around 200, is shaped like a shoebox on its side and has superb acoustics with a reverberation period of around four seconds. The original organ was an 8-stop G. Donald Harrison Aeolian-Skinner instrument, op. 979 of 1938. It consisted entirely of principals and flutes and, though it had an excellent plenum, making it in Emerson Richards’ words, “the biggest little organ in the world,” it had no strings, reeds, or solo stops, and the balances between the manuals were very poor. By the early 2000s, the electro-pneumatic action was also becoming very unreliable.
In deciding what to do about this, the congregation found themselves faced with a number of serious constraints. The only practical place for a pipe organ in the church is the rather shallow west gallery, and for the choir and organist to be able to get in and out of the gallery, the depth of the instrument at floor level must be limited to not much more than four feet. Furthermore, though there is plenty of headroom in the gallery, there is also an extremely fine, circular window, presenting in stained glass Robert Harmon’s depiction of “The Massacre of the Holy Innocents,” which it would be unthinkable to obstruct.
In 2005, a generous legacy from the late Ruth E. Proehl made possible the purchase of a new pipe organ, and the Vestry of St. Mark’s Church appointed Barbara Owen as consultant. They also appointed an organ committee consisting of the Organist & Choirmaster, Mr. Robert S. Mullgardt; the then-Rector, the Rev. Dr. Lydia Agnew Speller; and seven members of the church: Mrs. Joleen Shelton (chair), Dr. Barbara Raedeke, Dr. Amanda Cashen, Mr. Kim Jungermann, Mrs. Ellen Jeffery, Dr. John Speller, and Mr. Ken Schuler, to which Mrs. Debbie Carter was later added. The committee decided to seek a mechanical action organ quite early in its deliberations and then spent the next two-and-a-half years visiting dozens of organs and organbuilders’ workshops in several states. Our final choice fell upon Juget-Sinclair Organbuilders of Montreal, Quebec, whose instruments at St. Andrew’s Church, Wellesley, Massachusetts, and Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, had particularly impressed us.
Juget-Sinclair came up with a brilliant solution to the church’s space constraints, using a layout similar to the one they had used at Wellesley. There are two oiled, quarter-sawn white oak cases with polished 75% tin façade pipes located on each side of the “Holy Innocents” window, and there is a detached, oak, drawstop console located at the center front of the gallery, in the same position as the old Aeolian-Skinner one. Much of the interior of the organ is also of oak. A new, polished oak floor was constructed above the concrete floor of the gallery, and the trackers run beneath this floor, between the console and the organ cases. Though shallow in depth at floor level, the two cases are cantilevered above the impost to provide plenty of space for the pipework in the upper part of the cases. The upper part of the left-hand case contains the pipework of the Grand-Orgue and has the 8-foot Montre as the façade pipes. The upper part of the right-hand case contains the pipework of the Récit, with the 8-foot Principal of the Pédale as the façade pipes. The rest of the Pédale pipework is situated below impost level. The Pédale contains a full-length 16-foot reed, but such is the height of the church that only the lowest few pipes are mitered.
The church signed a contract with Juget-Sinclair at the end of December 2007, and the installation and tonal finishing of the organ took place between September and November 2009. Associates of the Juget- Sinclair firm responsible for building Opus 32 were Robin Côté, François Couture, Dean Eckmann, Jean-Dominique Felx, Denis Juget, Céline Richard, Stephen Sinclair, and Jerome Veenendaal. As well as excellent craftsmen, the Juget-Sinclair team was a very personable group of people and we much enjoyed dealing with them. Though the organ was designed primarily with the romantic repertoire in mind, it has proven far more versatile than we could ever have imagined and, as you will hear from this recording, it is equally at home handling composers of such disparate styles as Bach and Franck. This, combined with a beautifully comfortable action and the excellent acoustics of the building, has resulted in a truly outstanding instrument.
About the Music by Barbara Raedeke
“Building a pipe organ in the 21st century is an unlikely undertaking, and can only occur in the perfect confluence of unlikely conditions: the right people in the right place at the right time.”
As I was preparing the notes for this booklet, I re-read Stephen Sinclair’s remarks quoted above from the organ’s dedication brochure. The wonderful new organ at St. Mark’s is indeed the result of just such a confluence—a generous bequest, a dedicated organ committee, talented and skillful organ builders, inspiring architecture, and excellent acoustics. The music on this recording also represents a confluence of varied musical and historical styles—German and French music from four centuries—performed on this lovely instrument built in Canada for an American church located in a city situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. “Confluence” seems an appropriate description of the many elements that have come together to make this recording.
Nicolaus Bruhns, like J. S. Bach, was born into a family of professional musicians. Members of the Bruhns family were active as organists and instrumentalists in north German courts, towns, and churches for most of the 17th and part of the 18th centuries. Nicolaus was born in Schwabstedt, where his father was organist, and it was from his father that he received his first musical training. Growing up as he did in a family of string players and organists, he became a virtuoso performer on both the violin and organ. Johann Mattheson, his first biographer, relates that he occasionally entertained his listeners by playing both instruments at once: he played double stops on the violin while seated on the organ bench, accompanying himself on the pedals and giving the impression that three or four people were playing. At the age of 16, he went to Lübeck to study with Dieterich Buxtehude, after which he went on to Copenhagen for further study and eventually returned to Germany in 1689, taking up the post of organist in the town of Husum, near his hometown. Here he remained until his untimely death in 1697 at the age of 31. His four extant organ works are among the most original in the north German literature, and were admired and imitated by the young J. S. Bach. His Praeludium in E Minor (the larger of two he wrote in that key) is noteworthy for its dramatic qualities, especially its use of silence. It is in five sections; the first, third, and fifth are improvisatory “free” sections, while the second and fourth are fugal. The free sections are especially remarkable for the great number and variety of their musical ideas, which Willi Apel likened to “… a musical show or magic theatre in which ever new personages are entering, crossing the stage, and disappearing again.” In the second free section, we perhaps get a glimpse of Bruhns playing the organ and violin simultaneously as we hear arpeggiated three-voice chords in the manual accompanied by single notes in the pedal, producing the same musical effect that Mattheson describes.
The four movements of J. S. Bach’s Pastorella, BWV 590, form a suite which is unique among his organ works, incorporating elements drawn from both the Christmas pastorale and the dance suite. The first movement, with its lilting triple meter, is in the style of Italian pastorale movements such as the the final movement of Corelli’s Christmas Concerto. The remaining three movements are modeled on dances: the second is a musette, the third an aria, and the fourth a lively gigue. Christmas pastorales were traditionally intended to depict the shepherds in the Nativity story and frequently used instruments associated with shepherds such as recorders, flutes, oboes, and bagpipes. The organ registrations used on this recording—light reed and flute stops—imitate these rustic instruments, evoking the world of the shepherds.
Though Johannes Brahms wrote relatively little music for the organ, his Eleven Chorale Preludes, op. 122, occupy a cherished place in the organist’s repertory. Brahms composed these pieces during the last year of his life at a time when many of his close friends had died; consequently, for some of the preludes he turned to chorales which focus on death. The tune of Herzlich tut mich verlangen (No. 10) is familiar to most listeners from its association with the text “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” but Brahms pairs it with a text that expresses longing for a blessed death. The chorale melody, here in its older rhythmic form, is played in the pedal and accompanied in the manuals by figuration with incessant repeated notes in the bass. Barbara Owen has noted that these repeated notes likely represent the Totentrommel or drumbeat that traditionally accompanied German funeral processions. O Gott, du frommer Gott, a 17th-century chorale, is a prayer for a sound body and mind. Brahms’s setting is a dialogue between two manuals with the tune moving from the soprano to the tenor voice and then back, alternating with interludes based on the chorale melody.
During Bach’s tenure as court organist to the Duke of Weimar (1708-1717), he became acquainted with the music of Vivaldi, which had a lasting influence on his instrumental compositions, including those for organ. The Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 541, which was probably written near the end of Bach’s time in Weimar, contains vestiges of the style of Buxtehude and Bruhns that had influenced him earlier, combined with Vivaldi’s new concerto idiom. The prelude opens in the manner of a north German praeludium, but shows Vivaldi’s influence in its formal design and driving rhythms. The fugue, whose subject is similar to that of Bruhns’s Praeludium in G Major, is a contrapuntal masterpiece that reaches its climax near the end as the subject is stated in stretto, or overlapping imitative entries, bringing the work to a dramatic conclusion. In 1733, Bach revised this piece for his oldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, who played it at his successful audition for the post of organist at St. Sophia’s Church in Dresden.
Born in Belgium and trained in France, César Franck was professor of organ at the Paris Conservatoire and organist at the church of Sainte-Clotilde, where he played a splendid instrument installed by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in 1859. The Prélude, Fugue and Variation, the third of his Six Pièces published in 1868, is a work popular with performers and audiences alike. It has been transcribed numerous times for various instruments, and Franck himself made two arrangements: one for two pianos, four hands, and another for harmonium and piano. Much of its charm lies in the elegantly beautiful melody of the Prélude, played on the oboe and accompanied by flutes. A brief transitional passage leads to the Fugue, which builds to a climax and is followed by the Variation, in which the melody from the Prélude returns, this time accompanied by rippling arpeggios in the left hand. Throughout much of his life Franck was known primarily as an organist; many of his contemporaries were unaware of his compositions. After hearing the Prélude, Fugue and Variation, Georges Bizet exclaimed, “Your piece is exquisite. I did not know you were a composer, too!”
Louis Vierne was titular organist of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris and a renowned improviser, recitalist, and composer. Almost completely blind from birth, he was educated at the Institute for Blind Youth in Paris and later at the Paris Conservatoire, where he was a pupil of both Franck and Widor. Like Widor, he wrote large scale organ symphonies, but also many shorter works for organ. Among the latter are four suites of Pièces de Fantaisie, character pieces with descriptive titles, largely impressionistic in style. Clair de lune, from the second suite, opens with a soaring theme on a solo flute stop. After a brief transition, a second theme enters in the pedal accompanied by strings in the manual. The final section returns to the ethereal atmosphere and lush harmonies of the opening. Vierne dedicated this piece to the American organ builder Ernest Skinner, whose instruments he greatly admired.
For more than 60 years, Charles-Marie Widor presided over the magnificent Cavaillé-Coll organ of five manuals and one hundred stops at the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris. During his long and distinguished career, he was not only the leading organist of his day, but a prolific composer, author, critic, professor of organ and composition at the Paris Conservatoire, perpetual secretary of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, and member of the Institut de France—a towering figure indeed in the cultural life of late 19th and early 20th century France! He is best remembered today for his ten organ symphonies, but his compositions also include piano, vocal, choral, and chamber music; two operas; a ballet; and two orchestral symphonies. Widor premiered his Symphonie VI in 1878 at a concert celebrating the installation of a new Cavaillé-Coll organ at the Trocadéro in Paris. Its frequently performed opening movement, Allegro, is built on two themes: the first, a series of majestic chords, and the second, a contrasting quasi-recitative theme. Both are developed and combined in a variety of ways, culminating in a final statement of both themes for the full organ.