LOUIS VIERNE: Symphony No. 2
ANDRÉ ISOIR: Six Variations sur un psaume Huguenot, Op. 1 (1974)
SAMUEL SCHEIDT: Variations on Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern
Phillip Kloeckner makes his first organ CD, playing the fabulous 75-stop organ built for grand acoustics at Rice University, Houston, in the rare collaboration of Manuel Rosales and C. B. Fisk to be a perfect French Romantic organ with ideal sounds for other styles of music. A great organist, Kloeckner has known the organ since its days of planning and during a decade of teaching at Rice.
In contemplating the creation of this recording of the landmark Fisk-Rosales organ at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, an inevitable crisis ensued: what seventy minutes worth of music would most effectively and succinctly present a sample of the vast and rare tonal resources of this noble and inspiring instrument?
Since its inauguration in 1997, numerous organists— students, faculty, and visiting artists— have demonstrated that this uncommonly versatile organ possesses a virtually limitless capacity for rendering many centuries of standard literature with convincingly authentic sounds, while inviting the more imaginative performers to experiment with creative and unexpected ways of combining traditional ranks of pipes.
So was Exotic Variations born of a desire to demonstrate the many wonders of this joyful musical instrument and its acoustically resplendent home, the Edythe Bates Old Recital Hall.
The cyclical organ symphony, which provides thematic metamorphoses of the principal and secondary sonata themes throughout its duration, and the two sets of theme and variations are intrinsically suited to the kind of variation of sound and texture that I felt would be most successful in introducing my recording audience to the charms and fascinating voices of this widely admired and respected organ.
The combination of these splendid sounds and the complex, unique, and soulful music that is here brought to life by them, can be described as nothing short of exotic: that which is strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously unusual; colorful, alluring, voluptuous, enticing, far out. Enjoy! - Phillip Kloeckner
By the time Louis Vierne completed his second symphony for organ in 1903, the currents of twentieth-century musical expression and their strong challenges to traditional conceptions of harmony and melody were being felt everywhere. Nevertheless, the second symphony is in almost all respects a purely Romantic work that uses classical forms and late-romantic harmonies. Only in the final movement does Vierne carefully put aside the familiar tonic-dominant-tonic cadence in certain places and opt for less functional means of closing the larger formal sections of that movement. Rather than looking to a theoretical analysis for deeper understanding of this music, we should consider this symphony with respect to the instruments for which it was written and in the context of the Romantic movement, which had begun almost a century before.
Only in the last half of the nineteenth century did French organists have at their disposal the increasingly monumental organs conceived and built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and a few contemporaries. These new organs were capable of great subtleties of sound color and enormous dynamic contrasts. Only after the advent of these new instruments could the organist/composers conceive of writing music for such symphonic instruments that did truly emulate many of the effects of the orchestras of their day. (The Grand Organ of Edythe Bates Old Recital Hall was patterned after the largest and most celebrated of Cavaillè-Coll’s instruments.) César Franck was the first to begin writing for these organs in an entirely new, symphonic style. Charles Marie Widor developed Franck’s conception and wrote ten complete multi-movement organ symphonies. It was in Louis Vierne, Widor’s pupil and organist at Notre-Dame from 1900 to 1937, that the French organ symphony found its fullest and final realization.
Vierne’s second symphony is a cyclical work, meaning that the entire composition is built upon very few musical ideas. Each movement uses and develops some part of the two principal themes, which are introduced in the first few minutes of the first movement. Dotted rhythms and large intervals characterize the first theme. The second theme is much smoother than the first and exhibits even eighth notes moving in conjunct motion. Throughout the five movements of the symphony, the rhythm and shape of these themes are ingeniously altered so as to seem new and fresh, all the while heading for their ultimate confluence in the last movement.
Cyclical works were very popular among composers of the Romantic era because in the rhythmic and melodic alterations of the principal theme(s), they found the perfect poetic vehicle to express the many shades of pain, suffering, and disappointment that were inevitably part of living the life of a true artist. Indeed, it was ultimately in the final transformation and presentation of the thematic material in the final sections of the large cyclical works that many Romantic composers saw a redemption and affirmation of their lives and work. Vierne clearly identified with the image of the suffering artist. He was blind at birth and gained only limited sight after difficult surgery. He constantly struggled to make ends meet. Separation, death, and disappointment marked his personal and professional life.
In the five movements of this, his first cyclical work, Vierne plumbs the depths of his themes for their tragic, wistful, and wry implications, giving them heroic release and apotheosis in the final moments of the symphony.
The importance of Samuel Scheidt in the development of northern European keyboard music cannot be overstated. He received from his Dutch mentor, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, a highly developed compositional technique which Scheidt continued to develop and refine. The technical demands Scheidt places on the player, as well as the variety of figuration, surpass those of his predecessors. It would not be until several generations later that Scheidt’s achievements in the keyboard variation genre would be brought to higher levels through the numerous capabilities of J. S. Bach. The well- known and beloved melody of Philipp Nicolai’s hymn for the Christian liturgical season of Epiphany, Wie Schön leuchtet, probably originated in the later Middle Ages and the repertoire of the noblemen-poet-musicians, the minnesingers. It is believed that Nicolai, himself a writer, musician, and theologian, adapted the melody to his hymn. Throughout the past four hundred years, the music and words (although altered and translated to varying degrees during that time) have remained strongly associated with the Bethlehem star and the coming of the three wise men.
Not only is André Isoir’s opus no. 1 his only composition for solo organ, the work was written for, and won first prize in, the 1974 composition competition sponsored by the Amis de l’Orgue, and it continues to be one of the most respected organ works originating in the second half of the twentieth century. The first edition of the Six Variations was published by Forberg Verlag in 1979 and was reissued in a second edition (Editions Delatour France) in 2009, with welcome adjustments to a few perplexing technical challenges, a recasting of the opening chorale en taille (melody in the tenor voice), and changes suggested for registrations in almost every variation. Having learned the work from the first edition and having coached with Mr. Isoir using a manuscript of the second edition in preparation for this recording, I have followed all of textual details of the second edition as the master presented it to me in August 2008, a full year before its publication. I had developed great fondness for several of the suggested registrations in the first edition, so I have retained the spirit of those with the confidence that Mr. Isoir offers specific registrations and tempi as guidelines for creative performers who will, nevertheless, exploit the very best resources of the instrument at hand in service of the music and its affects.
The composer writes about the style of this composition only in the preface to the second edition. There he calls for rhythmic firmness, accompanied by the natural flexibility of the syllabic accents inherent in the sung melody. While working together in person on the eve of making this recording, he continually emphasized such nuance and subtlety in every variation, and in some instances, he insisted on non-notated alterations of durations (both increases and decreases) for dramatic and additional improvisatory effects. Therefore, those who hope or expect to find precise concurrence between the commercially available score and what is heard on this recording will almost certainly be surprised.
In the preface to the first edition, Mr. Isoir suggests that in performances of this work, a cantor should sing a verse from Psalm 92 in advance of each variation. Such a collaboration enhances and develops the intensity of the work through periodic repetition of the psalm tone, culminating in the glorious final variation through its recollection, recapitulation, and brilliant synthesis of the textures and sounds of all of the preceding variations. - Phillip Kloeckner
Phillip Kloeckner’s musical soul has found deep resonance in a wide variety of contexts in many places around the globe. His mission is to bring positive, transformative, and inspiring energy to his audiences through the beauty and thoughtfulness of his interpretations of both standard and less- recognized literature, and through instinctive and intuitive improvisations. His most gratifying musical experiences continue to result from being part of uniting people through experiencing and sharing music.
The breadth and depth of his performing experience at the organ and harpsichord are represented by numerous critically praised appearances in Europe, Central and South America, and in many of the most auspicious venues in the United States. He has been a featured performer for the American Musicological Society (1998 and 2011), Society for Seventeenth-Century Music (2010) and the American Philosophical Society (2009). He has collaborated with the admired American soprano Cynthia Clayton in a program of American sacred songs from the twentieth century, with the late violinist, Sergiu Luca, and the Shepherd School Chamber Orchestra in early Mozart and Haydn concerti, the Mexican guitarist Juan Carlos Aguilar, the Shepherd School Brass Ensemble, and with Mercury Baroque Ensemble. Both his live and recorded performances have been heard locally and nationally on National Public Radio.
Although his primary focus is performing as an organist, harpsichordist, piano accompanist, and conductor, Dr. Kloeckner maintains a profound commitment to teaching and mentoring developing musicians. He completed ten years on the faculty of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, teaching applied organ, music theory, aural skills, figured bass and continuo, keyboard skills, score reading, and courses in church music. Assuming a similar position on the faculty of music at the University of Chicago in 2012, he was also appointed Associate University Organist. In that capacity, he has established the organ studio at Rockefeller Chapel and oversees the participation of the organ scholars in weekly services there. He also shares responsibilities with University Organist Tom Weisflog in performing weekly recitals on the E. M. Skinner (1928) and Karl Wilhelm (1984) organs in Rockefeller and Bond Chapels, respectively. His textbook, Functional Hearing, A Contextual Method for Ear Training, written with Arthur Gottschalk in 1997, continues to be widely respected and adopted.
Dr. Kloeckner’s interest and research in the realm of nineteenth-century organs lead him to the first comprehensive study of these instruments in Perú: Nineteenth-Century Organs in Perú and the Special Case of Innocente Foglia (2001). With the assistance of Hans van Gemert, he was able to document and publish for the first time the locations and specifications of several significant instruments that had been heretofore unknown, including three built by Aristide Cavaillè-Coll between 1850 and 1880. An article describing the highlights of this work appears in the December 2009 issue of The American Organist. He continues to consult on the renovation of the 1855 Loret organ in the cathedral of Lima.
From 2003 through 2012, Dr. Kloeckner was the artistic director of the 100-voice United Nations Association International Choir, establishing the ensemble as an important part of Houston’s cultural fabric by collaborating with a refreshing array of local soloists and ensembles representing the great indigenous musical traditions of the world. Highlights of his tenure with the UNAIC include the North American premiere of Melchor Tapia’s St. Luke Passion, the Houston premiere of César Franck’s Seven Last Words, and the first Houston performance in twenty-five years of Ernest Bloch’s Sacred Service, with Grammy-Award winning bass baritone Mark S. Doss in the role of the cantor. For the tenth anniversary of the choir, he commissioned Jan Gilbert’s That the Dove May Rest, featuring Space City Gamelan and mezzo-soprano Adriana Zabala singing the poetry of Uruguayan poet Sara de Ibáñez.
Furthermore, Phillip Kloeckner has had the opportunity to commission and/or perform the premieres of numerous works for organ, instruments, and voices by composers Gerre Hancock, Ann Gebuhr, Arthur Gottschalk, Carlyle Sharpe, Geoffrey Nytch, and Katharine O’Connell.
An adjudicator in organ competitions and a sought-after leader of workshops and retreats on subjects ranging from organs, organ playing, and organ literature to a wide variety of topics in church music and liturgies, Dr. Kloeckner served for almost twenty years on the Music Commission of the Diocese of Texas. For twenty-six years, he served with distinction as organist/choirmaster of Episcopal congregations in Pearland, Lake Jackson, and Houston, Texas. www.phillipkloeckner.net
Mark Whatley, baritone, won first place in the Metropolitan Opera mid-south regional auditions in 2002 and became one of nine national finalists. He has sung more than forty roles in professional opera productions mounted widely as well as concert repertoire. Holding a DMA degree from Rice University, he is a member of the voice faculty at Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee.
After collaborating on an intensive study tour of numerous nineteenth-century French organs, five organ voicers labored meticulously for 13 months, and in the Spring of 1997, the new organ was ready to be heard at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston, Texas. Since then, the organ’s fame for both tonal and mechanical splendor has become universal. The organ is the result of an historic cooperation between two great organbuilding firms: C. B. Fisk of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Manuel Rosales Organ Builders of Los Angeles, California.
The Edythe Bates Old Recital Hall at the Shepherd School was conceived and designed almost a decade before its majestic tenant took up residence. Benefitting from the skill and intuition of architect Ricardo Bofil and acoustician Lawrence Kirkegaard, the empty hall, completed in 1991, boasted a resplendent twelve seconds of crystal-clear reverberation and a phenomenal bass-frequency response resulting from the sealed and painted, four-foot thick, spit-faced concrete walls. With a 78-foot high ceiling and a state-of-the-art HVAC designed to virtually eliminate any ambient mechanical noise, this ideal organ performance hall waited for a donor and builder of its future musical partner.
Edythe Bates Old again demonstrated her generosity to Rice University by donating all necessary funds for building the organ. It was conceived as a modern American organ that would recall 19th-century French Romantic models, especially those organs that originated in the eighteenth-century (with their distinctive French Classic reeds and mutations) and were subsequently rebuilt in the nineteenth century to incorporate the brilliant reeds, expanded foundations, and symphonic tonalities made possible by numerous conceptual and technological innovations by Cavaillé-Coll and his contemporaries. Rebuilds of Clicquot organs in Paris at Saint-Sulpice and Notre Dame, in addition to the organ at Sacré-Coeur, a large Romantic organ that had originally been built for a smaller, domestic venue, were references to the design’s evolution.
The organ was created in the Fisk workshop in 1995 and arrived in Houston on January 15, 1996. After six weeks of installation, voicing began on March 4. The organ was dedicated on April 4, 1997, by Clyde Holloway (September 5, 1936 - December 18, 2013), organ professor at Rice 1977-2010 and founder of the organ program there.
Dr. Holloway held the vision for this optimally versatile teaching organ and complemented that of Shepherd School Dean Michael Hammond’s commitment to a world-class teaching and performance venue that continues to set a high standard for academic music facilities. Embracing the leading edge of organ control systems, the Edythe Bates Old Grand Organ replicates through modern means the 19th-century ventil and split windchest system of registration, and it may be switched at will to become the American form of registration devices familiar to 21st-century organists. As a culmination of years of study, listening, and playing, Holloway directed the expertise of both the Fisk and Rosales firms toward the realization of an organ with a rich and profound tonal palette that seamlessly coalesces a wide variety of historical organ traditions, reflecting a sophisticated understanding of organ sounds and their idiomatic use in more than five centuries of organ literature.
Organ donated by Edythe Bates Old, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, Houston, Texas
Built by C. B. Fisk, Op. 109; Rosales Organ Builders, Op. 21, 1997
Manuals: 61 notes
Pedal: 32 notes
75 stops, 84 ranks
Grand Orgue Manual I
8’ Flûte harmonique
4’ Flûte ouverte
3-1/5’ Grosse Tierce
2’ Quarte de Nasard
II Grosse Fourniture (16’ series)
V-VIII Petite Fourniture (8’ series)
V Grand Cornet (from middle c)
Anches Grand Orgue
Appel Grand Orgue
Octaves graves G. O.
Ôter Machine (remove machine)
Positif expressif Man. II
8’ Unda maris (from tenor c)
8’ Flûte harmonique (from middle c)
8’ Cor de nuit
4’ Flûte douce
IV-VI Plein jeu
16’ Cor anglais
(G. O. & Positif)
Récit expressif Man. III
8’ Viole de gambe
8’ Voix céleste (from low c)
8’ Flûte traversière
4’ Flûte octaviante
II-IV Plein jeu harmonique
8’ Basson et Hautbois
8’ Voix humaine
Trémolo Récit rapide
16’ Contrebasse (wood)
16’ Violonbasse (wood)
32’ Contre Bombarde (wood)
16’ Bombarde (wood & metal)
Tirasse Grand Orgue
combination action in 3 modes: American, French 1, French 2