Dutch organist Harry van Wijk uses Ernest Skinner’s great and famous organ at Girard College, Philadelphia, for a program of wondrously sonorous transcriptions and original works for organ. The third Raven CD engineered at Girard by award winning Ed Kelly. * First release on CD
Bedrich Smetana: The Moldau, transcribed by Barbara Bannasch *
Josef Rheinberger: Sonata No. 4, edition by Edwin H. Lemare *
Alexandre Guilmant: Cantilène Pastoral
Mozart: Fantasia in F Minor, K. 608
Marco Enrico Bossi: Scherzo in G Minor
César Franck: Pièce Héroïque
Margreeth C. DeJong: Tango & Fandango from 7 Dances, Op. 60 *
In The Netherlands are beautiful organs. Why, then, has a Dutch organist traveled to the USA to record this music? The desire to play a transcription of The Moldau was a good reason to record in the United States because the sound possibilities offered by the organs built by Ernest M. Skinner for playing such a transcription of orchestral music are second to none! Also, the desire to record the Fourth Sonata of Josef Rheinberger using the registrations of Edwin H. Lemare could be well achieved on a fine Skinner organ. For this CD, we have chosen the wonderful Skinner organ in Girard College in Philadelphia. This organ, these acoustics, and the beautiful music I am very happy to provide with enthusiasm and pride.
Harry van Wijk, Musician-Composer-Performer
Mozart composed very little music for organ, though he created several pieces for a self-playing, mechanical organ (eine Orgelwalze). We know little about the instrument that Mozart had in mind, but it was probably fairly robust. The Fantasia in F Minor, K. 608, invites the organist to play very softly and to a grand fortissimo. In the soft, middle part you will hear the Corno di Bassetto of the Skinner organ as a solo instrument.
In the first part of the Sonata IV of Rheinberger, you will hear the Gregorian Magnificat (tonus peregrinus) vibrantly developed into a fantasia-like movement. The second part is a pastoral Intermezzo in which the Orchestral Oboe and the Clarinet alternate as solo instruments. The third movement is a Fugue based on a descending tone set in small, chromatic, steps. Though Rheinberger very rarely indicated registrations in the original editions of his music (Sonata 4 was first published in Leipzig in 1877), Edwin H. Lemare (1865-1934) added his registration ideas to his 1909 edition published by G. Schirmer. For this recording, I use Lemare’s registration and tempo indications. Lemare, born in England, was a popular organist who concertized internationally and who lived in the United States from about 1902. He composed, transcribed, and edited organ music to the style of his era.
Even as a teenager, I found The Moldau by Bedrich Smetana a fascinating piece. It has catchy melodies, an interesting development with much dynamic and harmonic tension. In a German music store, I discovered the transcription created in 1985 by Barbara Bannasch and published in 1992 by Christoph Dohr of Cologne. Her transcription makes playing this orchestral masterpiece possible on the organ, but it requires enormous demands of the instrument and the player. Fortunately, everything required of the organ is present in the Girard College organ by Skinner: the flutes at the beginning, the strings for the main theme, the horn registers, the dynamic possibilities. It is a wonderful match of organ and transcription! I would like to thank Professor Johannes Geffert (Bonn) for the coaching he has given me in the preparation of this piece.
A nice, quiet interlude forms the Cantilène Pastoral by Alexandre Guilmant. It begins with a duet, in which the Principal Flute and the Oboe are accompanied by quiet registers and a rhythmic bass. Then comes a mobile, flowing, middle part, followed by the same duet of the beginning.
Marco Enrico Bossi was an Italian composer who, in addition to a few large choral works, also has written a number of organ works. The Scherzo in G Minor is a cheerful piece, in which there are many dynamic changes. To accomplish these many changes, I use the Crescendo Pedal (a tool that allows the organist to add or subtract the many stops of the organ in a logical order — either as programmed by the organ builder or, in organs equipped with the most complete range of devices, as programmed by the organist).
The Pièce Héroïque by César Franck is probably a commemorative piece for the fallen heroes in the German-French war 1870/1871 or for the bloody civil war in Paris 1871. The work was first performed by the composer in 1878 for the inauguration of a new concert hall in Paris, the Palais du Trocadéro that included a large pipe organ and was constructed for the World’s Fair held in that year. (The site in Paris was named for the Battle of Trocadero, in which the Isla del Trocadero, in southern Spain, was captured by French forces led by the son of future King Charles X, on August 31, 1823, as a French intervention on behalf of the Spanish monarchy that had been temporarily deposed by a rebellion. So, the work may have reflected the heroic actions of 1823.) The piece is based on three themes: a gloomy bass theme in the beginning, followed by a lyrical theme in the soprano, and a kind of hymn in the middle part. These three themes are then combined with each other and ends up in a Grand Grand-Choeur.
A Tango is dance music you would not expect to be composed for the organ. The same applies to a Fandango. But, why not? Bach and Buxtehude wrote organ music for popular dances of their time, Minuets and Gigues. The composer Margreeth C. DeJong wrote a bundle of seven dances, opus 60, containing these, Tango and Fandango. The pieces are written in accordance with the basic principles of the dance forms. The fervor of the Spanish dances sounds here on the organ! Thanks to the composer Margreeth de Jong, for the coaching she has given me in the preparation of this music.
Harry van Wijk (b. 1971) is a broad-based musician. He gives organ concerts in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, England, and in the United States. As a church musician, he is associated with the Old Helena Church in Aalten and with “The Candlestick” Church in Amersfoort, and conducts the choir Plus Amersfoort.
He especially enjoys crafting innovative programming, such as combining organ with other instruments or with singers, or with other forms of art, such as poetry, painting or photography.
Harry van Wijk, Organist
Harry van Wijk studied organ with Kees van Houten and received the stage II diploma from the Groningen Conservatory in 2002, having studied with Theo Jellema, Wolfgang Zerer and Joris Verdin. He has specialized in French and German music of 1850–1950. After his studies, he focused on the music of J. S. Bach and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, and also on 20th-century music, especially through study with Ludger Lohmann, Leo van Doeselaar and Arno Krijger.
He won prizes at the international organ competition in Nijmegen and at several organ competitions in Germany and has given concerts in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, St. Thomas Fifth Avenue in New York, in Bristol Cathedral and in the Cathedral in Bamberg.
A diploma in the practice of church music was received in 1997 following study with Gerrit ‘t Hart and Christiaan Winter, and in 1998 the Practice diploma in choral conducting was conferred following study directed by Bas Ramselaar and Joop Schets.
Girard College & Its E. M. Skinner Organ
When Ernest M. Skinner (1866-1960) completed the organ at Girard College, Philadelphia, in 1933, he was 67 years old and had lost control of the company he had built into the most highly regarded organbuilding firm in America. In 1930, the year a contract for the organ was let by Girard College, Ernest reluctantly provided for his future by accepting a five-year employment contract offered by the company to remain a figurehead, with no specific responsibilities.
Younger organists sought the Skinner Organ Company’s rising star, G. Donald Harrison, to oversee the firm’s new organs. Only a few older musicians sought the tonal skills of E. M. Skinner. Ernest’s opportunity to build a large organ in grand acoustics came with the Girard College job and Girard’s organist, Harry Banks, who remained skeptical of the “reform” movement being pursued by Harrison.
The chapel building would be new and the third since the opening of Girard College in 1843 as a residential institution for the rearing and education of fatherless boys. The school was founded through the bequest of $5 million left for the purpose by Stephen Girard, a Philadelphia entrepreneur of great wealth who died in 1831 and had been fatherless. Today, the College serves economically disadvantaged boys and girls as an independent college preparatory boarding school, grades 1-12, located on a 43-acre campus in Philadelphia. Stephen Girard directed that the school and its chapel be non-sectarian, a characteristic observed by the architects who designed the new chapel building to blend with the existing, Greek-revival architecture of other buildings on the campus, yet in a style that is not recognizable through association with any religion.
Organist Harry Banks and Ernest Skinner decided to locate the organ above the ceiling of the new chapel would achieve their tonal goal, thus it occupies a space 40 feet above the floor, 60 feet long, 40 feet high, and, like the building, triangular: 40 feet wide at one end and 22 at the other — “an organ space rarely found and which has a magnificent resonance,” wrote Skinner. The organ pipes are arranged along the attic floor, around a very large central opening through which the sound descends to the chapel, below.
Before the Girard organ was completed, the Skinner Organ Company had become Aeolian-Skinner on January 1, 1932. The Skinner firm merged with the organ department of the Aeolian Company, which had become a victim of the Great Depression. Harrison had become the artistic leader and grand salesman of Aeolian-Skinner, with importantly successful organs of his own style at the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York City (1932), Grace Cathedral in San Francisco (1933), The Groton School Chapel, Groton, Massachusetts (1935), and Church of the Advent, Boston (1935), among others. These organs were built using the mechanisms perfected by Ernest Skinner, most significantly the electropneumatic pitman windchest and the drawknob console that had become the widely accepted standard of convenience for American organists since about 1910.
Because Ernest Skinner’s last great organ in a grand space, the Washington National Cathedral, is vastly altered, his grand achievement at Girard College remains almost intact as his last word on what a great, late romantic/orchestral organ, should be.
1933 E. M. Skinner op. 872, Girard College Chapel, Philadelphia
GREAT 6" wind
21 stops, 27 ranks, 1,647 pipes, 61-note chests
8' First Diapason
8' Second Diapason
8' Principal Flute
IV Chorus Mixture 184.108.40.206
IV Harmonics 17.19.21b.22
16' Double Trumpet 10" wind
8' Tromba 10" wind
4' Clarion 10" wind
Enclosed in Choir Box:
8' Third Diapason
8' Stopped Diapason
8' Erzähler Celeste
SWELL 7" wind, enclosed
23 stops, 30 ranks, 2,046 pipes, 73-note chests
8' Geigen Diapason
8' Voix Celeste
8' Viole d'orchestre
8' Viole Celeste
8' Flauto Dolce
8' Flute Celeste TC
4' Flute Triangulaire
2-2/3' Nazard 61
2' Flautino 61
V Chorus Mixture 220.127.116.11.29
IV Cornet 18.104.22.168
8' Vox Humana
16' Posaune 10" wind
8' French Trumpet
8' Cornopean 10" wind
4' Clarion 10" wind
CHOIR 6" wind, enclosed
15 stops, 17 ranks, 1,181 pipes, 73-note celeste
8' Viole d'orchestre
8' Viole celeste
8' Concert Flute
8' Unda Maris TC
4' Flute d'Amore
4' Octave Dulciana
2-2/3' Dulciana Twelfth from 4'
2' Dulciana Fifteenth from 4'
III Carillon 12.17.22
8' Orchestral Oboe
Harp TC, from Celesta
Celesta 61 bars
SOLO 10" wind, enclosed
12 stops, 18 ranks, 1,230 pipes, 73-note chests
8' Gamba Celeste
8' Flauto Mirabilis
4' Orchestral Flute
VII Grand Foumiture 22.214.171.124.19.21b.22
16' Como di Bassetto from 8'
8' Como di Bassetto 6" wind
8' French Horn
8' English Horn
16' Contra Tuba
4' Tuba Clarion
8' Tuba Mirabilis unenclosed, 25" wind
Chimes g20 to g44, 25 tubes
ECHO 5" wind, enclosed, duplexed
on Choir and Solo manuals
6 stops, 6 ranks, 438 pipes, 73-note chest
8' Echo Gamba
4' Flute Triangulaire
8' Vox Humana
PEDAL 6" wind
5 stops, 9 ranks, 396 pipes
32' Diapason 13-32 from 16'
32' Violone Great
16' Contra Bass Great Violone
16' Metal Diapason Great
16' Violone Great
16' Dulciana Choir
16' Echo Bourdon Swell
8’ Octave 1-20 from 16’ Diapason, 12 pipes
8’ Principal 1-20 from 16’ Contra, 12 pipes
8’ Flute 1-20 from 16’ Bourdon, 12 pipes
8’ Still Gedeckt Swell
4’ Flute 1-20 from 8’ Flute, 12 pipes
V Harmonics 126.96.36.199b.15
32’ Bombarde 13-32 fr. 16’ Trombone, 12 pipes, 30" wind
32’ Fagotto 13-32 from 16’ Fagotto, 12 pipes
8’ Tromba 1-20 from 16’ Trombone, 12 pipes
4’ Clarion 1-20 from 8' Tromba, 12 pipes
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal 8, 4
Choir to Pedal 8, 4
Solo to Pedal 8, 4
Swell to Great 16, 8, 4
Choir to Great 16, 8, 4
Solo to Great 16, 8, 4
Swell to Choir 16, 8, 4
Solo to Choir
Solo to Swell
Swell to Solo
Great to Solo
Swell 16, 4
Choir 16, 4
Solo 16, 4
Pedal Divide Swell
Pedal Divide Solo