Jeremy Thompson celebrates the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Casavant Op. 3738 at First Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville, Virginia, where he is Director of Music.
J. S. Bach: Fantasia super Komm, Heiliger Geist, BWV 651J. S. Bach: Chorale Prelude Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr, BWV 662
César Franck: Prière, Op. 20, No. 5
Herbert Howells: Psalm-Prelude, Op. 32, No.1
Maurice Duruflé: Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le thème du Veni Creator, Op. 4
Max Reger: Introduktion und Passacaglia F-moll, Op. 63, Nos. 5/6
Masterworks for Organ
Notes by Jeremy Thompson
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): Fantasia super Komm, Heiliger Geist, BWV 651
Bach’s chorale-prelude on Komm, Heiliger Geist (Come, Holy Ghost) is the first chorale prelude in his set of the Eighteen Great Chorale Preludes. These works were given their final form here in Bach’s final decade of his life while he was in Leipzig. The chorale was originally a Lutheran hymn for Pentecost. This chorale must have had extra importance for Bach, as the second chorale prelude in the set is also based on the same chorale melody and is the longest of the group.
In this setting for full organ, the chorale melody is heard very powerfully in the pedal part in slow-moving notes. In contrast, the hands play an intricate toccata-like texture, seemingly representing the “sound of rushing mighty wind” that accompanied the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples as described in Acts 2.
Bach: Chorale Prelude Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr, BWV 662
This chorale prelude, from the same set as the previous work, is based on a German hymn setting of “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” This work is one of Bach’s most highly ornamented keyboard works with not only the melody in the highest voice being ornamented, but the two accompanying voices also being florid. This is the first of three settings in the larger grouping of eighteen chorale preludes. This setting has a tempo marking of Adagio, which is rare among Bach’s works, and the work is expansive and has a sense of timelessness. The ornamented melody is an opportunity to showcase the cornet decomposé stops of the Choir division.
Herbert Howells (1892-1983): Psalm-Prelude, Op. 32, No.1
Herbert Howells was a towering figure in English music, particularly sacred music, in the 20th century. His choral music fused together elements from earlier English music, as brought back to life by fellow English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, with a much more forward-looking harmonic language. This colorful, richly varied harmonic language is prominent in his organ music, which also shows a deep understanding of the potential of the instrument.
This Psalm-Prelude is based on Psalm 34:6, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” The piece uses the entire dynamic range of the instrument, from the hushed string stops of the opening and closing sections to the dramatic full organ statement in the middle of the work.
César Franck (1822-1890): Prière Op. 20
Franck’s output for organ is relatively small in terms of number of works, yet the quality of these works is unsurpassed. Prière was composed between 1860-62 and is part of the set Six Pieces for Organ which Liszt proclaimed to be worthy of a “place alongside the masterpieces of Johann Sebastian Bach.” Prière is a deeply introspective work, from a deeply introspective composer, relying on subtlety of registration and harmonic changes to create a work of profound meaning. This piece features prominently the French Romantic colors of the oboe and trumpet stops of the organ.
Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986): Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le thème du Veni Creator, Op. 4
Duruflé’s compositional output was strikingly small; he focused on revising and editing his works until he achieved the highest level of perfection, culminating in compositional mastery such as that found in this, the first of his three major organ works. The plainsong on which the work is based is heard fragmented throughout until becoming prominent as the theme of the variations in the final movement.
The prelude is played on the flute stops of all three manuals creating delicate, highly nuanced variations of timbre. The meandering music along with the only fragmented references to the chorale melody create an atmosphere of searching. The middle Adagio movement is a transcendent moment in Duruflé’s music. It builds from introspection through a striking climax to arrive at a presentation of the chorale melody in its full form. The variations feature several beautiful, colorful registrations which culminate in a brilliant toccata and a thunderous coda based on the “Amen” of the plainsong.
Max Reger (1873-1916): Introduktion und Passacaglia in F-moll Op. 63, No. 5/6
Max Reger is practically unmatched in terms of harmonic innovation and composition virtuosity. The amount of music he composed during his short life is stunning, and the density and weight of this music is even more striking. This Introduction and Passacaglia was composed in 1901-2 and is found in Reger’s Op. 63, a set of twelve pieces for organ. Typical of Reger’s compositions, the work is characterized by striking contrasts, a daring harmonic language and a spiritual depth of expression. The passacaglia employs a device often used by Reger in this form where the entire movement is one massive crescendo, moving from a single stop to full organ, thus showing the full potential of the instrument. The final statement of the Passacaglia theme with its incredible harmonization is truly transcendent.
Jeremy Thompson, Organist
Jeremy Thompson was born in Dipper Harbour, a small fishing village in New Brunswick, Canada. He furthered his studies at McGill University in Montreal, studying piano with Marina Mdivani who was herself a student of Emil Gilels. He began his organ studies while he was in Montreal, among the many incredible instruments of that city. He was fortunate to have the opportunity to continue his studies with Dr. John Grew.
In 2005, he earned a Doctorate of Music in performance from McGill, where he held two of Canada’s most prestigious doctoral fellowships. He has appeared frequently with orchestras including the Saint Petersburg State Academic Orchestra, the Saratov Philharmonic Orchestra, the Georgian National Orchestra, the Charlottesville Symphony, the North Carolina Symphony and the McGill Symphony Orchestra. He has performed extensively throughout North America in both solo and chamber music settings, and has also completed three tours to the former Soviet Union.
Thompson enjoys performing music from all eras, yet specializes in highly virtuosic repertoire. He has focused recently on several recording projects, including a 2-CD set of the organ music of Karl Höller on the Raven label. He recently released a recording of the piano music of Vasily Kalafati on the Toccata Classics label. Previous recordings include an album of the piano music of Scriabin on the MSRCD label, and a recording of contemporary piano music from Quebec on the McGill label.
Casavant Frères of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada, built the organ in First Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1995 as the firm’s opus 3738. Founded in 1879 by Joseph-Claver Casavant (1855-1933) and Samuel- Marie Casavant (1859-1929), the well respected company builds pipe organs throughout Canada, the United States, and in other countries.
At First Presbyterian Church, five ranks of pipes in the 1995 organ speak with the voices given them in 1902 by organbuilder Adam Stein (ca. 1844-1922) of Baltimore, who built the second organ owned by the congregation. Adam Stein had been a key employee of the organbuilding firm established in 1872 by Hilborne Roosevelt (1849-1886) and his younger brother, Frank Roosevelt (1862-1895), with locations in New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. The Roosevelts built the first organ used by the Presbyterian congregation. That organ was acquired second-hand ca. 1885. Despite the firm’s great success and prestige, the loss of Hilborne by death in 1886 eventually compelled Frank to dissolve the company in 1893, leading to the creation of several other firms by its former employees, including Adam Stein.
When the Charlottesville Presbyterians constructed a new edifice in 1955-56, pipes and perhaps other parts of the 1902 Adam Stein organ were used in a new instrument built for the church. James Cooke Carson (1927-2007), the church organist for 22 years, 1967-1989, who occasionally built organs and worked on them, modified the instrument over the years. Five entire ranks of the Adam Stein organ, somewhat altered in voice to work ideally with other ranks in the 1995 Casavant organ, lend their distinctive characteristics to the full complement of 59 ranks of pipes in the Casavant organ heard on this CD.
First Presbyterian Church, Charlottesville, Virginia, Casavant Frères, Opus 3738, 1995
42 stops, 59 ranks, 3391 pipes *ranks from 1902 Adam Stein organ
8 Flute Double*
8 Flute à Cheminée
4 Flute Ouverte
16 Trompette Royale
8 Trompette Royale
4 Trompette Royale
G. O. Unison Off
Récit/G. O. 16 8 4
Positif/G. O. 16 8 4
8 Flute Majeur
8 Viole de Gambe
8 Voix Céleste
4 Flute Harmonique*
V Plein Jeu
16 Contre Trompette
8 Trompette Royale (G.O.)
Récit 16 4
Récit Unison Off
8 Flute Douce
8 Flute Céleste
4 Flute à Fuseau
2 Quarte de Nazard
16 Trompette Royale (G.O.)
8 Trompette Royale (G.O.)
4 Trompette Royale (G.O.)
Positif 16 4
Positif Unison Off
Récit/Positif 16 8 4
32 Basse Acoustique I
32 Basse Acoustique II
8 Octave Basse
4 Flute á Chemineé (G.O.)
16 Contre Trompette (Rec.)
4 Cromorne (Pos.)
8 Trompette Royale (G.O.)
4 Trompette Royale (G.O.)
Pédale Unison Off
G. O./Pédale 8
Clochettes (Toe Stud)
Crescendo Pedal with 4 Levels
Full Organ (Piston & Toe Stud)
128 levels of memory
6 Divisional Pistons
8 General Pistons
General & Divisional Cancels
Pedal combination pistons on Positif
Coupler Pistons/Toe Studs at all divisions