Lorenz Maycher plays the 1949 Æolian-Skinner organ at First
Presbyterian Church, Kilgore, Texas.
Comes Autumn Time
Air with Variations
Dialog (with pianist James Culp)
Carillon (played on this organ by William Watkins, recorded 1951)
Reviews David Mulbury in American Record Guide:
Lorenz Maycher is an unusually gifted American organist . . . It is difficult to imagine anyone not falling in love with this exciting disc, so well recorded and produced. The recording is an appropriate tribute to Leo Sowerby, an important American composer, whose beautiful music should be more widely appreciated and enjoyed . . . While there is rich diversity and scope in Sowerby's music (over 550 scores), it is often bittersweet, nostagic, and evocative of an era now past — a time that unfortunately cannot be brought back except through such music . . ."
The influence of Leo Sowerby (1895-1968) in American music remains
tremendous today. One could mention the sheer volume of his work, the
Prix de Rome, the Pulitzer Prize, the performances world-wide by
orchestras and soloists, his accomplishments as a teacher, his humility.
But in this recording we are highlighting some of his organ
compositions, not unknown but not frequently played, which indicate the
many-sided colors of his genius.
Comes Autumn Time, 1916, shows
the young Sowerby to be a true poet of the organ. A virtuosic, fiery
piece, it builds to a majestic climax. One theme plays a leading part
Requiescat in Pace, 1920, another powerful tone-poem, utilizes the
entire dynamic range of the organ. Again a single melody is developed to
an amazing degree.
Air with Variations, 1933,
begins with an inspired melody which Sowerby develops through an
increasingly complex set of variations. He arrives at a forte, dissonant
passage and then melts into an incredibly lovely final statement. The
piece ends reflectively.
Arioso, 1942, while appearing
to be a piece in free style, shows how disciplined was Sowerby's work.
An opening melody, played on a reed stop, is followed by a middle
section, seemingly improvisatory but actually tight-knit. The opening
melody then returns in a much grander sound and leads to a quiet ending.
In the jaunty Whimsical Variations, 1950, the listener quickly sees that
there is nothing here in the usual sense of the word "whimsical."
Rather, a serious mind explores in clever detail the possibilities of
the opening theme.
The opening movement of the Sonatina,
1944, contains an extraordinarily imaginative series of variations over
a constantly repeated theme. Technically it cannot be called either a
passacaglia or a chaconne since it is in 4/4 time, but the format is
otherwise like that of a chaconne, with the theme being repeated in both
lower and higher voices. The second movement is one of Sowerby's most
beautiful adagios, and the final one is a dashing, brilliant rondo.
The Dialog, 1967, for organ and
piano, tackles a difficult and seldom-rewarding medium. The organ and
the piano do not usually blend, for some aesthetic reasons that defy
explanation. But Sowerby treats them from an intimate knowledge of each;
the result is startlingly successful.
In later life, Sowerby eschewed the Carillon,
1917, as not characteristic of his mature musical thought. It has,
however, remained popular. It contains not only his usual carefully
worked-out form but also a series of evocative, warm melodies.
Notes by William Watkins
1949 Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co., Boston, Op. 1173
The organ in The First Presbyterian Church of Kilgore, Texas, was
developed over a period of longer than thirty years under the guidance
of the late Roy Perry, organist and choirmaster at First Presbyterian
from 1932 until 1972. A memorial gift of Mrs. W. R. Crim and her family,
the instrument began life as a small Pilcher organ in the previous
building. In 1935, the organ was rebuilt and enlarged by the M. P.
Moller Company, and then was moved to the present building when it was
erected in 1939.
The major portion of the instrument, built in 1949, was designed by the
late G. Donald Harrison, president of the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co. of
Boston from 1932 until his death in 1956. Opus 1173 remained one of his
favorite organs and the console bears his signature. In the early
1950's, Aeolian-Skinnner initiated the "King of Instruments" series of
recordings to demonstrate some of their fine instruments as played by
leading organists. Volume I introduced the series with narration by Mr.
Harrison interspersed among musical examples, many of which were played
on Opus 1173. The organ was again featured in Volumes II and X.
In 1964, the bottom twelve notes of the 32' Bombarde were installed by
Mr. Perry as a memorial to Mr. Harrison. In 1966, final additions
included the exposed pipework on each side of the chancel window and
alterations and additions to the chambered divisions; the console was
rebuilt. The organ was voiced (final tonal finishing of the pipes) by
Roy Perry. So, from its inception, the instrument bore the personal
stamp of the man who presided over its console for so many years.
Roy Perry's Words:
In a church where a typical music list will include repertoire from all
historical periods, with an emphasis on the organ-anthem literature of
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, an extremely retrospective (i.
e.. Baroque) organ would be inadequate, if not useless. The aim here has
been rather to produce what might be called the Classic-Romantic organ
and, judging from the results, one might well add the words, de luxe. In
the primary choruses, both reed and flue, all the elements of a fine
and flexible ensemble are generously present. In addition, the secondary
flutes, strings, and small reeds are here in such quantity and beauty
of color as to give this organ a unique and enviable appeal.
The manual and pedal flue choruses are musical and satisfying in almost
any way they are built up. The quality is brilliant but not aggressive,
and not a single pipe "sticks out." The chorus reeds color the flue mass
without dominating it, and although they are made with open shallots,
their rather broad scale gives them more of an English effect than
French. The unenclosed manual reeds are not intended as part of the
chorus, but are to be used tuba-wise against the organ. The
Trompette-en-Chamade is the first modern example of this particular pipe
construction and has attracted considerable notice to this organ. It is
a spectacular success.
Especially notable is the eloquent chorus of strings and celestes. These
are carefully graded to build from the merest whisper to a rich and
impressive forte, and the transition to the normal buildup can be made
imperceptibly. Nothing could be of greater value in choral
accompaniment. The Great flutes and small reeds have the advantage of a
swell box and tremulant, so that in quieter music this manual can
function as a solo organ.
The acoustical environment in the First Presbyterian Church is unusually
kind to both organ and singers. The factors involved — shape and size
of the room, building materials, position and layout of the organ —
impart to every sound a warm and sympathetic quality often wished for
but seldom realized. The organ has been carefully finished to take
advantage of this happy situation.
A word of praise must be said for Mr. T. J. Williams and his son, J. C.
Williams, who installed and maintain the organ. The superb craftsmanship
of these men is rare and precious in our mass-produced world.
Roy Perry, from a pamphlet published ca. 1952
1949 Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co., Boston, Op. 1173
First Presbyterian Church, Kilgore, Texas
GREAT enclosed (*unenclosed)
8' Flute Harmonique
4' Flute Octaviante
4' Flute Couverte
2' Super Octave
* II Jeu de Cornet
* III-IV Plein Jeu
8' French Horn
8' English Horn
8' Camba Celeste
8' Concert Flute
8' Gedackt Pommer
8' Harmonic Spitzflöte (2 ranks)
8' Trompette-en-Chamade (Gt.)
8' Posaune (Ped., unenc.)
8' Viola Celeste
8' Flûte Celeste
4' Flûte Triangulaire
2' Flûte à Bee
V Plein Jeu
8' Voix Humaine
16' Flûte Ouverte
16' Spitzflöte (Gt.)
16' Gamba (Ch..)
8' Spitzflöte (Gt.)
32' Bombarde (Sw., bass 12 enclosed in Great)
16' Bombarde (Sw.)