Didòmhnaich Adhradh 03/06/11 and 03/27/11

I did not play the piano in Europe. The closest I got was running through Chopin's Prelude in C Major on the piano in the recital room in Mendelssohn's house in Leipzig. We did get to attend a service at the Thomaskirche in the same city, taking Communion, hearing the mighty organist, and hearing a touring choir from North Carolina. I'll write more about my general impressions of churches and religion in these cities we visited. For now, here are my musical offerings at Westminster from the Sunday before and the Sunday after the trip.
Servant of God Francis of Assisi
Prelude: Prelude in G Major - K. Benshoof (pf)
Offertory: Ach bleib mir deine Gnade - M. Reger (o)
Postlude: Prelude in F Major - K. Benshoof (pf)

I was distracted on this Sunday. Distracted and excited about finishing up school (3 papers and a concert) and going on an amazing trip filled with adventure. I would characterize Benshoof's preludes as falling into that postmodern style where each mood paints a nearly static vision of varying moods. Very palatable. It works perfectly therefore for the prelude genre which by its very nature usually embodies a single mood. The G Major prelude has a minimalist feel with murmuring but sparse lines undulating under a single, pointed melody. It deserves a lot of time in the practice room to fully understand the phrasing and motion and points of climax and cadence.
This choral prelude on the organ by Max Reger represents my new ambition to expand and challenge my organ skills. The hymn preludes of Flor Peeters and the Little Preludes of J.S. Bach have provided the staple of my sacred organ playing for the most part. Maxy writes in a Neo-baroque style that offers plenty for all the hands and feet, usually, as in "Ach bleib," in stict four-part counterpoint. It's a wonderful workout technically and I hope to continue to work on my handling of dynamics and subtleties of orchestration.
The postlude was supposed to be something quite different: a Romantic Monologue by Josef Rheinberger. Unfortunately one hour with that piece the day before was not enough to do it justice and I felt that it deserved more time. At the last moment and with no ado, I played instead another wonderful piece by Ken. This one has several interestingly combined elements: 1. low, deep octaves under downward falling and wide sequences, which remind me of an inversion of Shostakovich's Prelude in F Major, 2. different types or degrees of cadences, and 3. final cadential melismas of unmeasured eighth notes. Very beautiful and momentary piece with low notes that only a good, resonant piano can do justice to. Sing, harmonic series, sing!

Blessed Francis Fàa di Bruno
Prelude: Prelude to "St. Flavian" - F. Peeters (o)
Offertory: Jesus Christus unser Heiland - D. Buxtehude (o)
Postlude: Prelude in E minor - S. Palmgren (pf)

These pieces were chosen specifically for their simplicity. I anticipated that I would be totally zonked after two weeks in the eastern hemisphere. "St. Flavian" is a simple pedal-flowing middle-upper melody piece. It would have been easier if I had played the piece I intending on the facing page, Prelude to "St. Thomas" which is an extremely easy two part-manuals only piece. Still it came off quite well.
It's hard to find a chorale prelude by Buxtehude which does not use the alto clef. If I had more time I would suck it up and learn to read it, but not today. Manuals only mid-Baroque chorale preludes are delightful. They're like miniature solar systems, the more nasal, German chiff the better. This one had the melody in the soprano with two sixteenth note lines bustling below. I've always enjoyed them, but I'm never quite sure what anyone else thinks. Today two young people, couldn't have been more than thirty years old, came up after the service and thanked me explicitly for the Buxtehude, saying that it made their whole week. Go figure. Comments like that make my whole week.
It is Lent after all and a thrice repeated e minor chord ends a church service with that fitting solemnity. I like this piece for the turns of its melody, especially the grace noted sixteenth figures which help propel you into the crescendos, no matter how fleeting the volume may be. I especially like the "recapitulation" a half step higher.

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