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Incantation pour un jour saint
Psalm Prelude Set 2
1. 'De profundis'
J S Bach
Fantasia and Fugue in G minor (BWV 542)
Jean Langlais (1907-1991) - Incantation pour un jour saint
Born near Mont Saint-Michel, Langlais became blind when he was only two years old. Despite this, his musical talent shone through, and he went on to study at the Paris Conservatoire with such teachers as Dupré, Dukas, and Tournemire. He followed the latter to become organiste titulaire at the Basilica de Sainte-Clotilde in Paris. Langlais was a prolific composer, and his music is written in a free tonal style - representative of mid-twentieth-century French music - with rich and complex harmonies, although perhaps more accessible than his contemporary Olivier Messiaen. Much of Langlais' output for the organ uses Gregorian chant and Incantation ('Incantation for a Holy day') is based on a chant for the Easter vigil, when the deacon enters the church and sings 'Lumen Christi' (the light of Christ), to which the choir responds 'Deo gracias' (Thanks be to God). This is repeated twice more, each one at a higher pitch than the last, and Langlais represents this musically: the chant is uttered at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the piece on full organ. Between these statements, Langlais uses fragments of the chant, gradually increasing in volume, speed, and intensity.
Herbert Howells (1892-1983) - Psalm Prelude Set 2, No.1 'De profundis'
This Prelude is a commentary on the first verse of Psalm 130: 'Out of the deep have I cried unto thee, O Lord'. Howells manipulates metric security through his use of irregular time signatures and cross-bar motifs, and the sense of the psalmist's pleas through extremes of range and angst-ridden dissonant harmonies adds to the overall feeling of unease. The music builds in intensity, volume, and drama until returning to its final piu lento assai tranquillo for a gentle coda in D major.
Petr Eben (1929-2007) - Sonntagsmusik: Moto ostinato
One of the foremost composers from the Czech Republic, Eben was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, and once hostilities had ceased he began to study piano and composition at the Prague Academy of Music. It is often suggested that much of Eben's music reflects the forces of good and evil, and this movement of the four-part work 'Sunday Music' is no exception. With repeated rhythmic motion representing a battleground, the first six-bar 'evil' theme appears, mostly built on minor thirds and ascending, as if coming from below. Later, the more lively 'good' theme descends. The music turns through many forms and keys, 'evil' overwhelming the simpler 'good' theme.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - Fantasia and Fugue in G minor (BWV 542)
This Fantasia and Fugue are thought to have been composed separately: the fugue is assigned to Bach's Weimar years and the fantasia to his time in Cöthen, and evidence suggests that they were completed and revised as an audition for an organist position in Hamburg in 1720. Bach didn't get the job, but, happily enough, posterity did get the piece.
The Fantasia opens spaciously and in recitative-like style, but as it unfolds Bach finds room for dense passages in upper-voice imitation. There are five sections to this fantasy: intensely dramatic sections are interwoven with quieter, more reflective passages. The wide tonal scope of the Fantasia has been a subject of fascination for two centuries of musicians: just when some kind of harmonic stability seems to arrive, Bach shoots off on a mock-improvised cadenza that jolts the music into a whole new realm. The same is true of the Fugue. Though it provides some sense of a stable answer to the Fantasia in its predominantly even semiquaver note rhythms, it is similarly ambitious harmonically, in that Bach makes two revolutions through the entire circle of fifths.
Zsolt Gárdonyi (b.1946) - Mozart Changes
One major area of German-Hungarian composer Gárdonyi's musical research is the harmony of the 19th and 20th Centuries, and in his book "Harmonik" ('harmony'), he researched the relationships between composition, interpretation, analysis, and improvisation. This short organ piece takes the theme of Mozart's piano sonata in D major, K.576 - Mozart's last - and subjects it to various changes using elements of jazz. It's Mozart, but not as you know it...
Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) - Symphonie Nr.6: V.Final
Widor wrote his Organ Symphony in G minor, no.6, in 1885, and published it three years later. Like its immediate predecessor in F, this symphony is in five movements, and evokes the immense power of the Cavaillé-Coll organ at the church of Saint-Sulpice. The Final is a vigorous march in G major, although it does not entirely find its tonal footing until the final page, with Widor's increasing interest in chromaticism evident throughout, ending with a stentorian cadence.
Oliver Hancock is Sub-Organist at Portsmouth Cathedral and School Organist at The Portsmouth Grammar School. He was Organ Scholar at Jesus College, Oxford, and was one of the first students to take the MMus in Choral Studies degree at the University of Cambridge in 2010.
From 2008 to 2012, Oliver was Assistant Organist to Ely Cathedral Girls' Choir, where he accompanied regular cathedral services and helped to train the girl choristers. During this time he accompanied ECGC on their first tour to Paris, their fifth-anniversary broadcast of Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3, and their CD Penitence & Redemption (Regent Records). For the academic year 2011-12, Oliver was also Graduate Organ Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge, recording a CD of music by Alan Bullard - Wondrous Cross (Regent Records) - and undertaking a tour of the East coast of the USA, where venues included St Thomas 5th Avenue and the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York, and the National Cathedral in Washington DC.
At Portsmouth Cathedral, Oliver accompanies daily services and works with the boy and girl choristers, regularly conducting the choirs in services and concerts as well as undertaking outreach work across the diocese. In 2013, he directed the girl choristers and scholars on tour in Malta and Gozo, and in a tour of Italy in July 2015, which included an award-winning performance as part of the Florence International Choirs Festival. He has recently established a new children's choir at the Cathedral - Junior Sing! - for children in Years 3-6. Oliver is a member of the Portsmouth RSCM Committee, and has run a number of RSCM events in the area. At PGS, he is responsible for Theory and Aural Skills tuition, as well as teaching A-Level harmony and counterpoint. He accompanies all major School services and takes part in many concerts throughout the year (variously as accompanist, director, and singer), and accompanied the Chamber Choir on their recent CD Hodie! (Convivium Records).
As well as the USA, Oliver has toured much of mainland Europe, both as conductor and accompanist, and has broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and 4. He is the Founder and Director of the Nelson Consort, an eight-part choir specialising in a cappella choral music - www.nelsonconsort.co.uk.
He remains an active recitalist, performing recently in St Paul's Cathedral, London, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Malta, Westminster and Truro Cathedrals, Tallinn Cathedral in Estonia, and in and around Milan. Oliver is an Examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists.
Oliver Hancock is Sub-Organist at Portsmouth Cathedral and School Organist at The Portsmouth Grammar School. He was Organ Scholar at Jesus College, Oxford, where he read for a degree in Music, and in 2010 took the MMus in Choral Studies degree at the University of Cambridge. From 2008-2012, Oliver held the post of Assistant Organist to Ely Cathedral Girls' Choir, and for the academic year 2011-12 was also Graduate Organ Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He has toured much of mainland Europe and the East coast of the USA, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and 4, and played numerous recitals. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and an Examiner for the ABRSM, and Director of The Nelson Consort, an eight-part a capella choir (www.nelsonconsort.co.uk).