In 1963 Sydney Carter put words to the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts" about the
life of Christ as a dance. It isn't always sung in churches, where dancing
is sometimes frowned upon ("the holy people said it was a shame"), but it
has caught on in some of them, and, having, as my friend Norm would put it
"too much fun," I played this as a going away postlude my last Sunday at
Faith. It will, along with a handful of other hymns, make its way to the
listening room at pianonoise eventually, part of my final fling with the
organ's playback system which enables me to play piano and organ duets with
myself. This one was improvised one afternoon when I was feeling
particularly fine, just a few days before that service. If you know the hymn
text, some of the stranger musical touches will make sense.
Upcoming events: Moving
to Pittsburgh: May 31
(updated May 24)
from the concert hall...
Monday 5/6/13 Now and again Gabrielle Faure uses flashback technique
Friday 5/10/13 [Sic] Did Massenet really mean that chord or should I
improve it for him?
for May 24
"The Spanish Hour"
The music of the Iberian
peninsula is unique and wonderful, full of drama and pathos, and
composed by some very interesting individuals for some peculiarly
The region's first important keyboard composer was Antonio de
Cabezon (1510-66). His surname means "pigheaded," though unlike some of
his countrymen we know too little of his personal life to conclude
whether this suited him. We do know that he spent most of his life
blind, and the latter portion in the service of Phillip II, the monarch
who ushered in Spain's golden age, and who built the massive palace
complex know as El Escorial, though Cabezon died during the early years
of its construction.
Juan Cabanilles may be the greatest of the Spanish organ composers,
rating the moniker "the Spanish Bach." His majestic Passacalles will
show that he earned the title. Cabanilles spent most of his life as
organist in the cathedral at Valencia.
A director of the royal chapel in Madrid was one Jose Lidon, who was
born two years before Bach died, and lived until the year of Beethoven's
death. His sonata sonically illustrates the Spanish propensity for
bright, some would say harsh, organ sound, complete with horizontal
trumpets (the pipes come straight out of the wall).
The drama of much Spanish music is certainly present in the works of
Scarlatti. An Italian by birth, he spent most of his life in the service
of the Queen of Spain, writing some 555 sonatas for harpsichord.
Although his sonatas sound like they were composed by a
we know next to nothing about his life.
Correa de Araujo had cathedral positions in Seville and Segovia. He
seems to have had a predilection for getting involved in lawsuits. One
of them delayed his appointment in Seville by several years, another put
him in prison. He died in poverty. Araujo, like Cabanilles, was not only
an organist, he was ordained priest, and he enjoyed, and defended in
writing, harsh dissonances (c against c#, for instance). His Tiento (the
term is derived from the Spanish verb for "to try" or "to tempt" or
simply "to touch" the keys?) is written for the uniquely Spanish organ
where a single keyboard is split in two halves (usually at middle c)
with different sound possibilities (stop combinations) for each one.
Recording this on a modern American organ required some problem solving!
In the 20th century, pianist-composer Enrique Granados wrote several
dances characteristic of various regions of Spain. Unlike the activities
of the court, here you will encounter music of the people--a people
inclined to vigorous bouts of activity but also languorous siestas under
an unforgiving sun, who build massive palatial monuments under command
of their king and God, and enjoy a relaxing and raucous party as much as
the rest of us. Granados died one
hundred years ago (1916) when on a trip back to Spain from America his
ship was sunk by a German submarine during the First World War.