Prelude and Fugue in Eb Major (St. Anne), BWV 552 - Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach’s Clavier Übung (literally, “keyboard practice”), in which his E-flat Prelude and Fugue form bookends, is a set of works that transcends that humble title.
The Prelude has three thematic and stylistic sections, and some liken the sections to aspects of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The “Father” theme employs the dotted-eighth note to sixteenth-note rhythm of the French Overture of Bach’s day, while the “Son” theme is more playful and simple. The “Holy Ghost” theme consists of a sinuous 16th-note melody that divides into two different alternating lines. These sections then intermingle, but maintain their distinct characters.
The Fugue is a magnificent work, whose appellation “St. Anne” comes from the fugue’s resemblance to an English hymn tune by William Croft - a tune Bach may have heard used in one of Handel’s Chandos anthems: O praise the Lord with one consent. It shows us Bach playing with the number three: there are three flats in the key signature, there are three sections, and the piece is a triple fugue (a fugue based on three subjects). Bach was both mathematically inclined and a devout believer; it may be that the number three was his way of evoking the Trinity.
Sonata No. 3 in A Major, Op. 65 - Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Felix Mendelssohn was commissioned in 1844 to write a ‘set of voluntaries’ by the English publishers Coventry and Hollier. Mendelssohn wrote six sonatas for that commission, of which the Sonata No. 3 was the third in the series. In the beginning of the third sonata, Mendelssohn uses music that he originally wrote for his sister Fanny’s wedding. The movement's second section is in A minor; listen to the pedals to hear the chorale tune Aus tiefer Not. “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir” translates as ”From the deep I cry out to thee.” The third section continues in minor with the Aus tiefer Not chorale continuing in the pedals, with the chorale tune transforming into a triumphant pedal line. This exuberant pedal line takes us back to A major, with music that is similar to the music from the beginning of the piece
Paraphrase sur un Choeur de Judas Maccabée de Haendel - Alexandre Guilmant
For his Paraphrase, Guilmant used the theme from a chorus in the third part of Handel’s oratorio Judas Maccabaeus - “See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes!”
Guilmant begins with a complete statement of Handel’s theme, which is followed by a fugal treatment of part of the theme. After a modulatory transitional section, the full theme returns triumphantly.
Prelude on St. Columba - Charles Villiers Stanford
The Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford wrote a substantial number of orchestral works and was very active as an opera composer. His list of pupils ranks high on the list of illustrious British composers of the 20th century, including Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Ireland, Frank Bridge, Arthur Bliss, and Herbert Howells.
Among Stanford’s wide variety of compositions, the ones most frequently performed are the ones composed for liturgical use. Today I will play one of those, a prelude on the well-known Irish hymn tune St. Columba, given its familiar “The King of love” setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams in the 1906 English Hymnal.
Concert Variations on The Star Spangle Banner - John Knowles Paine
John Knowles Paine was born in Falmouth, Maine and was a Harvard faculty member. The Concert Variations on the Austrian Hymn, includes a statement of the theme, and then four variations. The first variation includes the theme played by the right hand, with a eighth- and sixteenth-note motive played by the left hand and feet. The second variations has the melody played by the left hand, with fast sixteenth notes played by the right hand and pedals. A much softer third variation has both hands on one manual. Paine loved to show off the feet in his variations, and the fourth variation carries on that tradition with groups of six sixteenth notes played on the pedals, with emphatic chords played by the hands. The fourth variation leads directly to a fugue, with the theme played on full organ at the end.