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robert bennesh organ

master of music degree recital Institute of Sacred Music • Martin Jean, Director January 17, 2014 • Woolsey Hall

Robert Blocker, Dean


Master of Music Degree Recital

robert bennesh organ Friday, January 17, 2014 • 8:00 pm •Woolsey Hall

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756–1791

Fugue in G minor, K. 401 arranged by Sir George Thalben-Ball (1896–1987)

Otto Olsson 1878–1964

Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp minor, Op. 39

Johann Sebastian Bach 1685–1750

Sinfonia from “Cantata BWV 146” transc. Marcel Dupré (1886–1971)

Bedrich Janácek 1920–2007

Toccata in F-sharp minor

intermission

Sir Edward Elgar 1857–1934

Organ Sonata No. 1, Op. 28 I. Allegro maestoso II. Allegretto III. Andante espressivo IV. Presto (comodo)

This performance is in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Music degree.


Notes on the Program It is widely known that the organ is called “The King of Instruments,” but fairly unknown that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) came up with this expression in a letter to his father. Mozart had a lifelong passion for the organ and during his tours across Europe he often spent spare time seeking out famous instruments. A good improviser, he thoroughly enjoyed experimenting on interesting organs. It has also been said that he loved composing with the organ at hand. Despite this passion he never wrote solo music for the instrument, but he did, however, write for automatic, selfplaying organs. That music has become part of the standard organ repertoire today through numerous transcriptions. After being introduced to Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Clavier, Mozart explored Fugue-writing. The Fugue in G Minor, K 401, written in 1782 is an example of his study of the style. The original manuscript is in two staves, not revealing which instrument he had in mind. This arrangement is by the legendary George Thalben-Ball (1896–1987), organist of Temple Church in London for nearly 60 years, who added a prelude in Mozart’s style. The work of the Swedish composer Otto Olsson (1879–1964) is characterized by a well-developed counterpoint in late-romantic style. He often included fugal writing in his pieces but only wrote three through-composed preludes and fugues. The Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp minor, op. 39 from 1910 is his first one. It is dedicated to Emil Sjögren (1853–1918), an organist, composer, mentor, and colleague who helped Olsson to get recitals and publishing contacts. Sjögren is mostly known for a set of organ miniatures, called “Legends,” and especially the lyrical parts of this prelude echo the world of Sjögren in a larger format. Olsson served as the organist of Gustav Vasa Church in Stockholm for more than 50 years and taught counterpoint and organ at the Royal College of Music for nearly 40 years; the last 20 he spent as head of the organ department. By keeping these positions he was one of the

most influential church musicians of the 20th century in Sweden, and was successful in spreading his choral music to parishes all around the nation. When organists, inspired of the organ reform movement, rejected his organ works as being too romantic, his output for choirs lived on and is still very popular. His Advent, a motet written for the first Sunday of Advent, is usually sung as the postlude in every parish all over Sweden even today. Marcel Dupré (1886–1971) became famous when, in 1920, he presented 10 recitals in which he performed the entire organ works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) by memory. He was the creator of the French virtuoso organ school, an unparalleled improviser, and a dedicated educator. For pedagogic ambitions he published editions of the standard literature of several composers with meticulous fingerings, phrasings, and articulations. For many years, these editions were very popular, but nowadays, they are abandoned as statements of an aesthetic out of fashion. In one of the bindings of the works of Bach, Dupré also includes transcriptions of two Sinfonias. The 146th Cantata was written for the third Sunday of Easter and begins with the text, “We must suffer many tribulations before entering the Kingdom of God.” The Sinfonia is related to Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052. Bach reworked the first movement of the harpsichord concerto to an organ concerto, and Dupré reworked it to become a solo organ piece. In 1948 the Czech organist Bedrich Janácek ˇ ˇ (1920–2007), then professor at the Prague Conservatory, decided to stay in Sweden during a concert tour and escape the communist dictatorship of his home country. In Sweden he became one of the most active concert organists of his time and held a position in the Cathedral of Lund. As a dedicated church musician most of his output is for church use, be it occasional music, choral bound compositions, or hymn


Notes on the Program tunes. Essentially, all his music is for, or with the organ. When he wrote his Toccata in 2002 he was inspired by the French style and dedicated the piece for Anders Johnsson, one of my organ teachers at The Malmö Academy of Music, then a newly returned student from France. The fashion of performing Sir Edward Elgar’s (1857–1934) Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 at graduation ceremonies in the USA might come from the occasion when it was performed here in Woolsey hall in 1905 when he received an honorary doctorate from Yale. It is likely that Elgar got a private demonstration of the original 65-stop organ, 46 of which are part of the twice enlarged instrument of today; perhaps he tried it out by playing sections of his Organ Sonata from 1895. It was written to demonstrate the organ of Worcester Cathedral for a group of American visitors. Unfortunately Elgar finished the piece only five days before the premier, which did not give the organist near enough time to get this demanding piece in shape. The score is like a three staved symphony, and when play-

ing music inspired by the orchestra on the organ, only half the process is about learning the correct notes. Just as much work needs to be put down shaping the piece and using all the expressive possibilities given by the instrument. Music like this challenges the organ just as much as the organist. Fortunately, the Newberry Memorial Organ of Woolsey Hall has more than enough colors and resources to give a composition like this justice. I want to express my deepest gratitude to Professor Thomas Murray for having been an inspiration for many years, but especially for the guidance and advice he has given me during my time at Yale, not at least in preparation of my degree recitals. As an organ student at Yale, it is a great privilege to have access to many extraordinary instruments, and I would also like to thank the curators under the leadership of Joseph Dzeda and Nicholas Thomson-Allen for keeping them in a great shape. –Robert Bennesh

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Robert Blocker, Dean


Robert Bennesh, organ