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Sunday’s Worship Music

May 26, 2019


Six Pieces for a Musical Clock – Franz Joseph Haydn


Adagio in C Major, K 356 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

THE ORGAN VOLUNTARY: Unlike today, when an aspiring young musician usually studies privately before entering a systematic course of study in a college or university music school, young musicians in the Baroque and Classical eras often either began study with a parent or developed their own innate ability. Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), as one such example, began his musical studies at the age of eight as a choirboy at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna where, in addition to singing, he learned to play the clavier and the violin. His tenure there came to an abrupt end when he snipped off the ponytail of a fellow chorister: after a sound thrashing, he was literally put out onto the street and began what he would call his “wretched existence” in Vienna. Even as a young man, Haydn was hugely industrious. In addition to studying theory and counterpoint (Haydn was largely self-taught), he was able to eke out a precarious living by teaching (counting a difficult young Beethoven among his students), accompanying, and pursuing other freelance musical activities that even included street-serenading. He worked for a time as a valet and held jobs at three different churches on Sundays, playing the violin at 8:00 a.m. at the first, the organ at the second at 10 a.m., and singing at the third at 11:00 a.m.! The mature Haydn would be celebrated and revered in his lifetime as Europe’s greatest living composer. He was the principal architect of the classical style and was instrumental in the development of chamber music. He was the first great symphonist, ultimately penning 104 such works, and was credited with the invention of the string quartet; he is called the “Father” of both. Although he wrote no music specifically for the organ, his Flötenuhr heard as this morning’s Voluntary was composed in 1792 for a famous public clock in Vienna; the pieces were played automatically on a small organ operated by the clock mechanism. Born in 1732, Franz Joseph Haydn died 210 years ago this coming week on May 30, 1809.

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June 2, 2019


Lied – Louis Vierne


Berceuse – Louis Vierne

THIS MORNING’S ORGAN MUSIC commemorates the death of Louis Vierne, Organiste Titulaire of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, who died while playing the organ there 81 years ago on this day, June 2, in 1937. Not long before that fateful day, the Cathedral’s Chapter (their version of the Presbyterian Session) had informed Vierne that his recital on June 2 was to be the last public recital on the organ; henceforth, it was to be used only for religious services. Word quickly spread, and the cathedral was full to capacity that evening, with 3,000 people eager to hear Vierne’s final recital on the instrument (reputed to be his 1,750th organ recital). Little did they know it was indeed to be the final recital! Halfway through the program, Vierne was to improvise a piece based on a Gregorian Chant. The audience heard a low note from the organ’s pedals and thought it was the beginning of the improvisation; it was, in fact, the signal of Vierne’s death as he collapsed onto the console. As he had said many times that he wished to die at the organ, his wish had finally been granted. This is the very same Cavaillé-Coll organ that miraculously escaped the catastrophic fire on April 15. As fate would have it, the stone vaulting above the organ acted as a fire wall that protected it from flames and heat, and the vaults’ shape diverted the damaging water from above to either side of the organ. At some point in the future, the organ of Vierne will sound again to play his music! This morning we hear two of Vierne’s ‘miniatures’ composed during the summer of 1913.