Saturday, 24 February 2018

Stanford Two pieces from Six Preludes and Postludes, Set 2, op.105 for organ (1908)

At an excellent organ recital recently (21 February 2018) given by Tiffany Vong at the Glasgow University Memorial Chapel, three pieces stood out (for me). Firstly, there was a gorgeous ‘Sicilienne’, originally for violin and piano, by Maria Theresia von Paradis about which more in a subsequent post. Then there were two numbers from Charles Villiers Stanford’s popular Six Preludes and Postludes, Set 2, op.105 (1908). The ethos of her programmes was ‘Old Wine in New Bottles.’ This was the first in a series of recitals that promised to explore a wide variety of transcriptions, reworkings and arrangements of music by other composers. The recital also included a Concerto by Johann Gottfried Walther based on Vivaldi, J.S. Bach’s Fugue on a theme of Corelli, BWV 579 and a transcription of Edward Elgar’s Prelude ‘In Memoriam’ from the cantata ‘For the Fallen.’

Tiffany Vong chose to play the Prelude No.1 on Song 34 by Orlando Gibbons and followed this with the following Postlude No.2 on Song 22.
The venerable (and oft quoted) John F. Porte (Sir Charles V. Stanford, London, 1921) summed up the Six Preludes and Postludes, Set 2, op.105 (1908) in one short sentence: ‘These are a further convenient little set of short organ pieces.’ Very true and succinct, but I think it needs a little more comment. This second volume was published in 1908 following the first instalment in the previous year. They are printed as alternative ‘Preludes’ and ‘Postludes’.

The first, a Prelude, is based on Orlando Gibbons’ Song 34 sometimes known as ‘The Angels’ Song’. This hymn tune is often used to set Charles Wesley’s words ‘Forth in thy name O Lord I go.’ In this attractive, restrained ‘andante tranquillo’, Stanford presents the tune in the pedal part with the manuals providing a gently contrapuntal accompaniment. It makes an ideal Evensong voluntary.
The second piece played by Tiffany Yong was a ‘Postlude’ utilising fragments of Gibbon’s Song 22. The tune often accompanies ‘Lead Us, O Father, In the Paths of Peace’ by William Henry Burleigh. This is a short, powerful voluntary. Here the composer develops these melodic fragments in both manuals and pedal which results in ‘rich polyphonic texture.’ This G major ‘allegro; ends with a strong coda,  which well displayed the instrument’s ‘full organ’ capability.

The other four pieces in Stanford’s Six Preludes and Postludes, Set 2, op.105 are also worthy of attention. The ‘Lento’ is (I understand) an original tune, which appears in various guises: it is, for me,  the loveliest of the set. Postlude 4, an ‘allegro moderato’, features yet another hymn tune by Orlando Gibbons (Song 24), with intricate parts on the manuals and considerable vivacity. The Trio, (No.5) is the most chromatic of these pieces and involves regular changes of manual. The final number, which is the best-known of both sets of Preludes and Postludes is a vigorous piece in 6/4 time opening in D minor.

The Glasgow University Memorial Chapel three-manual organ was originally commissioned in 1927 by Henry Willis and Sons, and was restored by Harrison and Harrison in 2005. It was a gift to Glasgow University from Joseph Paton Maclay, Lord Maclay, in memory of his two sons who were killed during the Great War.  

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