Monthly Archives: February 2013

Second Sunday in Lent – 24 Feb 13

A. Édouarde Batiste

A. Édouarde Batiste

Opening Voluntary: Verset – Antoine Édouarde Batiste (1820-1876)

 At Communion: Antienne – Antoine Édouarde Batiste (1820-1876)

 Final Voluntary: Ite missa est – Antoine Édouarde Batiste (1820-1876)

Antoine Édouarde Batiste was born in Paris in 1820 and was the son of Jean Batiste, a baritone singer and composer in the Imperial Chapel of Napoleon III.  He entered the Conservatory of Paris at the young age of 8 and remained at that institution for the rest of his life, being elevated to the status of full professor in 1839, when only 19 years old. Batiste was the organ student of François Benoist (1794-1878) and studied composition with Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) and Jacques Fromenthal d’ Halévy (1799-1862).   In his student years, he won many prizes at the conservatory including those in solfeggio, harmony, accompaniment, counterpoint, fugue and organ. In the year of 1842, he became the organist at Saint-Nicholas-des-Champs in Paris, where he remained for 12 years.  In 1854, a new four-manual organ was installed in the church of St. Eustache and inaugurated by a number of famous organists of the time, including César Franck (1822-1890).  This organ, built by the firm of Ducroquet, was felt to be one of the most important in modern Paris.  That same year, Batiste became the principal organist at St. Eustache and remained in that position until his death in 1876. Batiste was a well-regarded recitalist and performer of his day.  Eulogizing his playing after his death, Joseph G. Lennon, an American who had studied privately with Batiste wrote, “Batiste’s organ playing was one of the chief attractions for foreign musicians visiting Paris. On his programmes were always found compositions from the greatest masters of this noble instrument…His improvisations will never be forgotten by organists who were fortunate enough to hear him extemporize preludes, fugues, offertoires, communions or elevations, while his treatment of the organ in accompanying voices was simply marvelous.” In that role as accompanist, Batiste was the organist for the premier performance of Hector Berlioz’ (1803-1869) Te Deum, which was conducted by the composer himself and performed at St. Eustache for the opening of the Exposition Universelle of 1855.

Batiste composed literally hundreds of pieces for the organ that became popular both in America and in England. English organist, William Spark (1823-1897), himself the organist at Town Hall in Leeds and the editor of Batiste’s works for their English publication, wrote about Batiste’s compositions in his 1888 book, Musical Memories. He particularly admired his Andante movements which he described as “not only very melodious but also very skillfully constructed.” “Batiste’s organ music,” he opined, “ is sometimes noisy, always brilliant and not so sacred and dignified as English church music is expected to be.” Unfortunately, Batiste’s music fell rapidly into disfavor not long after his death.  Only a short number of years after Spark, American organist, Clarence Eddy (1851-1937) wrote in 1897 that, “Batiste was a prolific composer, but his compositions are played very little now even in France and not highly esteemed.”

Today’s organ pieces are from Batiste’s Opus 24 and 25 collection published as Cinquante Pièces and consisting of some 50 compositions for liturgical use.

Feast of the Presentation – (Observed) 3 Feb 13


Opening Voluntary: Mit Fried’ und Freud’ ich fahr’ dahin – J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

 At Communion: Mit Fried’ und Freud’ – Johann Christoph Bach (1671-1721)

 Closing Voluntary: Mit Fried’ und Freud’ (Prelude and Chorale)- Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) / J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

Today’s incidental organ music is based on the German chorale, Mit Fried’ und Freud’, ich fahr’ dahin. The text is a metrical version of the Nunc dimittis and was written by Martin Luther (1483-1546) and published in J. Klug’s Geistliches Gesangbüchlein in the year 1524 in Wittenberg, Germany.  For obvious reasons, it was a hymn that was typically associated with the Feast of the Presentation which we observe today as we dedicate the new image of Our Lady of Walsingham. In origin, the Nunc dimittis or Song of Simeon comes down to us from the introductory birth and infancy narratives from the writer of the Gospel according to Luke.  This opening section of the gospel, although drawing heavily for its model on the stories of the births of Samson and Samuel from the Hebrew Bible, is yet quite unlike anything else in New Testament writing and has been likened in modern terms to a “musical.”  In it, dramatic scenes and dialogues are punctuated and interpreted by “musical numbers” that have survived and live on, not only in text but also musically, in  Christian liturgy to this day. The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) concludes Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth.  The Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79) follows as John the Baptizer’s father, Zechariah, is released from his divinely-imposed mutism.  The Gloria in excelsis (Luke 2:14) functions as a great “chorus number” and the centerpiece of the angelic proclamation to the sheepherders in the Bethlehem countryside. Last, but not least, the Nunc dimittis (Luke 2:29-32), enshrines the words of Simeon as he beholds the infant Jesus on his way to presentation in the temple,  miraculously revealed to him by the Holy Spirit as “Israel’s consolation.”

The Nunc dimitis was imported into the daily office of the Church in the West as the principle song for the monastic hour of Compline  where it continued through the middle ages.  In the English reformation, it was transferred into the composite office of Evensong/Evening Prayer where it would become, along with the Magnificat, the subject of numerous choral compositions. In Lutheran-dominated countries, where the office was less commonly observed, the text continued in Luther’s hymn paraphrase which was used not only for the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus (The Purification of Mary), but also became popular as a song for funerals.

In peace and joy I now depart

At God’s disposing.

For full of comfort is my heart;

Soft reposing.

So the Lord as promised me,

And death is but a slumber.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

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