Tag Archives: David N. Johnson

St. Francis of Assisi – 7 Oct 12

Josef Rheinberger

Opening Voluntary: Trio No. 6 – Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901)

At the Communion: Trio No. 1 – Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901)

 Closing Voluntary: Excerpt from Prelude on Lasst uns erfreuen – David Johnson (1922-1987)

Both the opening voluntary and the music at the communion are compositions of German organist and composer, Josef Rheinberger.  Rheinberger was born in Vaduz, the capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein, in 1839 and was the son of the treasurer to the prince. A child prodigy, he became organist of his parish church in Vaduz at the age of only 7 and performed the first of his own compositions the following year. In 1851, at the age of 14, he entered the Munich conservatory where he was afterwards professor of composition and piano. Although the original conservatory was later dissolved, at the new Munich conservatory, he became professor of organ and composition, a post he retained until his death in 1901. Rheinberger composed in multiple genres to include symphonies, operas, chamber music and multiple choral works, but is chiefly remembered today for his organ compositions.  The anonymous writer of his Wikipedia entry rightly terms his organ works “elaborate and challenging,” and his major organ compositions remain to this day some of the most technically difficult pieces ever written for the organ.

The trios performed at St. Mary’s today are, in contrast to his very complex works, simple in form and not of profound difficulty, but nevertheless individual gems of organ composition.  Both are from his Opus 49, Zehn Trios für die Orgel, and as the title suggests, comprise two of the ten trios in this collection. The Number 6 trio, played as the opening voluntary, is designated for a single manual and pedal and to be registered for “Volles werk,” or “Full Organ” as we would translate into English.  Although the composition is in three parts, the effect is more akin to that of a fugue and harkens back to compositions for organ of the Baroque era.  The Number 1 trio, played today at the communion, is designated for 2 manuals and pedal and to played with a “Sanfte register” or “gentle registration.”  The trio in this piece is realized as a delicate melody in the soprano line that moves back and forth seamlessly from major to minor mode and is accompanied by a moving eighth note pattern in the lower register. Both are grounded over a simple, slower bass line completing to the chordal structure suggested by the patterns of the upper voices.

5th Sunday after Pentecost – 1 Jul 12

Opening Voluntary: Verset and Prelude on HYMN TO JOY – Gerhard Krapf (1924-2008)

 At the Communion: Larghetto – Johann W. Franck (1641-1688)

 Closing Voluntary: Hymn and Variation on MATERNA – S. A. Ward (1848-1903) / T. Tertius Noble (1867-1953)

The Opening Voluntary,  a Verset and a Prelude on the hymntune, HYMN TO JOY, is the composition of Gerhard W. Krapf (1924-2008).  Krapf was born in the German town of Meissenheim, and after serving in the German army in World War II, he studied music in Karlsruhe.  He came later to the United States, and in 1951, he became the student of Paul Piskf (1893-1990) at the Universtity of Redlands in California. Paul Pisk was himself a student of the famous Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951).  Krapf was allowed to settle in the United States in 1953 and taught subsequently at several  educational institutions in this country including at the University of Iowa from 1961 to 1977.  He subsequently moved to the University of Alberta in Edmonton in Canada where he remained until his retirement.  He died in Edmonton, Alberta in 2008 at the age of 83.  The hymntune, HYMN TO JOY, is the melody for our entrance hymn today, #376 in The Hymnal, 1982, set to the popular text of Henry J. Van Dyke (1852-1933) of “Joyful, joyful, we adore thee.”  This familiar tune was composed by Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827) and appears as the concluding chorus in his famous Ninth Symphony as the tune for a portion of the German Poem  “An die Freude” by the Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805).

The music, At the Communion, is a short piece by German, Baroque composer, Johann Wolfgang Franck (1641-ca 1710). The composition was probably originally a vocal solo (now lost) with a figured bass accompaniment. It was edited for organ by David Johnson (1922-1987), the former organist of Trinity Cathedral Phoenix and professor of music at ASU.

The Closing Voluntary presents the hymntune MATERNA, composed by S. A. Ward (1848-1903),  and is known most popularly as the tune for the national song “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies.” The short alternative harmonization is by  the well-known Episcopal organist and composer,  T. Tertius Noble (1867-1953). It is offered here in honor of the observance of Independence Day this week.  This day is an official observance of the Episcopal Church,  and the collect for which is found on page 242 of The Book of Common Prayer (1979).

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