Tag Archives: Georg Friedrich Händel

23rd Sunday after Pentecost – 27 Oct 13

Georg Friedrich Händel

Georg Friedrich Händel

Opening Voluntary: Fugue in C Major á 3 – Georg Friederic Händel (1685-1759)

Choral Introit: Lætetur cor – Simple English Propers

The Opening Voluntary, the “Fugue in c Major á 3,” comes from a set of six pieces published as a collection attributed to the famous German-English Composer George Friederic Händel, usually known as his “Six Little Fugues.”  As to whether these fugues actually were the genuine works of Händel himself or another composer working in a similar style remains a musicological question to this day. All six of these works are fugal and typically English in style, and all are in 3 voices or “á 3.”

Georg Friederic Händel was born in 1685 in Halle, Duchy of Magdeburg into a family indifferent to music.  Händel’s father, 63 at the age of his birth, was a barber-surgeon.  His father, who intended that his son should study law, when he discovered his son’s strong propensity to music, was so alarmed by this that he strictly forbade him to play any musical instrument.  Flouting his father’s orders, Händel obtained a small clavichord, a stringed keyboard instrument popular for practice in the Baroque era and known for its soft tones, and secreted it in a room at the top of the house.  His first biographer writes that “to this room he constantly stole when his family was asleep.” While still a child, Händel traveled with his father to visit a relative who was serving as a valet in a ducal court.  It is said that Händel was sat down on an organ bench and surprised everyone with his playing abilities. This event was said to have helped the duke and Händel to convince his father to allow him to study music. At that time, he became the student of Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, organist of the Marienkirche of Halle.

In 1702, Händel commenced study of the law at the University of Halle at his father’s wishes but continued to work as a musician, being first organist for a year at the Cathedral of Halle and then becoming violinist with an opera orchestra in Hamburg.  He produced his first two operas in Hamburg in 1705. He relocated to Italy the following year of 1706 where he composed both operas and sacred music. In 1710, Händel became Kapellmeister to the German prince Georg, the Elector of Hanover who, in 1714, became King George I of Great Britain and Ireland.  Händel settled then in England where he remained for the rest of his life.  Within 15 years, Händel had established three opera companies and over his later career completed more than 40 operas.  In 1737, after a crisis of health, he turned progressively to the composition of English choral works, particularly grand oratorios, the most famous today being “The Messiah” of 1742.  At the time of his death in 1759, Händel was both wealthy and  widely respected. He was given a state funeral with full honors and buried in Westminster Abbey.

 

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20th Sunday after Pentecost – 14 Oct 2012

Opening Voluntary: Prelude on Aus tiefer Not – F. W. Zachow (1663-1712)

At the Communion: Prelude on Aus tiefer Not – Marcel Dupré (1886-1971)

Closing Voluntary: Variation on Mit Freuden zart – Scott Withrow (1932-1993)

Both the opening voluntary and the music at the communion are based on the German chorale, Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, sung today as our offertory hymn, #151, and which was written by German reformer and musician, Martin Luther (1483-1546).  A metrical version of Psalm 130, this was one of the earliest hymns written by Luther, dating to about the year 1523. Although suspected to have been initially published as a “broadside,” its first known printing was in the first German reformation book of hymns, the Achtliederbuch (Literally, “Eight-Song Book”) published in Nuremberg in 1524.  Psalm 130, De profundis, (BCP p. 784) is one of the so-called “Seven Penitential Psalms,” a selection known from the 6th century from the commentaries of Flavius Cassiodorus (c. 485-c.585) and which included Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143. In Lutheranism, the metrical version of this penitential psalm became associated with one of the six sections of Luther’s catechism (the section on penitence).  This, along with its frequent usage in German post-reformation funerals, led to many musical compositions based on the tune with which it is most commonly associated and which was likely composed by Luther himself.

The Chorale Prelude on Aus tiefer Not at the opening voluntary was composed by Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (1663-1712). Zachow was cantor and organist of the Market Church in Halle and was particularly known for his cantata compositions.  He was criticized, however, by the community’s pietists for his “excessively long and elaborate” music that could be appreciated only by “other organists and cantors.”  He is chiefly remembered today as the first teacher of music to Georg Frideric Händel (1685-1759). The short setting of Aus tiefer Not played at the communion is by the famous French organist and composer, Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) and is from his Seventy-Nine Chorales for the Organ of 1932.  Intended primarily as an educational work to assist the organist in preparation for studying the chorale settings of J. S. Bach, it was conceived with a view to “making the student familiar with the magnificent melodies of the Chorales.” Although quite brief, its dissonant harmonization beautifully sets this famous hymn tune.


Easter 7 – 20 May 2012

Opening Voluntary: Prelude on HYFRYDOL – George A. Lynn (1915-1989)

At the Communion: Adagio – Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)

Closing Voluntary: “Fugue in D Major á 3” – Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759)

The Opening Voluntary is a brief prelude on the popular hymn tune HYFRYDOL sung today as our Offertory hymn to the text “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus.” (The Hymnal 1982, #460) This Welsh hymn tune was composed by Rowland Huw Prichard in 1844 before he was 20 years of age and was included in his book Cyfaill y Cantorion (The Singer’s Friend).  This was a handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal and was a publication intended for the use of children.  It appears in The Hymnal 1982 with the text of “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” as well as the tune to accompany “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” (The Hymnal 1982, #657). One of a number of Welsh hymns in use today (we sing another Welsh hymn today as our entrance Hymn as the tune LLANFAIR (#214, “Hail the day that sees him rise,”), it ranks as one of the most popular hymn tunes in The Episcopal Church in current use. The setting at the Opening Voluntary is from a collection of pieces by George A. Lynn (1915-1989), To God on High, and is a quiet and reflective meditation on this usually-celebratory tune.  G. A. Lynn taught at Westminster Choir College as well as the University of Colorado in Boulder. He was also the organist of several church in Denver and Colorado Springs.

The piece At the Communion is a short composition by the famous German, early- Baroque composer, Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672).  This piece is a transcription of a work originally composed for secular use but follows a common practice of organ transcription of the day in which secular keyboard pieces were often employed in the services of the church for incidental music.

The Closing Voluntary, the “Fugue in D Major á 3,” comes from a set of six pieces published as a collection attributed to the famous German-English Composer, Georg Friedrich Händel and usually known as his “Six Little Fugues.”  As to whether these fugues actually were the genuine works of Händel himself or another composer working in a similar style remains a musicological question to this day. All six of these works are fugal and typically English in style, and all are in 3 voices or “á 3.” The particular piece played at our closing voluntary today in D major (one of two works in this key from this collection) is somewhat unusual for fugal composition in that is is in a triple meter, meaning that there are three beats to a measure, a convention that we typically associate with dance music such as waltzes.  It also incorporates a musical device of the day known as the “hemiola” in which two measures in triple meter are converted to three measures of duple (2 beat) meter.  This will occur twice in this work, most notably in the final cadence. These works were first published in London in the year 1776.


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