Tag Archives: Girolamo Frescobaldi

Third Sunday after Pentecost – 9 Jun 13

Girolamo Frescobaldi

Girolamo Frescobaldi

Opening Voluntary: Toccata Cromaticaper l’Elevazione” – Girolamo Frescobaldi

At the Offertory: Kyrie “della Domenica” Girolamo Frescobaldi

Closing Voluntary: Prelude on Lobe den Herren – A. W. Leupold

The opening voluntary and the music at the offertory were both composed by Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1674), one of the greatest of Italian musicians of the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods.  Born in Ferrara, he transferred to Rome in his early 20s and became the organist at the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. In 1608, he was appointed organist of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, a position that he held intermittently until his death.  Although he was to compose many different types of music, it was instrumental music, particularly keyboard music, that formed the bulk of the composer’s work.  He published eight collections of keyboard music during his lifetime, and it is for these works that he is most remembered today. The selections performed today come from his Fiori Musicali  of 1635. This was his only keyboard collection devoted entirely to church music and his last one containing completely new pieces. The majority of the works are “alternatim” compositions intended for performance in alternation with choir chanting the music of the mass ordinary. The brief “Kyrie” heard at the offertory is one such example.  Other pieces were “occasional” pieces of music intended to accompany the physical actions of the mass, such as today’s “Toccata Cromatica,” originally intended to accompany the elevation in the canon of the Mass. This piece makes use of a “special effect” of Baroque Italian organs known as the “piffaro.”  This effect was produced by using two sets of pipes simultaneously, one of which had been tuned slightly flat to produce an undulating sound.  It is related to the “celeste” stops of organs of the romantic period and later.  We achieve this on our organ today by employing the ability to partially “draw” one of the stops and hence limit its airflow, resulting in a slight reduction in pitch.

The postlude today is a chorale prelude on the tune for our entrance hymn (# 390, The Hymnal 1982), Lobe den Herren. It is the work of Anton Wilhelm Leupold (1868-1940). A native of Austria, Leupold became the organist of St. Peter’s Church, Berlin in 1899, a position he would hold for the next forty years.  Although he composed many types of church music, the bulk of his works were in the genre of the Chorale prelude, of which he left some 200 examples.

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3d Sunday in Lent ~ Oculi mei – 11 Mar 02

Opening Voluntary: Toccata Cromatica per l’Elevazione – Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643)

At the Communion: “O Domine Jesu Christe” – Lodovico Grossi da Viadana (1560-1627)

Closing Voluntary: Suonata Prima – Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634)

In our ongoing Lenten series of exploration of early organ music, our next stop is Italy of the 16th century.  It was in the late 16th century that organ building reached a high level of maturity in the Italian peninsula, and its shape was crystalized into a form that was to remain largely unchanged for the next two centuries. Although the details are too great to review in detail here, one of the features of Italian building was to create organs that were capable of creating very different types of sounds.  The earliest organs throughout Europe were often formed on a principle of Blockwerk (to use the German terminology), in which each note sounded a group of pipes of different type and pitch that could not be changed or altered.  The later introduction of “stops” allowed the organist to “stop” the sound of one or more groups of pipes to vary the tone.  It was in Italy where this practice reached its highest level and it was of the character of Italian organ building that each “stop,” now more properly a “start,” would, when drawn, activate a single set of pipes (known in organ terminology as a “rank’) assigning only one pipe to speak for each note of the keyboard. (Other countries would retain, to a greater or lesser degree the ongoing construction of compound or “mixture” stops activating multiple ranks of pipes of varying pitches in partial imitation of the old Blockwerk.) These stops could be used both individually and in varying combinations at the discretion of the organist. One of the off-shoots of this principle in organ construction in Italy was known as the piffaro stop.  This was a “special effect” set of pipes tuned slightly sharp (or off-key) to others and meant to be used only in combination with another pipe of the same fundamental pitch.  The “off-key” character produced an “undulating” effect that was the precursor of our modern “celeste” stop.  This effect is heard in the opening voluntary today by Frescobaldi.  According to Antegnati (1549-1624), this special effect was intended to be played “adagio (i.e. ‘at ease’) with slow movements and as legato as possible.”

About “O Domine Jesu Christe” by da Viadana

The vocal piece sung at the communion today is by early Baroque, Italian composer Lodovico da Viadana and is from his collection of 1602 published under the title of Cento concerti con il basso continuo. “Basso continuo” known in English as “figured bass” was an early Baroque technique for notation of music that specified the bass line with additional markings to denote the harmonic development or “realization” of the musical piece.  Although da Viadana did not invent the technique, he was the first to publish a large collection of works using this device.  Today, as this skill is no longer a common musical ability, the “realization” is often written out beforehand.  The version we hear performed was “realized” by modern Milanese organist, Gianfranco Spinelli.


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