A collection of pieces for solo organ ideal for performance around Lent and Easter
Mozart - Ave Verum Corpus (Manuals)
"Ave verum corpus" is a short Eucharistic hymn that has been set to music by various composers. It dates from the 14th century and has been attributed to Pope Innocent VI. Mozart's setting was written in 1791, just six months before his death. Though it foreshadows some aspects of his Requiem, a work left unfinished at his death, its sentiments are more simply expressed. It is a popular work amongst both amateur and professional choirs.
Allegri's sublime "Miserere Mei, Deus" ("Have mercy on me, O God") is a setting of Psalm 51 composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for the exclusive use of the Sistine Chapel. Its exclusivity meant that copies of the score were not available outside the confines of the Sistine Chapel, with the result that a number of musicians attempted to make transcriptions of the work by ear. The most famous of these were by Mendelssohn, Liszt and Mozart. Mozart was said to have written down the piece after hearing it just once, though doubts remain about the veracity of this story. The ban on the work's reproduction was eventually lifted, it becoming one of the most frequently recorded Renaissance pieces. One of the most famous of these performances was in English by the choir of King's College Cambridge, the celebrated solo line, with its difficult top-C, sung with apparent effortlessness by treble Roy Goodman.
Franck's serene "Panis Angelicus" is a movement from his Messe ŕ 3 voix, written when he was organist at the Parisian church of Ste. Clothilde. The whole mass was written over a number of years, this movement appearing in 1872. "Panis Angelicus" was originally written for tenor voice, but its popularity has led to it being arranged for many different solo voices, instruments and ensembles.
Guilmant - Paraphrase sur un choeur de Judas Maccabeus
Alexandre Guilmant (1837–1911) was celebrated organist and composer. A pupil of Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens, he held the post of 'organiste titular' at la Trinité, Paris for 30 years. Unlike other organists, he wrote mostly for his own instrument, producing a large body of work that remains popular amongst players to this day. This joyous piece is a fugal exploration of Handel's celebrated chorus from the oratorio 'Judas Maccabeus,' more familiar as the Easter hymn 'Thine be the glory.'
Were you there when they crucified my Lord (Spiritual)
'Were you there when they crucified my Lord' is an African-American Spiritual, likely composed in the 19th century. Its recounting of the suffering of Christ during the crucifixion acts as a metaphor for the suffering of the slaves who sang it. It was first been published in 1899 in William Eleazor Barton's 'Old Plantation Hymns,' subsequently becoming a familiar hymn amongst Christians throughout the world.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? (Were you there?) Were you there when they crucified my Lord? O Sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble! Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Mozart - Lacrimosa dies illa from Requiem Mass K.626 as used in the film Amadeus
Lacrimosa, meaning 'weeping' is the last section of the Dies Irae sequence from Mozart's Requiem. A Requiem or Requiem Mass, is a rite usually performed at a funeral. It contains some of the last bars of music penned by the composer and, appropriatelly, was used in the film 'Amadeus' to accompany the composer's burial.
Parry - Chorale Prelude on 'Rockingham' (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross)
C.H.H. Parry (1848–1918) was an English composer best known for patriotic works such as 'Jerusalem', 'I Was Glad' and 'Blest Pair of Sirens.' This chorale prelude is conceived very much in the manner of Bach, with a richly contrapuntal texture woven around the familiar Easter hymn 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.'
Stanford - At Easter-Tide, No 3 from Six Occasional Preludes, Op. 182
Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924) was an Anglo-Irish composer. Here was prolific, writing 7 symphonies, 9 operas, 11 concertos and 28 chamber works but today is best remembered for his works written for the Anglican Choral tradition. This organ work is an adjunct to that lifelong preoccupation, being designed for use in church services at Easter.
Bach - Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 649
'Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ' is a chorale prelude published around 1748. Bach was the consummate master of this form, in which an accompanying texture is woven around a hymn (chorale) melody. The melody 'Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ' ('Ah remain with us, Lord Jesus Christ') is intended for use at Easter, indeed Bach incorporated it into an earlier cantata for use in a Lutheran Easter Monday service in 1725.
Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), most popularly known for his ubiquitous 'Canon in D' was a prolific composer of music for organ. Unlike Bach, most of this was written for manuals alone, with the style being much more accessible to the average player. This chorale is based on 'Komm Gott Schopfer, heiliger Geist' ('Come, God Creator, Holy Ghost'), a Lutheran hymn for Pentecost, traditionally the last day of the church season of Easter.
Brahms (1833-1897) is considered one of the great mid-Romantic composers. Seeing himself very much in the Austro-German succession from Bach through to Mozart, Haydn and Schubert, he was also a great proponent of the pure forms associated with this lineage. It is not surprising, therefore, that he chose to write a collection of 'Eleven Chorale Preludes,' in the manner of Bach, which he completed towards the end of his life. The second of these, 'Herzliebster Jesu,' is based upon a Lutheran Passion hymn written in 1630 by Johann Heermann.
Handel - I Know That My Redeemer Liveth from Messiah
"I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" is a soprano aria from the third part of Handel's celebrated oratorio "Messiah." The lyrics draw from both the book of Job and Paul and are "an expression of faith in redemption." They also announce the Second Coming of Christ. Much recorded as a stand-alone number, the melody has also been reworked as a hymn tune.