Sungmin Kim, organ
Felix Gamez, violin
Amber Murillo, violin
Benjamin Stayner, cello
O Welt, ich muß dich lassen,
ich fahr dahin mein Straßen
ins ewig Vaterland.
Mein' Geist will ich aufgeben,
dazu mein' Leib und Leben
legen in Gottes gnädig Hand.
O World, I must leave you,
I travel from here along my way
to the everlasting fatherland.
I will give up my spirit
so that my body and life
lie in God’s merciful hand.
Bach published his Clavier-Übung III, with a preface adding, “Third Part of the Keyboard Practice, consisting of various preludes on the catechism and other chorales for the organ: prepared for music-lovers and especially for connoisseurs of such work, for the recreation of the spirit…” The collection is bookended by the Prelude at the beginning and the Fugue at the end.
The Prelude integrates musical materials that seem to represent the three Persons of the Trinity: the Father with the majestic dotted rhythm of a French overture, evoking kingship; the Son with a descending line, perhaps representing the descent of the Incarnation; and the Holy Ghost with the active, all-encompassing sixteenth notes, which can represent fire according to Baroque musical conventions.
The Fugue is nicknamed “St. Anne” due to its coincidental resemblance to a popular English hymn. It is a triple fugue—three distinct sections, each with its own subject and treatment, but in which the themes of prior sections are progressively integrated in each subsequent section. As in the Prelude, these sections and themes may also represent the Persons of the Trinity, and their thematic integration may be a musical expression of the divine Unity. The first subject is blissfully uplifting in common time (Father), the second subject (Son), derived from the first countersubject is rather light and fluid in 6/8 meter, and the third subject (Holy Ghost) is fiercely affirmative in its gigue-like dance of 12/8. In the final section, all three subjects merge such that no single one is subordinate to the other two.
Rheinberger was a traditionalist who drew inspiration from the Renaissance and the Baroque periods and was also a strong admirer of Bach. His Suite for Violin adopts the style of Baroque dances with a Romantic harmonic and melodic language. The instrumentation of violin and organ is rather unusual, but Rheinberger’s clarity of texture allows such collaboration. The Praeludium begins the suite with a feeling of gravitas — a stark contrast to the delicate Canzone that follows, featuring a sublime aria in the violin. The courtly dance of the Allemande in the minor key has a refreshingly major middle section with the violin melody soaring over the rising and falling waves of the organ accompaniment. The work concludes with a spectacular perpetual motion in the violin and the melody in the organ.
While the first half of the program boasts the glorious capacity of the organ, the second half exposes its somber potential. Corelli’s Op.3 comprises six four-movement works that are considered a sonate da chiesa (church sonatas); these did not serve any liturgical purpose, but were used as concert music between services. The terminology serves to differentiate from sonate da camera (chamber sonatas) that featured a suite of dances. Corelli’s trio sonata has three parts with two violins and the continuo — which includes the cello and the continuo organ. Filled with the Italian lyricism, chain of suspensions, and points of imitation, this particular trio sonata carries an impassioned sense of drama.
The first movement sets the tragic mood with a few moments of hope that turns back to minor -- a foreshadowing of impending doom. The second movement is heroic in character of its struggle to overcome the inevitable damnation. Our hero finally accepts his fate with his song of lament in the third movement before the arrival of the cataclysmic gigue in the fourth movement.
The Eleven Chorale Preludes were Brahm’s last compositions, written at a time when he was suffering from liver cancer and had lost several of his dear friends, including Clara Schumann. The third and the last prelude uses the chorale tune O Welt, ich muß dich lassen (O World, I Must Leave You), befitting the composer’s imminent departure from the world. The chorale tune comes from Heinrich Isaac’s Innsbruck, ich muß dich lassen (Innsbruck, I must leave you). In the first setting, No. 3, the cantus firmus in the soprano carries the chorale tune over the contrapuntal sobbing motifs in the lower voices. In the second setting, No. 11, each line of the chorale tune is harmonized in full and echoed twice, successively growing weaker. Both settings convey the conflicting desires of tenacity to life and ultimate liberation.
The three chorales were also one of the last compositions Franck wrote before his death due to complications from a horse-drawn cab accident. Written as he took a leave from his teaching position at the Paris Conservatoire, Chorale No. 3 is an extremly tragic work filled with anguish and inner torment. The first section has agitated toccata runs that are interrupted with upwards largamente reflections, followed by a sorrowful chorale with sighing motives. The middle section has a beautifully expressive aria that somehow makes the internal suffering alluring. The return of the A section cyclically combines the toccata and the chorale materials into a full-forced wail. The upwards gestures from the earlier A section are now turned upside down into a desperate mourning.