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8.557131 - Dialogue for Two Organs
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Dialogue for Two Organs
Cherubini • Galuppi • Clementi • Bonazzi • Busi • Canneti

Dialogue: “a verbal interchange, conversation between two or more persons … a composition for two or more voices or instruments”. Intelligence, logic and reason all have a part to play, not only in human conversation, but also in musical dialogues, through simplicity of expression, hexachordal mutation of Gregorian chant, well-considered responses to musical cues, and so on.

These dialogues for two organs originate in part from the practice of alternatim, in which the instrument would both add to and draw inspiration from a complex polyphonic texture. Organ improvisation is moreover centuries-old, as shown by this reference made to it by Girolamo Diruta (c.1550- after 1612) in his organ treatise Il Transilvano: “… listening in St Mark’s (Venice), that most famous of churches, to a duel between two organs responding to one another with such skill and grace that I was almost beside myself, and longing to meet these two great champions, I waited by the door until I saw appear Claudio Merulo and Andrea Gabrieli…”. The cities of Venice, Milan, Padua, Bologna, Rome and Naples — whose churches boasted instruments constructed by the greatest organ-builders — all, thanks to the musical genius and imagination of their organist-composers, played a part in establishing compositional criteria and various different musical forms, of which this CD contains a number of examples, the latest work dating from the mid-nineteenth century.

The Sonata for two organs by the Florentine composer Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) is dated 1780, Milan. The lighthearted opening theme is followed by a masterful display of counterpoint in two fugues, for the first and second organ respectively. The initial theme returns at the end in a duel of rhythm and movement before the two join in unison at the final cadence. In his light and elegant Sonata for two harpsichords, or organ and spinet, Baldassare Galuppi, “Il Buranello” (1707- 85), favours the style galant, the simplified and stylised descendant of the Baroque. The score of the nineteenthcentury Sonata for two organs by an “anonymous Italian”, like those of the Clementi and Bonazzi pieces, is held in the Milan Cathedral archive. All these works have been newly published by Armelin (Padua). In the anonymous piece, the thematic elements (variously transposed) are passed back and forth, echo-like, between the two instruments, thereby creating a transparent, flowing musical texture, with richer harmonies generally occurring at the cadences.

Also included on this CD is the Sonata for two organs by Muzio Clementi (1752-1832), prodigy, composer, pianist and publisher. His skill in the pianistic idiom is evident in this piece, which is divided into three principal sections: Allegro molto-Allegretto- Allegro molto. Ferdinando Bonazzi (1764-1845) was first organist at Milan Cathedral and his Suonata and Pastoral for two organs both come from its archive. We know that there were two organists at Milan, who would take turns to play the two exquisite instruments built by Gian Giacomo Antegnati (1559) and Cristoforo Valvassori (1607). The presence of these instruments (subsequently modified) probably explains the quantity of works written for two organs. The style galant of the first piece by Bonazzi contrasts with the pastoral gracefulness of the second, which unfolds in three sections: Andante-Minuetto Allegro-Allegro.

The Four Sonatas for two organs by the Bolognese composer Giuseppe Busi (1808-71) show how the idiom was developing under the influence of opera, which was by then the dominant musical form in Italy. The Four Sonatas are written in different tempi (Sonata I Allegro giusto; Sonata II Adagio; Sonata III Allegro; Sonata IV Largo) but the first three employ the by then standard rhythmic and harmonic (and, often, melodic) stimuli. The Fourth Sonata progresses in a more subdued manner, its dialogue linear and transparent, while denser harmonies emphasise moments of expressive tension.

Even more obviously influenced by the musical world of his time was the organist-composer Francesco Canneti (1807-84). Organ transcriptions of symphonies, arias, marches and other such pieces by famous composers were commonplace by this time, and Canneti’s Finale for two organs from Verdi’s Aida is an entertaining example, bringing our programme to an end with the well-known Triumphal March.

Nestling in the medieval town of Sant’Elpidio a Mare, the magnificent Basilica of the Madonna della Misericordia contains not only works of art by Boscoli, Pomarancio and Lilli among others, but also two internationally renowned organs. The quality of these instruments along with the church’s impeccable acoustics and beautiful sound synthesis make this a unique setting for music-making.

Luigi Celeghin

English translation: Susannah Howe

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