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8.557218 - Organ Recital: Timothy Olsen

Timothy Olsen - Organ Recital

Timothy Olsen - Organ Recital

Bach • Bizet-Lemare • Franck • Reger • Duruflé • Rorem • Sweelinck • Bruhns


Born into a musical family in Schleswig-Holstein in 1665, Nicolaus Bruhns began his organ studies at a young age, taught by his father. In 1681 he was sent to Lübeck, where he studied the violin and viola da gamba with his uncle and organ and composition with Dietrich Buxtehude. Bruhns was known to play concerted music by himself; he would play the upper parts on the violin while playing the bass line on the organ pedals. In 1689 Bruhns was appointed organist at the Stadtkirche in Husum, serving there until his premature death at the age of 31. He left five organ works and a dozen vocal works. The E minor Praeludium is written in the style of his teacher, Buxtehude, and other North German organ composers. The style known as the “fantastic style”, alternates free, improvisatory sections with strict, fugal sections. The Praeludium is in five sections, toccata, fugue, middle free section, fugue, and toccata.


The Netherlands composer, organist and teacher Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck was one of the most important musical figures of his time, exercising strong influence over the pupils who came to study with him in Amsterdam. Though the organs of Amsterdam were a source of great pride for the Dutch, Calvinist practice prohibited the performance of organ music during the services. Hence, Sweelinck held a civic organist position, performing concerts at the Oude Kerk as entertainment for the merchants, visitors, and townspeople of this important city. His compositions include many variation sets on both secular and sacred tunes, including the present set of four variations based on the secular folk-tune Onder een linde groen (Under the Green Linden Tree).


In the last decade of his life, Bach, since 1723 Cantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig, increasingly turned his attention to collecting and revising his earlier work. The chorale prelude Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland is from the so-called Eighteen Chorales, a collection that was a part of this retrospective effort. Included there are revisions or elaborations of earlier works, with chorale preludes on some of the most well-known and often used hymns of the German liturgy. The prelude on Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Saviour of the nations, come), based on Martin Luther’s version of a Latin hymn for Advent, assigns the chorale melody to a solo voice of the organ, and is treated lyrically, even rhapsodically. While not stated strictly from beginning to end, fragments of the melody permeate the piece, while the accompanying voices are restrained, and help to create a mood of quiet expectancy.


“Myself, raised in Quaker silence, I craved Catholic sound,” writes the American composer Ned Rorem in the preface to his eleven-movement A Quaker Reader, written in 1976. Each essay bears an epigraph from writings of those belonging to the Society of Friends. He also writes, “my intention has been to meld, finally and practically, my nominal religion with my craft [of musical composition]….The music represents a blaze of silence”.


A Secret Power: “When I came into the silent assemblies…I felt a secret power among them which touched my heart.” (Robert Barclay)


The World of Silence: “There must be a hush from the din of the world’s noises before the soul can hear the inward Voice; …a closing of the eyes to the glare and dazzle of the world’s sights before the inward eye can see that which is eternally Real…” (Rufus Jones)


This movement is a depiction of utter silence, where only in this complete silence, writes Rorem, “is not the ‘silent world’…like the deafening Niagara of our own bloodstream?…Sometimes [silence] calls forth noisy chords”.

               The epigraph for the third of the movements included here, “There Is a Spirit That Delights to Do No Evil…” is taken from the dying words of James Naylor (1660). The poignant, very simple tune depicts its title perfectly “…as a balm to James Naylor who perished so painfully in London…”


Born in Belgium in 1822 and originally intended by his father to be a virtuoso pianist, César Franck studied in Paris, where he spent the rest of his career, serving as organist at Ste Clothilde, which acquired a Cavaillé-Coll organ, an instrument whose many possibilities Franck was to explore. During a period of two months in the summer of 1890 he composed his last three masterpieces, the Three Chorales. Less than a month later Franck became extremely ill, making his last corrections to the manuscripts on his deathbed. The chorales were published posthumously one year later. The chorale itself evolves throughout the work by the use of variation on two themes. The opening idea, which is not the chorale tune itself, is of a grand and noble character which establishes a strong harmonic foundation of E major. The chorale (the second theme), gently placing itself within the established key, makes its first entrance on the voix humaine (a light reed stop). Following this initial statement of the chorale, the first variation beautifully elaborates the opening theme and chorale. After this Franck launches into the second variation, this time in the minor and slightly more ambiguous. Through his evasive tonal language and further diversions, Franck continues to develop the two themes by expanding the phrases of the chorale evoking the majestic and noble qualities of the sublime. Using the complete tonal resources of the organ, the climactic statement of the chorale is heard in imitation between manuals and pedal.


Maurice Duruflé’s early musical training came as a choir boy in Rouen. He studied with and later became the assistant of Charles Tournemire at Ste Clothilde’s in Paris, going on to further study with Louis Vierne. In 1927 he was appointed organist at St Etienne-du-Mont where he remained the rest of his life. In 1942 he became Marcel Dupré’s assistant at the Paris Conservatoire. Duruflé was very critical of his own compositions, thus only publishing ten works in his lifetime. The Scherzo, one of four organ pieces, was his first published work. Written in 1924 it is dedicated to Tournemire. The piece combines the typical playfulness of a scherzo with beautifully shaped melodies and lush harmonies.


With a musical style often characterized as a synthesis of romantic, chromatic tonal language and more classical, traditional forms, Max Reger bridges the old to the new. He had an affinity with Bach’s music, particularly the keyboard works, and his study of Bach’s keyboard works in the 1890s culminated in the composition of several of his large-scale chorale fantasies and other free works. The Introduction and Passacaglia opens with a fantasy in three distinct sections, the middle one of which is contrapuntal in nature and, in contrast, has softer dynamics, lighter texture, and less gravity. The Passacaglia, following the example of Bach, has a repeated eight-bar bass-line, over which appears a series of variations, until the final climax is reached, stated in the parallel key of D major.


The English-born organist Edwin Lemare held positions in several churches and municipalities in England from 1882 to 1902, and in America from 1902 to 1929. He did much towards raising the organ to the stature of a symphony orchestra as a concert instrument. To this end he transcribed a wealth of orchestral music for the organ, including the present arrangement of several of the themes from Bizet’s opera, Carmen, into a quasi-fantasia. The prominent themes used are Carmen’s Habanera, the Toreador’s theme, and Carmen’s fate theme.


Timothy Olsen



C.B. Fisk, Inc. Op. 83 (1983)

The Downtown United Presbyterian Church, Rochester, New York


Great, 56 notes

Prestant 16'

Principal 8'

Spire Flute 8'

Flute Harmonique 8'

Octave 4'

Flute 4'

Cornet V (from C1)

Superoctave 2'

Mixture VI – VIII

Trumpet 8'

Clarion 4'

Pedal, 30 notes

Prestant 16'

Bourdon 16'

Bourdon 16' & 32'

Octave 8'

Superoctave 4'

Mixture VI

Trombone 16'

Trumpet 8'



Positive, 56 notes

Prestant 8'

Bourdon 8'

Octave 4'

Baarpijp 4'

Nazard 2 2/3'

Sesquialtera II

Doublet 2'

Mixture IV – VI

Cromorne 8'

Trechterregal 8'


Swell, 56 notes

Gambe 8'

Voix Celeste 8'

Quinta 1 1/3'

Cor de Nuit 8'

Italian Principal 4'

Waldflote 2'

Fourniture IV

Basson 16'

Trompette 8'

Hautbois 8'



Swell to Positive

Swell to Great

Positive to Great

Swell to Pedal

Positive to Pedal

Great to Pedal Tremulant

Wind Stabilizer

Great to Pedal Reversible

Two pairs of combination pedals: adjustable at the

console; on and off for each stop jamb



Pairs of italicized stops above signify that the first stop is available with the knob halfway drawn and the second stop is available when the knob is fully drawn.


Key Action:

Direct Mechanical

(“traction suspendue”)


Stop Action:

Direct Mechanical

39 stops / 56 ranks / 2625 pipes


Wind Pressure 3"


Two single-fold wedge bellows

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