Sunday, March 24, 2024

Music for Gathering: “All Glory, Laud and Honor,” BWV 736 – J.S. Bach

This festive work is based on the tune sung in modern times with the Palm Sunday text “All Glory, Laud and Honor;” in Bach’s organ setting, that tune is heard in long note values in the pedals, with rapid and joyous figurations in the hands above. The “All Glory, Laud and Honor” tune comes from the seventeenth century, where it was sung with the German Lutheran chorale text “Valet will ich dir geben” (“Farewell I Gladly Bid Thee”), a meditation on the sorrows of earthly life and our longing for the afterlife. This is the text Bach would have associated with that tune; his organ setting, therefore, expresses joy and exuberance in anticipation of eternal life in heaven (rather than having anything to do with Palm Sunday). The pairing of the “Valet will ich dir geben” tune and the “All Glory, Laud and Honor” text, on the other hand, took place in England during the nineteenth century, and the two quickly became permanently linked in English-speaking hymnals. (The text “All Glory, Laud and Honor” actually comes from the ninth century, and is attributed to one Theodulph of Orleans; this is why the English renamed the tune “St. Theodulph” in the nineteenth century, a name that is still used in modern hymnals.)

Music for Meditation:Largo (from Concerto in D minor, Opus 3 No. 11) – Antonio Vivaldi (1668-1741)

The great Italian Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi, most famous for his orchestral suite The Four Seasons, composed an enormous number of orchestral concertos during his lifetime. One of Vivaldi’s most important collections of concertos is L’Estro Armonico (“The Harmonic Whim”), Opus 3. The eleventh concerto in this collection, in D minor, has a beautiful slow movement that features two solo violins accompanied by string orchestra. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) transcribed Vivaldi’s Opus 3 No. 11 concerto for solo organ; this Sunday, we will hear the slow movement of this work played as a response to our Prayer of Confession, featuring two solo violinists accompanied by the organ, with the accompaniment as given in Bach’s arrangement.

Postlude: Toccata in B minor….. Eugène Gigout

One of the first of the great Romantic and contemporary French organ toccatas, this Toccata in B minor was composed by a student of the more famous French composer Camille Saint-Saens. Gigout’s Toccata, like Widor’s, is a fast, perpetual motion work which builds to an impressive climax at its conclusion. The agitated and sorrowful style of Gigout’s Toccata also stands in contrast to the triumphant quality of the Widor’s work.

– Charles Tompkins

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