Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fistfuls of Notes

Yesterday I got a real treat: my latest order of organ music from "Sheet Music Plus" arrived. And unlike some of the books I've picked in the past, I can immediately tell that these will be very useful in my work as a Lutheran chorale-based organist.

Exhibit 1: Max Reger's Chorale Preludes for Organ, op. 67, in three volumes. I have played a few of these before. I am already aware of, and hopefully prepared for, the great big fistfuls of notes involved in playing mostly five-part hymn arrangements, in a highly chromatic, late-Romantic style. (Reger lived 1873-1916). Here are the tunes it contains, listing the title of the English-language hymn(s) probably most closely associated with each one:

  1. All glory be to God on high
  2. All depends on our possessing
  3. From depths of woe I cry to Thee
  4. Ye sons of men, O hearken / Arise, sons of the kingdom
  5. Abide, O dearest Jesus / For me to live is Jesus
  6. A mighty Fortress is our God
  7. Jehovah, let me know adore Thee
  8. We sing, Immanuel, Thy praise / That Easter day with joy was bright
  9. Lord Jesus Christ, be present now
  10. Salvation unto us has come
  11. Comfort, comfort ye, my people
  12. Thou who madest earth and heaven
  13. Lord, as Thou wilt, deal Thou with me / Lord Jesus Christ, Thou living Bread
  14. O sacred Head, now wounded
  15. O man, bewail thy sin so great
  16. Let me be Thine forever / Through Jesus' blood and merit
  17. Thee will I love, my Strength, my Tower
  18. Jerusalem, thou city fair and high
  19. Jesus, I will ponder now
  20. Jesus lives! the victory's won / Jesus Christ, my sure Defense
  21. Jesus, priceless Treasure
  22. Come, O come, Thou living Spirit
  23. Praise God the Lord, ye sons of men
  24. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
  25. Come, follow Me, the Savior spake
  26. Jesus I will never leave
  27. Now thank we all our God
  28. The day is surely drawing near
  29. Savior of the nations, come
  30. What is the world to me / When all the world was cursed
  31. Renew me, O eternal light
  32. Lamb of God, pure and holy
  33. O world, I now must leave thee
  34. Soul, adorn thyself with gladness
  35. Jesus, still lead on
  36. I will sing my Maker's praises
  37. Rise, my soul, to watch and pray
  38. Farewell I gladly bid thee / All glory, laud, and honor
  39. Our Father, Thou in heaven above
  40. From heaven above to earth I come
  41. Wake, awake! The night is flying
  42. From God can naught divide me
  43. Why should cross and trial grieve me
  44. What God ordains is always good
  45. If thou but trust in God to guide thee (minor-key tune)
  46. If thou but trust in God to guide thee (major-key tune)
  47. Speak, O Lord, Thy servant heareth / Like the golden sun ascending
  48. Who knows when death may overtake me
  49. How lovely shines the Morning Star
  50. My soul's best friend, what joy and blessing
  51. Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal
  52. O how blest are ye whose toils are ended (minor-key tune)

Wow! One piece per week for a year, right? Only four of these tunes (15, 46, 51 and 52) should be unfamiliar to people who know The Lutheran Hymnal. No. 51 is in Lutheran Worship, and the others are known to me through other American Lutheran hymnals. Nearly all of them are connected with hymns that I consider to be of the highest order, artistically and theologically. (I have doubts about 3 or 4 of them, such as No. 50). So basically, this is a book I could get a lot of mileage out of...provided my pastor picks hymns with tunes that have German titles!

I also bought four books of Healey Willan's organ music. One of them just contains two pieces (Matins and Evensong), neither of which is tied to a particular text. The other three books are sets of "Ten Hymn Preludes for Organ." I have bought books of Willan's preludes in the past, and found that hardly any of them were relevant to tunes used in my church; so buying these 3 books was a bit of a risk. It paid off this time! Of the 30 tunes contained in these books, I found the tunes LCMS Lutherans widely associate with the following hymns:

  1. Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes
  2. Lord of glory, who hast bought us
  3. The saints on earth and those above (variations, even!)
  4. O Spirit of the living God
  5. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow
  6. The King of Love our shepherd is (Lutheran Worship/Lutheran Service Book tune)
  7. Ye sons and daughters of the King (Lutheran Worship tune)
  8. Savior, when in dust to Thee (Lutheran Worship/Lutheran Service Book tune)
  9. Come, gracious Spirit, heavenly Dove
  10. Thy strong Word did cleave the darkness
  11. O wondrous Type, O Vision fair / Oh Love, how deep
  12. Draw near and take the body of the Lord (only not "abbr." - the tune has an extra phrase)
  13. As pants the hart for cooling streams
  14. Behold the Savior of mankind
  15. Only-Begotten, Son of God eternal / Lord of our life and God of our salvation (Lutheran Worship tune)
  16. Christ is arisen
  17. Now let us come before Him

Some of the other tunes in these books are familiar to me from other sources, and I think one or two of them might be in the new Lutheran Service Book. Willan, who I think was a Canadian composer, writes very attractive music with a kind of high-church Anglican, "pomp and circumstance" feel to it, very effective for festive processionals and postludes.

Finally, I also purchased the op. 70 set of 10 chorale preludes by Flor Peeters. I already own tons of his stuff, which I have admired since I was in college. Bridging the gap between Willan's tonal music and the virtual atonality one sometimes finds in Walcha, Peeters wrote in a very accessible modern style which basically says, "Yeah, I know it's dissonant, but it's nothing to get worked up about." When I grow up to be a composer some day, I hope to write organ music somewhat like his. This volume includes the hymn tunes for:

  1. We all believe in one true God (Apostles' Creed hymn)
  2. Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates
  3. From heaven above to earth I come
  4. Now sing we, now rejoice
  5. The star proclaims the King is here
  6. O dearest Jesus, what law hast Thou broken?
  7. Lamb of God, pure and holy
  8. O sacred Head, now wounded
  9. Awake, my heart, with gladness
  10. Holy God, we praise Thy name

Am I ever in for tons of fun...and work!


Orycteropus Afer said...

Out of curiosity, since I a) pick hymns and b) have an organist and a budding organist in my household, how much do these books run? I'm particularly interested in the volume from Sheet Music Plus.

Orycteropus Afer said...

P.S. Did your list of links change as I was dropping the previous comment?

RobbieFish said...

Yes, I was editing my list of links today. It's a work in progress, and I've gone back and forth in my mind about how many of them I want to have.

RobbieFish said...

Oops. I forgot to answer you first question. The Reger books cost $7.95 each. The Willan books were $15.95 each, except the Matins-Evensong book which was $8.95. The Peeters book was $16.95. I bought them all at Sheet Music Plus.