Andrew Linn (organ), Sheffield Cathedral, 2 March 2010, 1.15pm
TreFest-Præludium ved Aarhundredskiftet Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)
Toccata in F (BuxWV 157) Diderik Buxtehude (1637-1707)
Tre Tonestykker (op. 22) Niels W. Gade (1817-1890)
1) Moderato 2) Allegretto 3) Allegro con Fuoco
Surusoitto (op. 111b) Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Bryllupsmarsj Knut Nystedt (b. 1915)
Fantasie Triomphale (op. 36) Johannes Haarklou (1847-1925)
Variasjoner over Åhvor salig det skal blive Bjarne Sløgedal (b. 1927)
1) Koral 2) Song 3) Fløyteljod 4) Langeleik 5) Frygdesong
Toccatina Andrew Smith (b. 1970)
Toccata over ‘Nu la oss takke Gud’ Egil Hovland (b. 1924)
Andrew Linn was born and brought up in Cheshire and began his organ studies with Roger Fisher at Chester Cathedral and as a music scholar at Shrewsbury School. In 1986 he won an organ scholarship to Emmanuel College, Cambridge where he studied the organ with David Sanger. After working as a regional organist in southern Norway Andrew returned to Cambridge to take an MPhil and a PhD in Linguistics. During this time he was acting organ scholar at Queens’ College and continued his organ studies with Peter Hurford. Andrew holds diplomas from the Royal College of Music and the Royal College of Organists and has given recitals throughout England, in Scandinavia and in the United States. He is Director of Research in the Arts and Humanities and Professor of the History of Linguistics at Sheffield University as well as organist at St Matthew’s Church, Carver Street. From 2007 to 2008 he was organist at Åsane Church in Norway.
Nordic organ music, as indeed organ music more generally, can be subdivided into three principal categories: music for use in or inspired by religious services; concert repertoire; music for ceremonial occasions. All three categories are represented in today’s programme, which has been selected to give a taste of the range and character of the Nordic organ repertoire, much of which is little known outside Scandinavia.
Carl Nielsen’s Festival Prelude for the New Century was published on New Year’s Day 1901, originally as a piano piece, but its grand style has resulted in several organ transcriptions as well as a version for wind orchestra. Nielsen wrote a handful of organ works proper, the best known of which is Commotio from just before his death in 1931. Jean Sibelius, like Nielsen better known as an orchestral composer, wrote two organ works for ceremonial occasions, an Intrada for the visit of the King and Queen of Sweden to Helsinki in 1925, and Surusoitto (Funeral Music) composed in 1931 for the funeral of the Finnish artist, Akseli Gallén-Kallela.
At the interface of ceremonial, religious and concert music lies music for weddings. A Scandinavian work which has gained an international audience is Egil Hovland’s exuberant Toccata on the Lutheran hymn tune, Now thank we all our God. The tune thunders out in the bass, supporting a firework display of scales and arpeggios in the manual parts. Norwegian folk music includes a tradition of wedding marches, and composers have responded to that tradition, producing their own versions, exemplified here by the work of Knut Nystedt, pupil of Aaron Copland. More explicitly wedded to the Norwegian folk tradition is Sløgedal’s set of variations on a religious folk tune, where each variation reflects a different aspect of Norwegian folk music.
Danish-born Diderik Buxtehude was the leading composer of the generation before Bach, and his substantial output for organ embraced hymn preludes for use in Lutheran worship as well as the sort of dramatic free style represented by the Toccata in F. The toccata remains the showpiece of the organ repertoire, and Andrew Smith’s Toccatina is a more intimate take on the genre. Smith, although born in England, moved to Norway as a child, when his father joined the growing numbers of overseas church musicians working and composing in Norway. Niels Gade was the leading Danish composer of the mid-nineteenth century. He studied in Germany and his writing reflects his close friendship with Mendelssohn. Gade was an organist and his three tone pieces date from 1851. The Norwegian Johannes Haarklou also studied in Leipzig and was also a composer of symphonic works as well as a noted improviser on the organ. He grew up in western Norway, surrounded by folk music. Although firmly within the Germanic concert genre of Gade, the Fantasie Triomphale from 1900 makes clear reference to the harmonic and rhythmic devices of the folk tradition.
At its best, the organ music of Scandinavia combines its musical genes in an exciting and dramatic way, uniting the flamboyance of northern European keyboard writing with the grandiloquence of the Lutheran Church, and adding to the mix that characteristic freshness of the folk idioms.