Wednesday October 28, 2020 | 7:30PM
Alexander Weimann, organ
Join the Pacific Baroque Orchestra’s Music Director and one of Canada’s finest organists, Alexander Weimann, for an organ recital filmed on the magnificent instrument at Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria, BC. Built by Hellmuth Wolff & Associes Ltee of Montreal in 2005, all of the composers on this programme hail from a Southern German/Austrian tradition of organ composition and were chosen because they are a perfect fit for the design of this particular instrument. Works by composers including Johann Kaspar Kerll (1627-1693), Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612) , Georg Muffat (1653-1704, Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-1667), and ending with Johann Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756-1791) Andante für eine Walze in eine kleine Orgel, KV 616.
To learn more about the organ, click here.
Access to the concert is free, but donations are greatly appreciated. Concert will remain online one year from premiere date.
This concert is generously supported by Dr. Katherine E. Paton
Johann Kaspar Kerll (1627-1693)
Ricercata in Cylindrum phonotacticum transferenda – Passagaglia
Christian Erbach (1568-1635)
Introitus Secundi Toni
Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)
Responsorium “Isti sunt qui viventes in carne”
Georg Muffat (1653-1704)
Toccata XII from “Apparatus Musico-Organisticus”
Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
Ricercar in C
Johann Ulrich Steigleder (1593-1635)
40th Variation on “Vater unser im Himmelreich”
Johann Jakob Froberger (1616-1667)
Toccata da sonarsi alle Levatione
Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer (1656-1746)
Praeludium & Chaconne
Johann Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Andante für eine Walze in eine kleine Orgel, KV 616
Writing in 1692, Nicholas Brady provided the text for one of Henry Purcell’s court odes celebrating St. Cecilia, Patron Saint of Music. In his poem, he suggests the divine origins of music and singles out organ music as the closest humans can come to recreating the sound of the music of heaven. He addresses Cecilia thus:
Thou tun’st this World below, the Spheres above,
Who in the Heavenly Round to their own Musick move.
With that sublime Celestial Lay,
Can any Earthly Sounds compare?
If any Earthly Musick dare,
The noble Organ may.
From Heav’n its wondrous Notes were giv’n,
(Cecilia oft convers’d with Heaven,)
Some Angel of the Sacred Choire
Did with his Breath the Pipes inspire;
And of their Notes the just Resemblance gave,
Brisk without Lightness, without Dulness [sic] Grave.
From this poem the current programme takes its title. The organ was a marvel of Early Modern engineering. Though we often take them for granted now, given their ubiquity, their invention was a staggering achievement of science melding with art. Nicholas Brady is far from alone in appreciating this great gesture of mankind’s achievement. Alex Weimann, soloist for this program, writes:
From when I was a really small boy, I was deeply fascinated by the pipe organs in churches, probably just by the apparatus, the size, volume, etc… and of course, that you could control it all from the console which looked and felt like a flight deck. So, as a working title, I picked “Wondrous Machine”. The first and the last piece in the programme are written for mechanical organs, some sort of cylinders the music was inscribed on and which would then trigger a mechanical system to play the composition which thus could extend what would be normally playable for one person. The last piece, by Mozart, is also one of the last compositions he ever wrote, only a few months before he died. It is strangely simple and reduced, like his “sonata facile”, but holds a universe of emotions and expression.
As the cylinders rotated in these miraculous self-playing organs, so does the sense of time rotate in the passacaglia that begins this program. Passacaglias and chaconnes have a wondrous balance of cyclical repetition and linear forward movement. They depend on a constantly repeating phrase structure and short harmonic pattern to weave out quite often monstrous compositions of mesmerizing, kaleidoscopic music. All of the composers on this programme hail from a Southern German/Austrian tradition of organ compositions that draw equally on French and Italian influences, though the passacaglias and chaconnes are much indebted to French models, such as those in the operas of Jean-Baptiste Lully.
Additionally, as some of the music on this programme is from the early part of the seventeenth century, the earlier pieces use a harmonic language predating the crystallization of the modern major/minor key system, as evidenced in the “Introitus secondi toni” of Christian Erbach. The so-called “second tone” refers to a system whereby the final pitch of the piece in question is the note D, and the range of the melody runs from A to the A an octave higher, with the D forming the central sense of gravity. This music is based on the system of modes, rather than keys. With a sense of key comes a feeling of hierarchy between pitches greatly more complicated than the rules of modes, which really simply govern what melodies tend to do more than anything regarding harmony. Given the theme of directionality started by the passacaglia at the top of the programme, earlier music, such as that by Erbach, tends to float more than it drives, just by the nature of its harmonic language.
Notes by Justin Henderlight
Alexander Weimann, organ
Alexander Weimann is one of the most sought-after ensemble directors, soloists, and chamber music partners of his generation. After traveling the world with ensembles like Tragicomedia, and as frequent guest with Cantus Cölln, the Freiburger Barockorchester, Gesualdo Consort and Tafelmusik, he now focuses on his activities as conductor of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in Vancouver, music director of the Seattle Baroque Orchestra and regular guest conductor of ensembles including the Victoria Symphony, Symphony Nova Scotia, Arion Baroque Orchestra in Montreal and the Portland Baroque Orchestra.
Weimann was born in 1965 in Munich, where he studied the organ, church music, musicology (with a summa con laude thesis on Bach’s secco recitatives), theatre, mediæval Latin, and jazz piano, supported by a variety of federal scholarships. From 1990 to 1995, Weimann taught music theory, improvisation, and Jazz at the Munich Musikhochschule. Since 1998, he has been giving master classes in harpsichord and historical performance practice at institutions such as Lunds University in Malmö and the Bremen Musikhochschule, and at North American universities such as The University of California in Berkeley, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, McGill University, Université de Montréal, and Mount Allison in New Brunswick. Since 2007, he has conducted several acclaimed opera productions at the Amherst Early Music Festival. He now teaches at the University of British Columbia and directs the Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Programme there.
A multiple Juno and Grammy nominee, Weimann can be heard on some 100 CDs. Recent highlights include an Opus and Juno award winning CD of Handel oratorio arias with soprano Karina Gauvin, a recording of Bach’s St. John’s Passion with Les Voix Baroques/Arion Baroque Orchestra, and a Juno nominated recording of Handel’s Orlando with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra that was also awarded a Gramophone Editor’s Choice award.