In case you missed it, here’s the audio from Carson Cooman’s recital back on November 15th:
Preludio e fuga in modo lidio (2017) – Carlotta Ferrari (b. 1975)
Celestial Visions from Beyond (2007) – Marco Lo Muscio (b. 1971)
Organ Symphony No. 19, “Hallelujahs” (2017) – Andreas Willscher (b. 1955)
A Light Among the Darkness (2012) – Kevin Uppercue (b. 1981)
Festival Voluntary (1994) – Thomas Åberg (b. 1952)
Carson Cooman’s Trilogy on B-A-C-H (2017) was written for and is dedicated to Rhonda Sider Edgington. The composer writes: “The musical material for the work is a four note theme: the letters B-A-C-H (the last name of Johann Sebastian Bach) treated as a musical motive: B-flat, A, C, B-natural (“H” in German note naming). Starting with Bach himself, this theme has been used by a truly enormous number of composers over the centuries.
“Most B-A-C-H themed works (at least those for organ), tend to be extremely contrapuntal, likely taking their cue from much of Bach’s own organ music. However, I have very explicitly gone in the other direction and use the theme primarily motivically/melodically and as a generating force for the kind of mixed modality that is typical of my music.
The first movement is an energetic march. The second movement is a lyric meditation containing both an arioso and a short quasi-passacaglia, in which the B-A-C-H motive repeats slowly in the pedals. The last movement is a free fantasia: the motive appears both in chorale-like long notes and as a fast, turning figure.”
Carlotta Ferrari (b. 1975) is an Italian composer. Educated at the Conservatory in Milan, she has composed in many genres, developing a personal language that is concerned with the blend of past and present. Her compositions have been performed frequently around the world. Ferrari’s music appears on several CD recordings, including five all-Ferrari organ CDs: three recorded by Carson Cooman (2014/16) and two by Peter Clark (2015/16). She served as chair of music composition at Hebei Normal University in Shijiazhuang, China and is currently professor of music composition at the European School of Economics in Florence, Italy.
Preludio e fuga in modo lidio (2017) employs the Lydian mode on C. The characteristic raised fourth scale degree of this mode gives music an optimistic and bright character.
Kevin Uppercue (b. 1981) is a composer and organist and serves on the editorial staff for MorningStar Music Publishers and ECS Publishing. An active composer, he has numerous organ, choral, and instrumental works published and has received commissions from various churches, colleges, and performers. Kevin holds a Master of Music in Music Theory and a Bachelor of Arts in Music Composition and has taught music theory and ear training courses at the collegiate level. A resident of St. Louis, he actively serves as a substitute organist for area churches.
Italian composer Marco Lo Muscio (b. 1971) is a native of Rome, where he was educated in organ and piano at several conservatories. His teachers included Sergio Fiorentino, Giulio Sforza, and James Edward Goettsche. Lo Muscio has given many hundreds of concerts throughout the world and continues to maintain an active touring schedule as a concert organist and pianist. His musical interests and repertoire are extremely broad, including many works of the standard piano and organ literature, numerous other classical works in his own transcriptions, his own compositions, compositions of other contemporary classical composers, and many organ transcriptions of music by artists active in the field of progressive rock (Emerson, Wakeman, Hackett, etc.). Lo Muscio has collaborated with Steve Hackett (formerly of the English progressive rock band Genesis) and in performing duo with Steve’s brother, flutist John Hackett. As a composer, Lo Muscio has written numerous compositions in a personal style that combines a variety of influences: the standard organ literature, the French impressionist piano composers, jazz and blues, music of the medieval period and very early Renaissance, and 20th century progressive rock. Lo Muscio has been artistic director of several Italian organ festivals, and his works have been played around the world by many major concert organists.
Celestial Visions from Beyond (2007) was originally written as a part of the composer’s “Organ Visions” recital and recording projects, featuring music of a largely mystical expressive character. In this work, the music builds gradually towards an energetic dance.
German composer and organist Andreas Willscher (b. 1955) studied composition, theory, and organ in his native Hamburg. In 1971 he was appointed organist of the St. Francis Church in Hamburg and in 2000 at the church of St. Joseph-Wandsbek. In addition, he has been keyboardist for several jazz and rock ensembles. Willscher has received many awards and commissions for his compositions, which range widely in form: from symphonic music and oratorios to cabaret and rock scores. His organ works are very diverse, ranging from large-scale post-tonal pieces to some that blend elements of the traditional repertoire with contemporary jazz and pop influences. In addition to his own composition and performing activities, Willscher has published a number of literary and scientific articles in journals and encyclopedias and has been very active in collecting and preserving lost and forgotten music from earlier eras.
Organ Symphony No. 19, “Hallelujahs” (2017) is a five movement work inspired by five instances in the Bible of praise and thanksgiving. The first four movements are taken from the Old Testament with the fifth movement from the end of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation.
The first movement, “Hallelujah of Moses,” is inspired by Exodus 15 when Moses and the people of Israel sing a song of praise to God after being delivered across the Reed Sea and escaping persecution from the Pharaoh of Egypt’s army. “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” (Exodus 15:2a). The music is a festive toccata.
The second movement, “Hallelujah of Hannah,” is inspired by I Samuel 2:1–10, the Song of Hannah, where she give thanks to God for the birth of her son, the prophet Samuel. “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.” (I Samuel 2:8c). The music has a warm, litany-like character, with the same short melodies repeated multiple times with different harmonies.
The third movement, “Hallelujah of Hezekiah,” is inspired by Isaiah 38, when Hezekiah, king of Judah, gives thanks for his recovery from a serious illness. “The Lord will save me, and we will sing to the stringed instruments all the days of our life, at the house of the Lord.” (Isaiah 38:20). The music is an ebullient mixed meter toccata.
The fourth movement, “Hallelujah of the Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace,” is inspired by Daniel 3, and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three young Jewish men would not bow down the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. In fury, the king ordered them thrown into a fiery furnace. In the furnace, the men sing in praise to God and are protected by an angel sent by him. “O ye sun and moon, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all forever.” (Daniel 3:62). The music evokes the mystical, cosmic imagery of their prayer.
The fifth and final movement, “Hallelujah of the Angel with the Golden Rule,” is inspired by the visions in Revelation. After John is shown the cosmic visions, the angel (holding a golden rule which he had used to measure the city) who showed the visions rejects John’s worship and instructs him instead to “Worship God!” (Revelation 22:9). The music is a dramatic toccata-rondo, with the toccata passages returning between other episodes with mystical harmonies. The music then ends brilliantly and joyously.
Thomas Åberg (b. 1952) was born in Stockholm, Sweden and works there as composer, concert organist, and music administrator. Most of his works are written for the organ and are often characterized by their rhythmic joy, simplicity, and humor. He has stated that “music must bring enjoyment, without abandoning reverence,” and as such his style often uses the most basic of musical materials to create a discourse that is both spiritual and visceral. His music has been performed by organists at festivals throughout Europe, Asia, and the USA. He also tours regularly worldwide as concert organist with his own works. In December 2012, Carson Cooman released a CD (Legends in the Garden) devoted to Åberg’s organ compositions and also has recorded more than 60 other Åberg works for YouTube.
The composer writes the following: “Festival Voluntary (1994) is an ebullient work in several sections. It forms a sequel to the series of twelve toccatas (1981–90) and is a very joyous piece, incorporating some elements reminiscent of early baroque music.”
Carson Cooman is an American composer and organist. He holds degrees in music from Harvard University and Carnegie Mellon University and since 2006 has held the position of Composer in Residence at The Memorial Church, Harvard University. As an organ recitalist, Cooman specializes in the performance of contemporary music. Over 300 new compositions by more than 100 international composers have been written for him. Cooman has made many recordings as organist, including two recordings of music by Lothar Graap (Kunaki), three recordings of music by Carlotta Ferrari (Kunaki), a recording of Andreas Willscher’s 19th and 20th organ symphonies (Divine Art), a recording of Willscher’s 5th organ symphony (Divine Art), a double CD set of music by Eva-Maria Houben (Wandelweiser), A Marvelous Love: New Music for Organ (Albany; featuring works by Van Ness, Dalton, Rozema, Benner, Åberg, Stover, and Machajdík), and Legends in the Garden: Organ Music by Thomas Åberg (Soundspells). His recordings of over 1,500 additional contemporary organ compositions can be heard freely from his website and YouTube. As a composer, Cooman has created a catalog of works in many forms—ranging from solo instrumental pieces to operas, and from orchestral works to hymn tunes. His work has been performed on all six inhabited continents and appears on over forty recordings, including more than twenty complete CDs on the Naxos, Albany, Artek, Gothic, Divine Art, Métier, Diversions, Convivium, Altarus, MSR Classics, Raven, and Zimbel labels. For more information, visit: carsoncooman.com.