Here’s the audio from Rick Burk’s recital last Friday:
Kyrie from Mass for the Convents – François Couperin (1668 – 1733)
O Welt, ich muss dich lassen (O World, I Now Must Leave Thee), from Eleven Chorale Preludes, op. 122 – Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)
Six Pieces for Organ, op. 50 – Joseph W. Jenkins (1928 – 2014)
Rick Burk has served as Minister of Music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in St. Louis for the past nine years. Having begun the study of organ at age 15, Rick earned his Master of Sacred Music degree with a concentration in organ from Duquesne University in 1986. While at Duquesne he studied with David Billings and Ann Labounsky.
Eleven Chorale Preludes, Op. 122, is a collection of works for organ by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), written in 1896 at the end of the composer’s life and published posthumously in 1902. They are based on verses of nine Lutheran chorales, two of them set twice, and are relatively short. The selection being performed today is the second setting of the chorale O Welt, ich muß dich lassen which is also the last piece in the collection.
The last composition of any composer carries a certain level of mystique, and that is true of these chorale preludes, the only organ works of Brahms to carry an opus number (although he did not assign it). They were written in the summer of 1896 after Clara Schumann’s death (some may have been conceived earlier), and it is highly probable that Brahms was already aware of his own illness at that point. He probably was contemplating thoughts of mortality while composing them, though, and it may not be a coincidence that the last music he would ever write would be No. 11, the second setting of “O Welt, ich muß dich lassen” (“O world, I now must leave thee”) with its fading echoes and transfigured, lingering closing bars.
Joseph Willcox Jenkins (1928-2014) was an American composer and professor of music. During his military service in the Korean War, he became the first arranger for the United States Army Chorus. He ended his teaching career as Professor Emeritus at the Mary Pappert School of Music, Duquesne University, where he had been a professor since 1961, and composed over 200 works.
Six Pieces for Organ, Op. 50 was composed in 1966. Each of the six pieces stands well on its own, but together provide an interesting “suite.” One common thread running throughout all six pieces is Dr. Jenkins’ use of contrasting articulation, i.e. notes that are connected and those that are separated (legato vs. staccato).
The “Old English Hymn Tune” that serves as the inspiration for the first piece is “Blow Ye the Trumpet” by Charles Wesley and may be found in The Methodist Hymnal of 1932.
François Couperin (1668-1733) was a French Baroque composer, organist and harpsichordist. He was known as Couperin le Grand (“Couperin the Great”) to distinguish him from other members of the musically talented Couperin family.
Couperin was born into one of the best known musical families of Europe. His father Charles was organist at Church Saint-Gervais in Paris, a position previously occupied by Charles’s brother Louis Couperin, a highly regarded keyboard virtuoso and composer whose career was cut short by an early death. As a boy, François must have received his first music lessons from his father.
Only one collection of organ music by Couperin survives, the Pièces d’orgue consistantes en deux messes (“Pieces for Organ Consisting of Two Masses”), the first manuscript of which appeared around 1689–1690. The two masses were intended for different audiences: the first for parishes or secular churches, and the second for convents or abbey churches. These masses are divided into many movements in accordance with the traditional structure of the Latin Mass: Kyrie (5 movements), Gloria (9), Sanctus (3), Agnus (2), and an additional Offertoire and Deo gratias to conclude each mass. Today we are hearing the five Kyrie movements of the second mass.