This year the works presented for the Choral and Orchestral concert were linked by the most celebrated names in the organ lofts of Paris in the 1890s. An appreciative audience in St Paul's were moved by the quality and content of the performances, which brought together pupils, staff and former staff, governors and parents.
Introductory information from Mr Tim Sagar, Director of Music.
Messe Solennelle - Louis Vierne (1870-1937)
The blind Vierne was variously a pupil of César Franck and Charles-Marie Widor, and in 1901 had become titular organist at Notre-Dame, beating over 500 applicants to the post. The appointment reflected the success of his First Symphony, completed in 1899. The Messe Solennelle was premiered in 1901, and Vierne would go on to write six complete organ symphonies and many songs and chamber music, also giving celebrated concert tours in both England and the United States in the late 1920s. He died on June 2, 1937 at the organ in Notre Dame, while giving his 1750th organ recital.
The mass was originally written for choir and two organs; for our performance we maintain some of the spatial variety by replacing the orgue de choeur with strings and allowing the (main) organ to mark the climaxes with its intended cataclysmic impact!
Requiem - Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Baritone - Charlie Nash / Soprano - Eleanor Burnham
Fauré studied music at the École Niedermeyer from the age of nine, where the progressive Saint-Saëns taught, (and introduced his pupils to controversial composers such as Wagner and Liszt). The two became lifelong friends and Fauré later said that he owed everything to Saint-Saëns.
In 1896 Fauré was appointed to the prestigious Madeleine church in Paris. His renowned expertise as organist and teacher initially overshadowed his reputation a composer. However, he became professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire, and its Director from 1905 to 1920. His use of more intimate musical forms for the piano, in songs and in chamber music, and his impressionistic harmonic language contrasts markedly with the music of the Austro-German tradition which had dominated European music well into the twentieth century.
The Requiem was composed in 1888, probably in response to the recent death of his father. Shortly after its first performance, Faure’s mother also died, giving the work an added poignancy. In 1900 he reluctantly gave in to pressure from his publishers to release a revised version with additional instrumental parts designed to broaden the work’s appeal. Tonight, we hear the pearl that is the much lighter 1893 scoring, and as its composer intended.
Fauré added two new sections to the standard liturgical text, the lyrical Pie Jesu and the transcendent in paradisum, with its soaring vocal line and murmuring harp accompaniment. He also omitted the Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum; consequently, the prevailing mood is one of peace and serenity. It is this very quality of understatement which contributes so eloquently to the work’s universal and enduring appeal.