Friday, May 10, 2013


Our community choir is performing their spring concert this weekend, which includes a performance of the Faure Requiem. To mark the occasion, I thought I would post the complete organ works of Gabriel Faure:

There, that ought to cover it.

Faure was a church organist most of his life. And, for some reason, is among the ranks of composers who have decided to completely ignore that instrument, at least in terms of solo literature. But he loved writing for the piano and wrote quite a bit of wonderful music for the instrument (on Monday I posted one of his piano works).

I don't know exactly what it was about the organ that made Mr. Faure feel so uninspired; perhaps the rigidity of the official views on liturgically appropriate music had something to do with it. A Wikipedia article suggests it had more to do with the instrument itself. In any case, Faure played the organ every Sunday for years. What he played is a good question. Did he simply improvise everything and not write anything down? Confine himself to the works of others? Apparently he felt that his church position was just a job, and he saved his creative energies for something else.

Anyhow, I'd still like to post something French and unusual, so I thought I'd pick on another composer of the period, Jules Massenet. Last year I discovered a short piece of his on the interwebs. I think this little Prelude in C might qualify as the complete works of Massenet. Aside from being alive at the same time the two men don't have much in common besides ignoring the organ as a solo instrument.

Here it is:  Prelude in C   by Jules Massenet

There are times that one author, quoting another, and finding an error or omission in the source material, makes his audience aware of this fact by use of the bracketed term [sic]; thus it was, as if to say "that's the way I found it, folks, don't blame me." One curious effect of the strange collision of tones in the fourth measure (11 seconds into the present recording) is that I want to bracket it and write [sic] above it, saying "Look, I know it sounds like a wrong note, but the composer wants it that way; it's not my fault." It's a curious dynamic, because many times a composer writes a dissonance that, even if it sounds a little odd going by, turns into something wonderful by the end. But this may well be an example of a dissonance that doesn't really work. And so I'm issuing this curious little piece by the typically operatic composer with a little distancing. I don't really like this chord. And I'm not so sure about the one near the end, either. (it's at 1:45, and I'll give it this: it is a very interesting chord)

On the other hand, maybe I am being picky. Many people who point out flaws in other persons' grammar are. And sometimes they are even wrong. One book I read recently pointed out a flaw that wasn't there by anointing it with [sic]. Said infraction was of the its/it's rule. If you don't know how that one works (neither does anyone else) it is the one instance in which you do not put an apostrophe before the 's' if it is a possessive. That's because you would also have to do it for a contraction, and the way to tell whether the word is a contraction of "it is" or whether it owns something is not to use the apostrophe for one of them. It is the single case of the apostrophe s rule not being applied, and it throws everybody, including the esteemed author of the book in question.

So if you take your dissonance without cream and sugar you might wonder why I'm making such a fuss; besides, it goes by so quickly. On the other hand, some of us have much more dainty ears than others. I once had a woman ask me why I played so many wrong notes (she wasn't being rude, but you had to be there) and I think failure to appreciate these moments of intentional musical spice was the culprit.

All the same, I like to explore new and interesting bits of our expanding musical universe. If you do as well, you might not mind the two minutes it takes to listen to this orphan prelude. Then you can stun your friends by mentioning that the composer of Thais and other operatic episodes once upon a time wrote a short piece for solo organ, and that it sounds somewhat operatic as well, and has all the flavor of an Romantic character piece, which is the kind of thing you don't hear every day on the organ anymore.

Just remember, I warned you about that chord.

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