PHI CD 224: Organ works of Henry Smart performed by Graham Barber on the 1882 John Nicholson organ at St. Christforuskerk, Schagen, Holland
A Series of Organ Pieces in Various Styles
 Con moto
 Moderato con moto (3-part study)
 Fantasia with Choral
 Allegro moderato (A major)
 Con moto moderato (en forme d'Ouverture)
Three Andantes, Set 1
 Andante in A major
 Andante in F major
 Andante in C major
 Con moto in F
 Andante alla pastorella in F
- Chorale with variations
TOTAL PLAYING TIME: 72.44
Recorded on 19 & 20 April 2005
Recording Engineer: Tim Banks
Console assistant: Elli Glarou
Produced by Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings
THE ORGAN OF ST CHRISTFORUSKERK,
Originally built for St. Mary Magdalene's church, Worcester in 1882, the organ was transferred to St. Christoforuskerk, Schagen in North Holland, and restored there by J. C. Bishop and Son in 1981. It has all the advantages of the medium-sized, nineteenth-century English organ including mechanical action, a varied palette of orchestral tone colours and registration aids (three Combination Pedals to Swell and three to Great). Sited on the floor on the north side of the church it speaks without impediment into the resonant space. The singing quality of the organ is very special and the mechanical action is responsive and stimulating. Each stop is full of character when drawn alone and adds tangibly to the plenum in combination. The stop list corresponds quite closely to Smart's organ at St. Lukeís, Old Street (rebuilt Gray and Davison, 1844) while also showing some features of his later instrument at St. Pancras (also rebuilt Gray and Davison, 1865). However, in terms of tonal pedigree, a closer comparison is with the Nicholson organ now at Portsmouth Cathedral, originally built for Manchester Cathedral (1861).
Since his solo début in London at the Royal Festival Hall, Graham Barber has been recognised as one of Britain's leading concert organists. Reviewing his first recording at the Royal Northern College of Music, the Sunday Times described him as 'a technically brilliant, musically mature organist.' He has made many subsequent recordings both in English cathedrals (Coventry, Norwich, Salisbury, Hereford, Ripon and Truro) and in German and Dutch cathedrals and churches (Altenberg, Ingolstadt, Osnabrück, Limburg, Villingen and Leeuwarden), and has been described in Gramophone magazine as 'one of the organ world's finest recording artists.' He has also made many recordings for BBC Radio 3.
Graham Barber has played in most major venues in Britain, as well as in Europe, the Far East, Australia and the United States. Concerts include those at the Smetana Hall in Prague; St. Michael's Church, Leipzig; three concerts in Portugal at Braga, Lisbon and Coimbra; the Elder Hall in Adelaide; King's College, Cambridge; Stanford and Fresno Universities; Notre Dame, Paris and Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. Recording projects for Priory Records have included music by Herbert Howells, the complete organ works of Percy Whitlock, C17/18 German and Dutch music on the Müller organ of the Jacobijnerkerk, Leeuwarden, and Edwardian Music at Ripon Cathedral. For ASV he has recorded music by J. S. Bach, Böhm, Buxtehude, and Krebs, and for Hyperion by Reger, Franz Schmidt and Victorian composers.
Graham Barber has performed with most major U.K. orchestras including the BBC Philharmonic, the Hallé, the Royal Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool, the BBC Symphony and the English Chamber Orchestra. He has played under the baton of many celebrated conductors including Edward Downes, Charles Groves, Richard Hickox, Charles Mackerras, Georg Solti, Jan Pascal Tortelier and David Willcocks. Professor of Performance Studies at the University of Leeds, Graham Barber is also Visiting Tutor at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and Organist at St. Bartholomew's Church, Armley. He has given masterclasses in Weimar, Enschede, Braga, Lisbon, Moscow and Cologne.
PROGRAMME NOTES BY GRAHAM BARBER
While Henry Smart was well known for his vocal music publications from about 1840 onwards, his organ music did not appear in publishersí catalogues until much later. There are probably two reasons for this. First, Smart was a celebrated improviser and had little need to write his organ music down. According to his biographer William Spark (1823-1897) he could produce perfectly formed pieces spontaneously and did so every Sunday in the course of his duties as an organist; and when he gave concerts, he invariably included an extempore performance in the programme.1 Secondly, the organ in England was going through a period of change, not least in respect of the adoption of C compass pedal-boards. In the 1840s and 1850s, the number of organs with such pedals was still limited, as was the number of performers who had mastered them. Hence the market for organ music written for the 'German' pedal-board did not take off until the mid- to late 1860s. On the other hand, music written for the old GG compass quickly became obsolete. For example, the early editions of Samuel Sebastian Wesley's organ works had to be revised for later publication. Whatever the reasons, it is likely that Smart's first organ publications embody a style of composition established much earlier in his improvised performances.
Spark recounts how in 1851 he had played over with Smart the manuscript of his Con moto in B flat for organ.2 This movement and a three-part Trio in E were eventually published by Wessel & Co. sometime before 1860, when the company became Ashdown & Parry. The Series of Organ Pieces in Various Styles continued under the new imprint, though the exact publication dates are unclear. The British Library gives accession dates of 1854 for Nos. 1 and 2 and 1867 for Nos. 3-5. Further works by Smart were published at frequent intervals in the Organists' Quarterly Journal beginning with its first issue in 1869, and at around the same time Novello & Co. began its own collection: Henry Smart's Original Compositions for Organ. Finally, the latter series was republished to include the pieces originally from Ashdown & Parry, as well as those issued in the OQJ.3
The original title was 'Six organ pieces, intended as introductory to the characteristic difficulties of the instrument. Nos 1,2. Dedicated to his friend Thomas Adams'. Spark suggests that Smart was initially commissioned to write twelve such pieces.4
The five that eventually appeared
No 1 Con moto in B flat
No 2 Moderato con moto (A Three Part Study) in E
No 3 Allegro maestoso (Fantasia with Choral) in G
No 4 Allegro moderato in A
No 5 Con moto moderato (En forme d'Ouverture) in D minor
The only precedent for English organ music of this complexity up to this time is in the works of S. S. Wesley (1810-1876). However, Wesley relies on pianistic figuration for the manuals, while his pedal lines, conceived for GG compass, reinforce the harmony rather than taking part in the thematic dialogue. Some of the early works of W. T. Best (1826-1897) show a more modern approach to organ style, for example his Fantasia in E flat, Op. 1. (c.1850) and Sonata in G major, Op.38 (1858), though themes and textures are not always entirely idiomatic. While it is true that the organ sonatas of Mendelssohn, published in England in 1845, had a profound effect this does not explain Smart's full integration of the pedals into the compositional process almost at a stroke, for which he must take considerable credit. It is worth noting that, with the exception of a Fughetta, No.12 from Twelve Short and Easy Pieces, and the fugal Finale from the A major Variations, Smart showed no interest in formal fugue. He preferred a relaxed contrapuntal idiom, inspired by long-breathed melodies and enveloped in rich, chromatically inflected harmonies. Everything is carefully crafted - not a note is out of place or misjudged.
The Con moto in B flat is based on sonata form. The opening theme is a good illustration of Smart's lyrical gift, and in particular of his powers of melodic extension. While the introduction stays firmly in the tonic key, the Allegro theme that follows, starting in the tonic, quickly modulates to G minor, and a period of quasi-fugal development based on a falling semi-tone motif ensues (Figure 1). The 2nd subject is in the expected key of F major. This leads eventually to a cadence on the dominant of D minor marking the smooth transition to the development section in which the fugal motif is argued extensively. The recapitulation is an abbreviated one, based only on the Con moto theme, with no re-appearance of the Allegro theme or of the 2nd subject. The overall effect of the piece is of an effortless flow of ideas and themes, with a rich harmonic palette and a satisfying sense of architecture.
Moderato con moto (A Three Part Study) is a mellifluous trio showing Smart's absorption of elements of Bach's contrapuntal technique. However, the intended performance style is very different from an eighteenth-century trio. In a footnote the composer writes: 'The piece is intended to be played on one Manual (the Great Organ with Swell Reeds coupled) and Pedal. It is unnecessary to give any further directions as to the Stops to be employed, beyond that the varieties of tone indicated by the marks p, f &c, are to be made with the Composition Pedals, while the use of the Swell Pedal is occasionally indicated by the signs > < .'
Fantasia with Choral is an
energetic Allegro maestoso in G major, again with sonata form
features, in which the chorale theme, an invented one by Smart,
appears in minim chords as the second subject in B flat (Voix
humaine or Oboe with tremulant, swell box closed), returning at
the end of the recapitulation on full organ to provide an emphatic
conclusion. It is clearly modeled on the first movement of Mendelssohn's
F minor sonata. Allegro moderato in A major is in ternary form,
the middle section being in the flat mediant key of C. There is
a strong lyrical feel to the movement and some suggestion of orchestral
textures and sonorities. This is even more the case in the Con
moto moderato (En forme d'Ouverture), which has a slow introduction
with clarinet and flute solos, and a triple-time Allegro (not
marked) with syncopated 'string' figures and entries for orchestral
basses. Despite being virtuosic in its demands, it is very well
written for the instrument, with lucid textures and economical
This series of pieces represents some of the first characteristic organ music of quality to be written in England. It shows that, by around 1850, Smart had already mastered the continental-style instrument and started to exploit the new possibilities of an independent pedal line.
Like the Series of Organ Pieces in Various Styles, the Three Andantes in A major, F major and C major were also originally published by Ashdown and Parry and later incorporated into the Novello series. They should not be confused with a second set of Three Andantes, in G major, A major and E minor, which Novello itself published around 1869/70. The Andante was a typical mode of composition for Smart, and must have represented the style of his improvisation before Divine Service. The music is always lyrical, the form ternary, the tempo moderate but flowing. Within this simple framework Smart takes us on an expansive musical journey, often traversing some foreign harmonic areas before returning to familiar territory.
The Two Trios show a further aspect of Smart's skill, though, as intimated earlier, his approach to counterpoint is rather relaxed and non-doctrinaire. Indeed the F major trio starts off in homophonic vein, the imitative interplay between two hands and pedals only gradually becoming more animated. The G major trio is in 9/8 time and marked Andante Alla Pastorale. This bucolic evocation has continuous triplet quaver movement throughout.
The Choral with Variations was the first of Henry Smart's pieces to be published by Novello. It is one of two sets of variations by Smart, the other being the Air with Variations and Finale Fugato played by W.T.Best at the opening of the Royal Albert Hall organ in 1871. Compared to the later concert piece, the present work is more restrained, comprising seven increasingly active variations on an unidentified hymn tune, presumably by the composer, in E flat. The dedication is 'to his friend George Cooper' a younger London contemporary who was well known for his organ transcriptions.
Very little changed in Smart's compositional style in his later publications. He remained satisfied with his early achievements and immune to the progressive tendencies of Liszt and Wagner. Whilst in the period up to 1890 Smart's organ music was among the most frequently performed in England, its currency gradually declined, and by 1930 its presence in the repertoire was a mere shadow.5 However, the music is its own, eloquent advocate, and can rightly claim a place alongside the most accomplished instrumental writing of the second half of the nineteenth-century in England.
© Graham Barber, 2008
1 For an account of Smart improvising
at St. Sulpice, Paris, see Spark, W., Henry Smart: His life and
works (London, 1881), 132-3.
2 Ibid., 249: referring to the Con moto in B flat, 'It was in the year of the Great Exhibition, 1851, when he was living in Regent's Park Terrace, that he showed me the manuscript of this piece, and asked me to try it over with him on the pianoforte.'
3 Hill, D., Henry Smart (1813-1879): Neglected nineteenth-century organ master - a reappraisal (Schagen, 1988), 72.
4 Spark, W., ibid., 249-252.
5 For an analysis of 17,000 organ recital programmes over the period 1880-1930 see: Henderson, J., A directory of composers for the organ, 3rd, ed., Swindon, 2005, 911-28.
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