Magazine article The American Organist

From the President

Magazine article The American Organist

From the President

Article excerpt

When you read this, it will be rather late to wish you a happy New Year. I do heartily wish happiness and success for everyone in the College, in this and every year; but now with January well begun, perhaps we should spend a moment considering what contributes to a musician's happiness and success.

One approach would be to consider the great names whose anniversaries will grace this year. For organists, the most notable is likely Dieterich Buxtehude, dead 300 years now. We know that he was renowned in his lifetime-the familiar story of Bach's extended journey to hear Buxtehude's Abendmusik in 1705-1706 is sufficient evidence of that. More importantly for us, we know him through his music: those wonderful preludes and fugues, ranging from an elegant delicacy to majestic splendour, and the chorale preludes with their deeply expressive arabesques of melodic ornament. Buxtehude's music rings with rhythmic and expressive energy.

Of course, his isn't the only important anniversary to fall in 2007. Glenn Gould would be 75 this year; Percy Grainger would be 125, and Sir Edward Elgar would be 150. The list could go on and on (visit the Choral Public Domain Library's page of composer anniversaries at ); let it end by noting that Sir George Thalben-Ball died 20 years ago this year.

What can we learn from these illustrious careers, and can it help to form our own lives and work? We may discover much about performance and style from their recordings, if they lived recently enough to have been recorded, but many of the great players are known to us only by reputation. Their registration, their articulation, everything that conveyed feeling and form to their listeners is gone. What a joy it would be to hear Buxtehude play, as Bach did! But it cannot be. Instead we must construe, and deduce, and study the music intensively and repeatedly if we are to make it live again for our listeners. …

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