Gotham Chant | The Music of the Invisible

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The Music of the Invisible

by Gotham Chant

A recording of the magnificent and treasured Henry Erben organ (1868) at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, New York City. Based on the 2013 Music of the Invisible concert performed as part of the New Museum’s Ideas City festival.
Genre: Classical: Organ
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Praeludium in G Minor, BuxWV 149: 1
1:19 $0.99
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2. Praeludium in G Minor, BuxWV 149: 2.
2:09 $0.99
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3. Praeludium in G Minor, BuxWV 149: 3. Allegro
1:11 $0.99
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4. Praeludium in G Minor, BuxWV 149: 4. Largo
3:55 $0.99
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5. Gagliarde Del Principe
2:18 $0.99
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6. Sederunt in Terra
2:49 $0.99
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7. Arabesque from 24 Pieces in Free Style, Op. 31
6:23 $0.99
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8. Clavier-Übung III, BWV 67: Kyrie: Gott heiliger Geist
4:45 $0.99
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9. Gymnopedie No. 2
3:40 $0.99
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10. Kyrie, Mass IX
0:54 $0.99
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11. Kyrie Beata Virgine (1a)
0:54 $0.99
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12. Kyrie Beata Virgine (1b)
1:07 $0.99
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13. Kyrie Beata Virgine (1c)
1:27 $0.99
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14. Christe Beata Virgine (2a)
0:54 $0.99
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15. Christe Beata Virgine (2b)
1:44 $0.99
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16. Christe Beata Virgine (2c)
0:46 $0.99
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17. Kyrie Beata Virgine (3a)
0:42 $0.99
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18. Kyrie Beata Virgine Final (3b)
2:16 $0.99
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19. Kyrie Beata Virgine (3c)
3:49 $0.99
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20. Allemande, Op. 166 for Violin and Organ
6:44 $0.99
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21. O Virtus Sapientiae
2:06 $0.99
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22. Clavier-Übung III, BWV 680: Wir glauben all en einen Gott
4:24 $0.99
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23. Clavier-Übung III, BWV 672: Kyrie: Gott Vater in Ewigkeit
2:13 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Recorded at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, New York City
Produced by Jared Lamenzo and Joshua South
Recorded by Malcolm Addey
Mastered by Nate Wood at Kerseboom Mastering

Jared Lamenzo, Organ
Emily Ondracek and Erik Peterson, Violins

The Basilica Schola:
Lianne Coble, Silvie Jensen, John Tiranno, Joshua South, Thomas McCargar, Mellissa Hughes

Tracks:
Praeludium in G Minor (BuxWV 149) I. Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707)
Praeludium in G Minor (BuxWV 149) II.
Praeludium in G Minor (BuxWV 149) III. Allegro
Praeludium in G Minor (BuxWV 149) IV. Largo
Gagliarde Del Principe: Carlo Gesualdo (1560-1613)
Sederunt in Terra: Elzéar Genet (1475-1548)
Arabesque from 24 Pieces in Free Style, Op. 31: Louis Vierne (1870-1934)
Kyrie, Gott Heiliger Geist (BWV 671): J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
Gymnopedie No. 2: Erik Satie (1866-1925)
Kyrie, Mass IX, Plainchant, 12th Century
Kyrie Beata Virgine: Giovanni Battista Fasolo (1598-1664)
Kyrie Beata Virgine: Josquin Des Prez (1450-1521)
Kyrie: Buxheimer Orgelbuch (C. 1460-70)
Christe: Giovanni Battista Fasolo (1598-1664)
Christe: Josquin Des Prez (1450-1521)
Christe: Gilles Binchois (1400-1460)
Kyrie: Gilles Binchois (1400-1460)
Kyrie: Josquin Des Prez (1450-1521)
Kyrie: Josquin Des Prez (1450-1521) from Alonso Mudarra (C. 1510-1580) Tablature
Allemande, Opus 166 for Violin and Organ: Joseph Rheinberger (1839-1901)
O Virtus Sapientiae: Hildegard Von Bingen (1098-1179)
Wir Glauben All En Einen Gott (BWV 680): J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
Kyrie, Gott Vater (BWV 672): J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

Notes on the Program:

The impetus for this recording is the Basilica's renovation for its 200th anniversary. We recorded in March 2014, right before work on the Basilica was to begin. We had a breath-seeingly cold evening to record these tracks (and some others not found on this album). We wanted to capture the sound of the 1868 Henry Erben organ, in the room, before any work commenced.

The program of music stems from an audio/visual performance we did as part of the New Museum’s Ideas City festival in May 2013 (the pieces with strings were recorded at our rehearsal for this concert). Working with a video artist, we placed cameras inside the organ, which captured the movement of the organ’s sculptural mechanisms (it is a tracker action instrument). These video feeds, in sync with the sound, were mixed together and projected onto the walls of the Basilica. I had previously done a similar performance with custom software in 2005 as part of my Masters thesis at NYU’s Tisch School.

The program starts with Buxtehude, right before the tonal system had completely taken over. It is telling that the only surviving portrait of Buxtehude is the painting “A Musical Party” by Johannes Voorhout (1674). The young J. S. Bach walked 250 miles to stay with Buxtehude for a few months. This piece, written in the north German “stylus phantasticus,” researches textures, rhythms, and harmonies in a rhetorical framework. At the end, in the Largo section, I usually imagine cherry tree petals falling into the wind--what do you hear?

I heard this Gagliarde performed on a record by E. Power Biggs, one of the most famous organists of the 20th century. “Biggsy” had a weekly radio show on CBS that reached millions and introduced them to historic organs and the organ repertoire (second only to the orchestral repertoire in scope). I included this piece not only because it was the 400th anniversary of Gesualdo’s death in 2013, but also because of its unusual explorations of sonority. The great Erben organ is tuned in one way; however, prior to the widespread use of equal temperament, there were many tuning systems in use, adding to the chiaroscuro of music. (Check out Werner Herzog’s film about Gesualdo, “Death for Five Voices.”)

The original program contained Pérotin’s “Sederunt principes”--a medieval, yet futuristic, piece. However, we were not able to record this piece, so I substituted another "Sederunt" piece we sing during our liturgies, that is, Sederunt in terra (a different text), this time from the Lamentations of Elzéar Genet (known as Carpentras, a town in France near Avignon). The text from Lamentations, ii, 10) is:

Sederunt in terra, conticuerunt senes filiae Sion: consperserunt cinere capita sua, filiae Jerusalem, filiae Jerusalem, accinctae sunt ciliciis, abjecerunt in terram capita sua virgines Juda.

“The elders of the daughter of Zion sat upon the ground and were silent: they scattered ashes on their heads; the daughters of Jerusalem have wrapped themselves in sackcloth; the daughters of Juda have bowed their heads to the ground.”

With its whole tone scales, and ‘Round Midnight chords, the Arabesque by Louis Vierne is a fascinating little piece. Nearly blind, divorced, and saddened by the deaths of his brother and son in World War I, he went on a concert tour of North America to raise money to restore the organ in Notre Dame. Among his many students were the great Nadia Boulanger and Gaston Litaize. He passed onto the next life at that organ’s console.

A Kyrie has three parts: Kyrie, eleison (Greek for “Lord, have mercy”), Christe eleison (“Christ, have mercy”), and the final Kyrie, which is slightly different melodically. Often, other words would be added to the melody; Lutherans in Germany took the melody and made it into a hymn. Bach took the hymn and made it into Beethoven in BWV 671! Though ostensibly written to be an example of the stile antico that pre-dates Bach, to me this piece is symphonic in nature, taking a small cell of a chant and creating a kaleidoscope of time and space. The Bach Kyrie is modal, ending in a majestic G major chord (though ostensibly in the key of E-flat).

Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 2 is also modal, and turns everything about 270 degrees counterclockwise. A member of the avant-garde in Paris, Satie’s works have remarkable similarities to the music of Pérotin, and are considered precursors to what we know as ambient music. The second Gymnopédie was neglected by orchestrators, though Blood, Sweat, & Tears did create an arrangement.

To set up the next sequence of music, the Schola sings the entire Kyrie from the Missa Beata Virgine (Cum jubilo aka Mass IX). Melodic material from the chant is used in each of the following works. These pieces were used “in alternatim” with the choir; the organist would improvise or play pieces in place of the chant verse itself.

Giovanni Battista Fasolo was a Franciscan friar, organist, and composer from southern Italy. His works, used in parish churches, have great character despite their short length. The Buxheimer Orgelbuch dates from c. 1460-70; whoever wrote this highly refined piece was at least a spiritual friend of Satie. The chant can be heard in the pedal. Gilles Binchois was a Franco-Flemish composer; these catchy little pieces are good reason why he was one of the most influential composers of the 1400s. In between the organ works, we sing the enchanting Kyrie of Josquin des Prez. Josquin was enormously popular, to such an extent that many composers attributed to him their own compositions. Despite his renown, the only surviving work that may be in his own hand is a graffito on the wall of the Sistine Chapel. Bach’s approach to the Kyrie with its small cells developing into larger forms certainly owes something to mature works from this musical period. The Mass itself was a pre-tonal, polyphonic “symphony”--large scale sections of music arranged in an order. In this particular Mass, he
paraphrases the pre-existing chant.

Normally I program at least a lot of Mendelssohn, Schumann, or Brahms for concerts on the Erben organ. For the New Museum concert, though, I skipped to a later piece for violin and organ by Josef Rheinberger, a great German organist, composer, and pedagogue. When the present Munich Conservatory was founded, Rheinberger was appointed its professor of organ and composition. Rheinberger was a talented teacher, counting many Americans among his pupils. However, it was his British-born student, John White, who became Organist and Conductor of our St. Patrick’s Cathedral from c. 1875 (the Erben was practically brand new!). White had a very successful career in the states, later becoming the organist at the tony Church of the Ascension on 5th Avenue. He returned to Munich in 1896.

Hildegard von Bingen--mystic, poet, and Benedictine abbess--composed O Virtus Sapientiae. She was named a Doctor of the Church in October 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. Her magisterial “Symphony of the Harmony of the Heavenly Revelations” (Symphonia armoniae celestium revelationum) was a technology that employed the medium of music as a way to guide one’s spiritual path. Hildegard’s music leaps rhapsodically and lingers romantically. The text is:

O virtus Sapientiae, quae circuiens circuisti, comprehendendo omnia in una via, quae habet vitam, tres alas habens, quarum una in altum volat, et altera de terra sudat, et tertia undique volat. Laus tibi sit, sicut te decet, O Sapientia.

O strength of Wisdom who, circling, circled, enclosing all in one lifegiving path, three wings you have: one soars to the heights, one distils its essence upon the earth, and the third is everywhere. Praise to you, as is fitting, O Wisdom.

This particular chant, with its open fifth at the beginning, reminds me at once of both the first piece of the program (esp. track 2), and the last: Bach’s “Wir glauben all an einen Gott.” One hundred measures long, its striving bass motive, firm and solid, is set against a displaced Kyrie theme that is unsettled and wavering. Musicologists have pointed out the numerology embedded in this piece; for example, Bach inverts the polyphony completely when he reaches the golden ratio in measure 61. I make a big deal out of measure 91, due to its rhythmic subdivision; conventionally, 7, signifying prayer, times 13, signifying sin, multiplied, equals 91. Leopold Stokowski, the great conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, arranged the piece for orchestra--give it a listen!

Notes on the Organ

At the age of sixty-eight, Henry Erben, a monumental figure in the history of organ building, completed one of his most important works: the organ of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. Remarkable in its tonal and visual design, with craftsmanship that is second to none, it is a work of musical and visual art. It remains one of the great treasures of New York City. In service for 145 years, it is the only intact three-manual Erben organ in the world, and its 2,500 pipes, largely unaltered, speak with grandeur and eloquence. It is one of a handful of large American organs from the mid-nineteenth century left. It is in need of restoration; full of dust, debris, and fallen plaster, it is now nearly impossible to regulate. Indeed, it is miraculous it sounds as good as it does! Please contact us if you are interested in contributing to the organ fund.

Henry Erben had one of the largest factories in New York by the mid-1800’s, and shipped organs all over the globe, including Colombia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean. Installed just after the Civil War, this organ was brought by horse and carriage and was assembled by hand. The organ cost, in 1868 dollars, approximately $15,000. Henry Erben the impresario also put on “exhibitions” where organists, over the course of a couple days, would take turns at the new instrument’s console. For the exhibition at Trinity Church, 17,939 people attended the two-day marathon!

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