Ethan Haman, organ
PRELUDE & FUGUE
IN D MAJOR, BWV 532
1833 – 1897
ELEVEN CHORALE PRELUDES OP.122
No.9 "Herzlich tut Mich Verlangen"
1822 – 1890
Mr. Haman will improvise an organ symphony based on 3 hymn tunes. The hymn tunes will be chosen by the congregation at Valley Presbyterian Church and presented to Nathan at the time of the performance. An extraordinary opportunity for the audience!
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
Born: March 31, 1685, Eisenach, Germany
Died: July 28, 1750, Leipzig, Germany
Bach’s Organ Music
In the town square of Arnstadt, in central Germany, there stands a modern statue of a slender and well-muscled young man. He’s bare-headed, his shirt is partly unbuttoned and he sprawls on a bench with his legs extended. His right hand droops downwards, while his left is extended to grasp something.
It’s Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) at age eighteen, when he was the organist for Arnstadt’s Neue Kirche. That clears up the mystery of his impudent posture: he’s captured while playing the organ. His extended legs are on the pedals, his right hand is on the keyboard, his left hand is pulling a stop.
Bach considered the organ to be his lifelong bailiwick, and with good reason. His technical virtuosity and improvisatory skill elicited undisguised amazement from all who heard him. Nor was Bach limited to merely playing the organ; throughout his career he was in constant demand as an expert on the instrument’s construction, potential ailments, capabilities, and limitations.
While the value of Bach’s organ inspections were limited to his own time and place, his compositions for the instrument are timeless and without boundary. The works of his North German contemporaries, such as Buxtehude, Böhm, and Pachelbel, have largely receded into specialist status, but Bach’s output remains as compelling, as relevant, and as challenging as ever. Much of it dates from the early years of his career in Arnstadt (1704–08), Mühlhausen (1708–09), and Weimar (1709–17), but significant works also date from his long tenure in Leipzig (1723–50), even during his last years as his eyesight deteriorated.
Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 532
In 1709 Bach was hired by Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar as a member of the court orchestra (violin) and as a court organist. It is this during period of his career—eight years, from 1709 to 1717—that he created many of his greatest organ compositions, including the Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 532.
Nowadays we tend to think of The Well-Tempered Clavier in relation to the pairing of prelude with fugue, but the organ preludes and fugues are anything but mere predecessors or signposts along Bach’s developmental path. There is really nothing in the Well-Tempered Clavier that corresponds to BWV 532’s lengthy and multi-sectional prelude—perhaps E-flat major in Book 1 comes close—or the unbuttoned virtuosity of its fugue.
It is perhaps that extroverted bravura that endeared this composition to late-Romantic pianists, two of whom (Ferruccio Busoni and Eugen d’Albert) gifted posterity with roof-rattling transcriptions in the full-court-press Lisztian manner. But those piano transcriptions, marvelous though they may be, can only hint at the impact of Bach’s original played on a superb organ. Perhaps only Ottorino Respighi’s dynamite 1929 orchestration—it requires just about everything but the kitchen sink, including four-hand piano duet—approaches BWV 532’s native sonic splendor, but its ear-candy munificence is much more twentieth than eighteenth century.
Bach lays out the Prelude in three contrasting sections. The first of these features brilliant scalar runs in the pedals set against arabesques in the manuals, culminating in a ceremonious half-cadence in the relative key of B minor. That leads to the alla breve middle section, a spritely dance-like affair that reflects the Weimar court’s fascination with the robust and colorful Italian style of the era. A concluding Adagio returns to the North German style of the opening, ending in an appropriately grand final cadence.
The fugue is based on a bustling subject, all glittering sixteenth-note filigree marked by the insertion of an intriguing, and unexpected, three-beat silence. Towards the end, sizzling passagework in the pedals led one early copyist to add a suggestion to the player: “Note well: in this piece one must really let the feet kick around a lot.”
Program note written by Scott Foglesong.
Born: May 7, 1833, Hamburg, Germany
Died: April 3, 1897, Vienna, Austria
ELEVEN CHORALE PRELUDES OP.122, No.9
“Herzlich tut mich verlangen”
My Heart Is Filled with Longing
A composer’s last work holds a special position and interest. Be it a four-minute song (Schubert’s “Die Taubenpost”), a vast opera (Wagner’s Parsifal), or an unfinished project (Mozart’s Requiem), there is often a valedictory quality, a sense of summing up. Johannes Brahms wrote his last composition in 1896 during the final summer of his life, in what were somber circumstances. His closest friend Clara Wieck, the widow of his mentor Robert Schumann, died on May 20, leaving him devastated. After her burial in Bonn (travel delays thwarted him attending the funeral in Frankfurt), he returned to one of his favorite vacation spots in the mountainous resort of Bad Ischl, where he composed Eleven Chorale Preludes for organ. At age 63 Brahms’s own health was rapidly declining and he sensed that time was limited. In the fall he was diagnosed with liver cancer, in February suffered a stroke, and in early April died. Although he played the Chorale Preludes through for some friends, they were only published five years later as Op. 122.
Looking to the past Brahms did not end his career with a grand final statement but rather with something more modest in scope and written for a rather unexpected instrument. As a great pianist he had composed a large quantity of keyboard music, but it had been 40 years since he had finished a piece for organ. Choosing to write chorale preludes nevertheless somehow seems a fitting conclusion for his career and perhaps an homage to the Schumann’s who had helped introduce him at age 20 to the music of J.S. Bach. There has rarely been a composer who was so historically aware and engaged. Brahms had studied early music his entire life, looking back as far as the Middle Ages, but particularly to the Renaissance and Baroque eras. He counted musicologists among his friends and advisors, was involved with editions of early music, and amassed a large library of manuscripts, scores, and books. Looking to the past, especially to Bach, was typically Brahmsian.
The chorale prelude is a Baroque genre in which a single chorale strophe forms the basis for a brief organ composition in imitative counterpoint that leads to the congregation singing the hymn tune. Since the Lutheran chorale melodies have German texts, such pieces can be considered a kind of non-vocal program music. While Brahms rarely indulges in “word-painting,” that is explicitly trying to illustrate a particular word with the music, he does seek to capture the moods behind the chorales. The texts he selected largely concern themes of death and eternity.
This Chorale Prelude (variation) comes from the beautiful hymn that Brahms knew from Bach’s works, including, his St. Matthew Passion. The words translate as “I do desire dearly” but the hymn’s tune was associated with the words (later applied) as “Oh sacred head, now wounded.” Brahms creates a magical undulation with the clever strokes in this small masterpiece. You will not fail to notice, of course, the exquisite beauty of this meditative rumination on one of […] intimate expressions that Brahms crafted for the organ.
Herzlich tut mich verlangen
Herzlich tut mich verlangen nach einem sel’gen End,
weil ich hier bin umfangen mit Trübsal und Elend.
Ich hab Lust abzuscheiden von dieser argen Welt,
sehn’ mich nach ew’gen Freuden, o Jesu, komm nur bald!
My heart is filled with longing to pass away in peace;
For woes are round me thronging, and trials will not cease.
Oh fain would I be hasting from thee, dark world of gloom,
To gladness everlasting; O Jesus, quickly come!
Born: December 10, 1822, Liège, Belgium
Died: November 8, 1890, Paris, France
Organs have been found in churches throughout Europe since at least the late Middle Ages and, while the instrument has retained its essential characteristics for the last several hundred years, numerous national schools have taken their own approach toward building, performing, and composing for “the king of instruments.” France’s rich organ tradition dates back to the late 17th century, when the lavishly ornamented works of composers like Couperin and de Grigny reflected the grandeur of the royal court. The political turmoil that began with the French Revolution and continued through the Napoleonic Wars disrupted every aspect of French musical life, and nearly extinguished its organ tradition. About 20 percent of the organs in France were destroyed outright during the revolution, while others were abandoned, vandalized, and repeatedly relocated over the next several decades. The process of rebuilding began in earnest in the 1840s, and by the 1870s, a renaissance was fully underway. At the end of the century, French organists and composers were at the very forefront of the profession, and the rich culture that they established continues unabated today.
This remarkable rebirth coincided with several important innovations in organ building, many of which were accomplished (or perfected) by the builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. The advent of “expressive” divisions—several ranks of pipes in a shuttered box controlled by a pedal—allowed organists to accomplish the subtle dynamic shadings so central to the Romantic aesthetic. Other developments included the introduction of more orchestrally oriented stops, new mechanisms for changing registrations without lifting the hands from keyboard, and larger pedal divisions. The unprecedented musical potential offered by these instruments, which were soon found in most of the churches in Paris, fired the imaginations of a new generation of performers and composers and served as a catalyst for their equally unprecedented style.
An example of simple structure using finely honed melodies, Pièce héroïque by César Franck opens with a bold melody mostly in the left hand and then contrasts this with a section in the middle resembling a church chorale. Although the opening section predictably returns without remarkable embellishment, the piece ends with a grandiose repetition of the chorale, played loudly as a stirring hymn.
Born in present-day Belgium, César Franck was taken to Paris by his exploitative father, who intended to make a fortune through the prodigious abilities of his young son. He joined the organ class at the Paris Conservatory but was prematurely withdrawn when it became clear the expected windfall was not going to be forthcoming. For the next several years he eked out a living as a teacher, organist, and composer, but the course of his career began to turn in 1858 when he was appointed organist at the newly-built Sainte-Clotilde. Written over the next four years, his Six Pièces for organ were among the earliest products of the resurgent French school and are now regarded as watershed works (Liszt considered them on par with Bach).
The Trois Pièces (1878), from which Pièce Héroïque is drawn, followed another important appointment as organ professor at the Paris Conservatory, where his organ class became something of an unofficial composition seminar. Franck himself premiered the three works at the Palais du Trocadéro, which housed one of the first concert-hall organs in France.
Nearly every organist associated with the French tradition has been a capable improviser, and Franck was perhaps the most revered of all. Many of his organ works reflect that improvisatory heritage with their kaleidoscopic harmonies, expansive thematic development, and dramatic contrasts. His best works have long been described as possessing a special emotional depth—“a disciplined intensity of spirit,” according to biographer Leon Vallas—which has captivated organists since their publication.
The martial character of the main theme and the ensuing fanfare figures suggest that Pièce Héroïque has its roots in the numerous “battle” pieces improvised by French organists in the early years of the century. If it were an orchestral work with a specific program, it might be described as a symphonic poem. The middle section migrates to major and is in the form of a chorale, although the war drums continue to beat softly in the pedal. Increasingly agitated figuration heralds the brief return of the opening theme before a triumphant final hymn.
Program note written by David Crean
An historical tradition of the Paris Conservatory.
Improvisation is a central element of the French organ tradition of the past several centuries. Because of the liturgical nature of most organist positions in France, training in improvisation on Gregorian chant themes was and continues to be an imperative tool required of these musicians. At the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (henceforth referenced as the Paris Conservatory), the central music conservatory for France, students in the organ class studied only improvisation until Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) began requiring the study of some repertoire.
Despite the gradual introduction of repertoire into the curriculum, the focus of the training remained on improvisation. Marcel Dupré, one of the famed teachers of the class, devoted two of his three class days each week to improvisation and only one to repertoire. Charles Tournemire usually had no prepared music on the organ at Ste. Clotilde during Mass; he kept merely a copy of the Liber Usualis to provide appropriate Gregorian themes on which to improvise. Olivier Latry continues this tradition of improvisation in his present position as Organiste Titulaire at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. This training in improvisation has provided the organ community with many highly regarded improvisateurs from the French school of organ playing.
The skill of improvisation has become a standard part of the organist’s playing, not only in liturgical settings, but also in regular concert and recording settings that allow lengthier improvisations with more thematic development. A regular ending of a recital by an organist trained in the tradition of the Conservatoire de Paris or other such institutions is an improvisation, often of a multi-movement work with several themes.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Ethan Haman, organ
Ethan Haman from Fremont, CA, is the organist and assistant conductor at Noroton Presbyterian Church in Darien, CT, and organist at Yale University's Marquand Chapel. He completed a Master of Music degree in Organ Performance in 2021 at the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music studying with Jon Laukvik and Craig Cramer. He is currently attending Yale for one more year pursuing a Master of Musical Arts degree, studying organ with Martin Jean and improvisation with Jeffrey Brillhart. In 2019 he graduated from the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music as a Presidential and Discovery Scholar with a Bachelor of Music degree, where he double majored in Organ Performance studying with Cherry Rhodes and in Composition with Morten Lauridsen, Andrew Norman, Donald Crockett, Sean Friar, and Daniel Temkin.
During his studies at USC, Ethan served as organist for Knox Presbyterian Church in Pasadena and was the organ improvisation instructor for the San Francisco Peninsula Organ Academy. He was also the organist for the Extraordinary Form Latin Mass offered by the Fraternity of St. Peter at St. Victor Catholic Church in West Hollywood, where he improvised all of the music every Sunday evening.
Ethan studied organ and composition from 2008 to 2015 with Angela Kraft Cross, and was the organist of Christ Episcopal Church Los Altos from 2011 to 2015. He has gone on several trips to France on scholarships from USC and the San Francisco Peninsula Organ Academy to study organ interpretation and improvisation with such esteemed teachers as Frédéric Blanc, Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin, and Louis Robilliard on historic organs including those of Notre Dame Cathedral and the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris and the Church of St. François-de-Sales in Lyon. He has performed in such notable venues as Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and Notre Dame d'Auteuil in Paris.
The USC University Chorus commissioned and premiered his choral compositions for several performances in recent years. The American Guild of Organists commissioned Ethan to compose and premiere his "Toccata on Hyfrydol" at Christ Cathedral Arboretum in Garden Grove, CA for their 2019 West Region Convention, and in 2020 he taught a series of workshops on organ improvisation for the Palo Alto/Peninsula Chapter of the AGO. The AGO commissioned Ethan to write "Southern Harmony Suite" for organ as one of the winners of the 2020-2021 Student Commissioning Project, and the piece was premiered by Abraham Wallace at Yale University's Woolsey Hall. His compositions can be found at SheetMusicPlus.com.
Ethan also enjoys recording organ videos for his YouTube channel as well as studying foreign languages; he currently speaks English, French, Spanish, European Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, and is currently learning German and Korean.