Richard Apperley contributes to National Organ Month

Wellington Organists’ Association

Kuhnau: Biblical Sonata – The combat between David and Goliath
Buxtehude: Fugue in C
C.P.E. Bach: Sonata in G minor
Kuhnau: Biblical Sonata – Hezekiah dying and restored to health
Buxtehude: Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C

St. Mary of the Angels

Monday, 6 September, 1pm

It is a pity that a mere 20 people came to hear Richard Apperley’s splendid recital on the superb, many-voiced organ at St Mary of the Angels.  Apperley is a fine performer with style and taste, and he chose an interesting programme.  There were no pot-boilers here, but seventeenth and eighteenth centuries’ music, well-suited to the instrument.

The first of two Biblical Sonatas by Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722) was ‘The combat between David and Goliath’.  This was delightful music, not too complex, employing interesting word-painting, or should we say ‘painting of ideas’.  It comprised eight movements, each depicting part of the story of David and Goliath.

First was The boasting of Goliath, suitably bombastic, followed by The trembling of the Israelites at the appearance of the giant, and their prayer to God.  This featured a quiet choral melody above a tentative accompaniment.  

The following movements were:
3. The courage of David, and his keen desire to repel the pride of his terrifying enemy, with the confidence that he puts in the help of God;
4. The combat between the two and their struggle; the stone is thrown from the slingshot into the brow of the giant; Goliath falls;
5. The flight of the Philistines, who are pursued and slain by the Israelites;
6. The joy of the Israelites over their victory;
7. The musical concert of the women in honour of David;
8. The general rejoicing, and the dance of joy of the people.

The playing featured attractive registrations; it was an excellent work to demonstrate a broad range of the sounds available on this fine organ, and also the excellent acoustics of the church.   No two movements employed exactly the same registration.  It was suitably pictorial, and very enjoyable.  (Richard Apperley is working on a recording of Kuhnau organ works, including this one.)

Still in the same era were Dietrich Buxtehude and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.  The former’s fugue was calm and gentle, but nonetheless quite intricate.  The latter was much more grand, and with more contrasts than the Buxtehude, being in three movements, and the organist used different manuals to express the contrasts.  It was melodically interesting, and while still basically baroque, there were elements which would not have been present in his illustrious father’s compositions.

After a quiet adagio middle movement, the allegro finale was dramatic, with many flashes of brilliance.  In the main, the articulation was precise.

The second of the Kuhnau works began with a sombre opening movement having a chorale in the upper part – a version of ‘O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden’ (known in English as the Passion Chorale because it was set by J.S. Bach in St Matthew Passion.  This illustrated the opening movement: Hezekiah’s lament for the death foretold to him, and his fervent prayers.  The chorale was followed by a fully worked-out set of variations.

The second movement was entitled ‘His confidence in God’, and the third and final ‘The joy of the convalescent King’; he remembers the ills that are past; he forgets them.  These moods were fully expressed in glorious music.

The second  Buxtehude work was quite well-known, and given quite a fast performance; the Prelude and Chaconne using dramatic reed registrations – including one stop a little out-of-tune in places.

It would have been useful, as is often done for organ recitals, if the printed programme had incorporated a list of the organ specification, so that the audience, who were mainly organists or organ aficionados, could understand the instrument’s dimensions and colorations, and pick the registrations being used.  This comment applies to the following day’s programme, at Sacred Heart Cathedral, also.

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