Handel-Inspired by Paul Ayres
Music by G F Handel including The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Fireworks Music, Water Music plus works from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries inspired by his genius. Played by Paul Ayres on Goetze & Gwynn’s ‘Handel House’ organ at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, London.
"Ayres is outstanding as composer, arranger, editor and skilful player... this CD is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and original recordings I've heard." The Gramophone, May 2008, [starred review: "Gramophone recommends"]
playing is exemplary" *****
Choir & Organ, July/August 2008 [five stars: "highly recommended"]
Buy this album CD £12.50 +p&p
|01||Sinfonia from Solomon
('The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’)
|03||Voluntary in C||Handel||2.33|
|04||Scherzo on 'Gospal'||Alan Smith||1.39|
|05||Air and Bourrée from Water Music||Handel||2.58|
|06||Water Bubbling||Satoru Ikeda||5.12|
|07||Overture to ‘Esther’||Handel||7.41|
|08||Siciliano and Minuet, from Fireworks Music||Handel||2.37|
|09||Overture and Gigue, from Handel-Inspired Suite||John Ellis||1.51|
|10||Fugue in A minor||Handel||3.21|
|11||Le Tombeau d’Handel||Krzysztof Aleksander Janczak||3.46|
|12||Two Pieces for Mechanical Clock||Handel||3.12|
from Sonata in the style of Handel
|14||Little Prelude||Jos Martens||1.02|
|15||In Handel’s Name||Akmal Parwez||3.04|
|17||Lednah Loblied||Thomas Neal||6.56|
|18||Variations on a theme in Handel’s Otto||Samuel Wesley||6.56|
|19||The Departure of the Queen of Sheba||Paul Ayres, after Handel||1.45|
|Total playing time 1.12.25|
The pieces on this disc fall into two categories: music by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) and music inspired by his genius. These two categories can be further divided: Handel’s music is either originally for organ [tracks 3, 10] or an arrangement [tracks 1, 5, 7, 8, 12]; and the‘Handel-Inspired’ works date from either end of the 19th century [tracks 13, 16, 18] or have been composed especially for this recording [tracks 2,4, 6, 9, 11, 14, 15, 17, 19]. These brand new works, with the exception of track 19, are the eight winning pieces from 98 entries to the‘Handel-Inspired’ composition competition, which was designed to generate new repertoire for one-manual chamber organ and whose prizes were generously provided by the Hinrichsen Foundation and by the Kenneth Leighton Foundation. The running order of the pieces on the CD has been arranged to provide maximum contrast and to highlight interesting connections between the old and the new.
Handel’s Sinfonia from Act III of his oratorio Solomon (1748), commonly known as The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba [track 1], is one of his most popular instrumental works, often played by organists at weddings, for any bride with aspirations to the status of the famed Easteru Beauty (a.k.a. The Queen of the South, Balkis, Makeda). Such brides might wish to avoid reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which reports that:
According to one account, Solomon, having heard from a hoopoe, one of his birds, that Bilqis and her kingdom worshipped the Sun, sent a letter asking her to worship God. She replied by sending gifts, but, when Solomon proved unreceptive to them, she came to his court herself. The king’s demons, meanwhile, fearing that he might be tempted into marrying Bilqis, whispered to him that she had hairy legs and the hooves of an ass. Solomon, being curious about such a peculiar phenomenon, had a glass floor built before his throne, so that Bilqis, tricked into thinking it was water, raised her skirts to cross it and revealed that her legs were truly hairy. Solomon then ordered his demons to create a depilatory for the queen.
This adaptation of Handel’s music (original scoring: two oboes, strings and continuo) for keyboard has been made by Paul Ayres. Contrast between ‘tutti’ and ‘solo’ sections on the one-manual instrument is achieved by use of the shifting mechanism operated by the left foot pedal, which removes all metal stops (i.e. leaving only the wooden pipes sounding).
John Hawkins has written orchestral, chamber, choral and educational music, with pieces currently in print with Boosey & Hawkes, Faber Music, Stainer & Bell and Comus Edition. Coincidentally, he is also responsible for the cover and design of Christopher Hogwood’s monograph Handel (Thames & Hudson). Of Footnote [track 2] the composer writes:
On an Allemande from one of Handel’s keyboard suites, a 19th-century editor’s footnote pompously declares: “The original has g sharp in treble and bass which prohibits a correct modulation... wherefore g natural should be played.” Footnote refuses to accept this and there is a battle between g sharp and g natural throughout — with no winners.
Comparatively little original Handel music specifically for solo organ survives: only one set of four voluntaries and another of ‘Six Fugues or Voluntarys’. One example from each set is featured on this disc. The Voluntary in C [track 3] follows the standard 18th-century form of the English organ voluntary, a slow introduction followed by a fast movement. The first section could be used to see out the clergy from the service, and the second as entertainment for the members of the congregation/audience (or as a pleasant background to their chatter).
Alan Smith is Sussex-based composer who writes mainly choral and organ music. His catalogue contains more than 200 pieces, and his works have won prizes and commendations in competitions in the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada. Scherzo on ‘Gopsal’ [track 4] is a short, lively piece based on the hymn-tune that Handel wrote to the words ‘Rejoice! the Lord is King’. Gopsal is the name of the house owned by Charles Jennens (who compiled the libretto for Messiah, and whose house-organ was the inspiration for the Goetze & Gwynn instrument used in this recording), and the hymn-tune was discovered at Fitzwilliam College Cambridge by Samuel Wesley (composer of track 18 on this disc). The tune generally appears at the top of the musical texture, accompanied by a variety of cross-rhythms.
Handel’s Air and Bourrée [track 5] are played here in simple keyboard arrangements, published in Handel’s lifetime by Walsh of London. The original ‘Water Music’ suite was composed in 1717 to accompany a royal party on a pleasure cruise on the Thames, and scored for a variety of wind and brass instruments.
Several motifs from the ‘Water Music’ appear in Satoru Ikeda’s Water Bubbling [track 6], a work which seems to illustrate many water ‘features’, not just bubbling, but flowing, cascading, freezing, evaporating, drenching... The composer is musical director at Shimamura Music Co. Ltd., and his music has won awards including the first prize in the Japan Music Competition 1988, the Interuational Composition Prize Luxembourg 2004 and the First Interuational Composers’ Competition for Piano Works ‘Bell’ Arte Europa’ 2005.
Handel’s Esther, sometimes called ‘the first English oratorio’, was first performed in 1718 or 1719 at Cannons, where the composer was in the service of James Brydges, Earl of Caruarvon, later the Duke of Chandos. (The Chapel of the Cannons Estate is today the Church of St Lawrence Little Stanmore, north London, where Paul deputised as an organist in his teenage years, and which now houses another Goetze & Gwynn organ, based on the surviving parts of the 1716 Gerard Smith instrument that Handel himself played.) The London publisher John Walsh brought out many keyboard arrangements of Handel’s instrumental music and, although no ‘arranger’ is credited, some of these, including the Overture to ‘Esther’ [track 7], seem to be Handel’s own transcriptions. There are three movements: Andante, Larghetto and Allegro.
Handel was commissioned to write music for a fireworks display in 1749 to celebrate the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. The Gentleman’s Magazine in April that year reported:
[Daily Digest] Friday 21. Was performed at Vauxhall Gardens the rehearsal of the music for the fireworks, by a band of 100 musicians, to an audience of above 12000 persons (tickets 2s.6d.). So great a resort occasioned such a stoppage on London-Bridge, that no carriage could pass for 3 hours. The footmen were so numerous as to obstruct the passage, so that a scuffle happen’d, in which some gentlemen were wounded.
When it came to the performance the following week, the Daily Advertiser, with a typical Fleet Street mix of reportage and salaciousness, wrote:
About half an hour after nine, in discharging some of the works from a pavilion at the left wing of the building, it set fire to the same, and burut it with great fury to the ground; and had not the carpenters made a breach by cutting away two arches, andremoving the timber, and some water-engines which were in readiness been play’d, in all probability the whole fabrick would have been consumed. Messengers were going to and from his majesty all the time of this misfortune; and when it was brought under, a present was made to the most diligent in stopping the flames. By one of the large rockets darting strait forward into the scaffold next the library, it set fire to the cloaths of a young lady, which would have soon destroy’d her, but some persons present having the presence of mind to strip her cloaths off immediately to her stays and petticoat, she escaped with only having her face, neck, and breast, a little scorched.
The Siciliano and Minuet from the ‘Fireworks Music’ [track 8] are here played from an anonymously-edited mid-l9th-century piano version, whose title-page is inscribed: ‘this new edition published on the Peace with Russia, March 30th, 1856’. Paul Ayres has chosen therefore to perform these pieces in what may be considered a style more authentic to the edition than to the original.
John Ellis qualified in medicine, specialised, and was a consultant paediatrician in the (British) National Health Service until his retirement: in parallel to this career he is a church organist, accompanist and composer. The Overture and Gigue [track 9] are the first and last movements from his four-movement Handel-Inspired Suite. The composer writes that he“admires Handel’s ability to use each musical idea in various ways and to extend and modify the original theme in each and every movement”.
Handel recycled his Fugue in A minor [track 10] for organ as the chorus ‘He loathed to drink of the river’ in Israel in Egypt, a first-rate oratorio notable, even by the standards of the time, for its second-hand material: of 52 movements, 36 were partly or fully based on pre-existing music. Much use is made of chromaticism, and when played on an instrument not in equal temperament (as on this organ, which uses a one-sixth comma ‘Whitchurch’ tuning, specially devised by Mark Lindley), the ‘uneven’ semitones add great excitement and drama to the music.
Chromaticism is also important in Krzysztof Aleksander Janczak’s Le Tombean d’Handel [track 11]. The composer was born in 1983 in Warsaw, Poland. His piece is a homage to Handel, in four sections, each based on a similar harmonic pattern reminiscent of the descending tetrachord ‘lament’ bass line of the baroque era. The last note, bottom G, is the lowest on the instrument, and is held in memory of ‘G. ‘(F.H.).
Two Pieces for Mechanical Clock [track 12] are taken from a collection of tunes composed or arranged by Handel and programmed into the ‘Braamcamp’ clock made in the 1730s by Charles Clay. These have been edited and transcribed by Jan Jaap Haspels and Pieter Dirksen, and published in 1987 by the Diapason Press, Utrecht. Some of these pieces are identical to those in HWV 587-597 (transcribed from another, now-lost, Handel-Clay clock), but the two recorded here are unidentified, and are thus, to the best knowledge of the performer and editors, premiere recordings of original Handel music.
William Wolstenholme’s Sonata in the style of Handel (1896) was composed for a ‘Romantic’ organ of at least two manuals and pedals, and Paul has made a transcription for one manual only of the sonata’s Introduction and Allegro [track 13]. Wolstenholme in fact wrote (in Herbert Westerby’s The Complete Organ Recitalist: London 1927) that “a good recital organ should have four manuals” and went on to describe a ‘fantasy’ stoplist of (excluding pedals) seven 16’ stops, twenty-two 8’s, eight 4’s, two 2’s, without a mixture or mutation in sight. So the instrument on this recording is as completely inauthentic to Wolstenholme’s sound-world as is his own ‘Handelian’ style.
Dutch composer Jos Martens was born in 1985 and, at the time of writing, studies composition at Zwolle Conservatory. He says of Little Prelude [track 14]: “The basic tone material is GFH, the initials of Georg Friedrich Handel. Although it is a modern piece, I wanted to create a work with the freshness of a baroque prelude.” For Anglophone musicians, the notes G F H translate as G F B-natural.
In Handel’s Name [track 15] also uses these three notes to create themes and tonal centres. Composer and vocalist Akmal Parwez was born into a musical and artistic family in Punjab, Pakistan. He studied electronics in Tokyo on a Japanese government scholarship, but after a brief engineering career he felt compelled to devote his life to composing, singing and teaching music. Since moving to the USA, his music has won many awards and commissions. Dr Parwez has taught at the Malaysian Science University, Penang, as well as at SUNY- Potsdam, NYU, Hofstra, Queens College and at the Japanese School of New York.
Alexandre Guilmant’s Paraphrase [track 16] from his opus 90 set of 18 Pièces nouvelles has, like the Wolstenholme, been scaled down by Paul Ayres especially for this recording, and made ‘playable’ on an organ with no pedals. The full title on the score reads ‘Paraphrase I sur un Choeur de Judas Macchabée de Handel I See, the conqu’ring hero comes! I Voici venir le héros vainqueur!’ and the melody is well-known in the English-speaking world as the hymn- tune for ‘Thine be the glory’.
Thomas Neal (born in 1990) currently receives organ tuition from James Parsons and from George Barber, choirmaster of St Peter’s Church, Stockton-on-Tees, where Thomas sings in the choir. He plays the violin and piano and sings in the award-winning Tees Valley Youth Choir, and he hopes to, pursue a career in church music. Lednah Loblied [track 17] is, he says, “inspired by Handel’s organ concertos and chamber works and seeks to reflect the simplicity of the man behind the music”.
Variations on a theme in Handel’s Otto [track 18] by Samuel Wesley was written for ‘piano or harpsichord’. The theme (the Gavotte from Handel’s opera Ottone) is followed by five variations. Samuel’s position in the Wesley family is: son of Charles (hymn-writer), grandson of Samuel (poet), nephew of John (preacher and Ur-Methodist) and father of Samuel Sebastian (composer).
Many years ago I played around with inverting the ‘Queen of Sheba’ theme, thinking to myself that one day I really must write a Departure of the Queen of Sheba [track 19]. This CD has given me a good reason to get some notes down on paper (typically, some of them an hour or so before the recording session, in a café round the corner from St George’s). My hope is that this little morceau (I had in mind the Queen’s gift-laden procession, dancing off into the desert) rounds off a selection of pieces that have highlighted the wonderful variety of Handel’s music, and his inspirational, lasting effect on many other composers.
Goetze & Gwynn’s Chamber Organ for the Handel House Museum (1998)
The organ was made for the Handel House Trnst, which in 2001 opened a museum in the house where Handel lived for the last 36 years of his life: 25 Brook Street in Mayfair. It lives in the church of St George’s Hanover Square, Handel’s parish church and the home of the London Handel Festival. The organ is based on the chamber organs of Richard Bridge and Thomas Parker, who built the organ which belonged to Charles Jennens, librettist of Messiah, which still exists close to its original condition.
Stop Diapason - wood
Open Diapason (c#1 - e3) - metal
Principal - metal
Flute - wood
Fifteenth - metal
Sesquialtera LI (GG - c1) - metal
Cornet II (c#1 - e3) - metal
The key compass is 54 notes (GG AA C D - e3).
The metal ranks are all divided into bass and treble halves at c1/c#1.
There is a shifting movement pedal which removes the metal ranks (if drawn).
The pitch is a1=415Hz. The wind pressure is 51mm.
The organ is 263cm high, 141cm wide and 75cm deep.
It has a stained oak case, with gilded dummy metal front pipes, and a gilded cherub’s head.
The keys have ebony naturals and sandwich sharps.
The stop knobs are ebony, next to engraved brass labels.
Paul Ayres would like to thank the Handel House
Museum and the rector and churchwardens of St George’s Church for
permission to record this instrument, and for their support of the project.
Special thanks are due to Ruth Ayres, Ben Byram-Wigfield, Sara-Lois Cunningham and Simon Williams.
Registration assistant: Steve Jones.
Organ tuned (in ‘Whitchurch tuning’) by Claire Hammett, Harpsichord Services of London.
A Priory Records Digital Recording
Recorded and Produced by Neil Collier
Digital Editing: Paul Crichton
Front Cover Photograph: St George's Church. Hanover Square, London
Recorded: 16/17 May 2007
PRIORY Records Ltd
|Label:||Priory Records Ltd|
Ayres was born in the suburbs of London, where his first teachers
included Margrit Kensbock (piano) and John Miley (choirmaster at
St Giles’ Church Ickenham, where Paul sang in the choir and
later played the organ). He studied music at Oxford University
(as organ scholar of Merton College), and ever since graduating
with first-class honours in 1991 he has worked freelance as a composer & arranger,
choral conductor & musical director, and organist& accompanist.
Paul is assistant director of music at St George’s Church
Hanover Square, and he has given many solo organ recitals in the
UK, Scandinavia, Europe, North America and Australia. His compositions
usually involve words — solo songs, choral pieces, music
for theatre productions — and he is particularly interested
in working with pre-existing music, from arrangements of folksongs,
hymns, jazz standards and nursery rhymes to ‘re-compositions’ of
classical works, as in Purcell’s Funeral Sentence, 4A Wreck
and Messyah. Paul conducts the London College of Music Chamber
Choir and the Walbrook Singers, regularly leads music education
workshops, and enjoys playing piano/keyboards for improvised comedy
His first solo CD, “Passacaglia”, on the Fand Music Label (which has been broadcast on the radio in Australia, South Africa, USA and Hungary) was enthusiastically received:
“The Buxtehude and Bach pieces are given mature and yet energetic performances, whilst the Lloyd Webber and Koomans have so much vitality and bounce to them that they are quite addictive. On this his debut solo organ disc Paul Ayres shows himself to be a player of the highest calibre…” Simon FitzGerald, The Organ, August 1998
“Paul Ayres’s attractively constructed programme… playing is never less than assured…” Stephen Haylett, BBC Music Magazine November 1998
“This is an imaginative record, by a fine player on a fine instrument…the playing is splendid!” Organists’ Review, November 1998
“…an interesting programme, well played with great energy” Church Music Quarterly, January 1999
“Paul Ayres shows
excellent technique and stylistic awareness throughout… a
CD exploring the organ and some new music with great enthusiasm
and flair.” Basil Ramsey, Music and Vision
(daily internet music magazine) May 1999
Recital venues have included:
[London] St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Central Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields,
St Bride’s Fleet Street, Marylebone Parish Church, St Michael’s Cornhill, St Lawrence Jewry
[UK] Bristol, Norwich, Sheffield, Truro, Portsmouth, Glasgow and Edinburgh Cathedrals, St Alban’s Abbey,
Hexham Abbey, St Mary Redcliffe Bristol, Hull City Hall
[Europe] St Finbarre’s Cathedral Cork, St Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin, Copenhagen Cathedral, St Johannes Kirke Bergen, Skt Klara Stockholm and other venues in Scandinavia, Holland, Germany and Hungary
[USA and Canada] St Thomas’s Fifth Avenue New York, Washington National Cathedral, St James’s Cathedral Toronto, Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa, Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, Adolphus Busch Hall Harvard University, St Paul’s Cathedral Boston, Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral Kansas City, St Andrew’s Cathedral Honolulu and venues in Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Michigan, Florida, South Carolina, New York, Connecticut and Illinois
[Australia and New Zealand] St George’s Cathedral Perth, Nelson Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral Rockhampton, Newcastle Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral Goulburn
|Telephone||020 8632 1854|
|Booking||Contact as above|
|Teaching||Private pupils accepted , Grade 5 and above|
|Ensembles||Music of the Fuchsia|
|Artist Web Site||www.paulayres.co.uk|