DR. KRISTINA RIZZOTTO
Concert Organist & Composer
July 16, Sunday, 3 PM
Westwood UMC, Los Angeles, CA
Dietrich Buxtehude composed nineteen organ praeludia (or preludes), which form the core of his work and are ultimately considered his most important contributions to the music literature of the seventeenth century. These preludes, together with pieces by Nicolaus Bruhns, represent the highest point in the evolution of the north German organ prelude, and the so-called stylus fantasticus. This style is related to improvisation but is characterized by the use of short contrasting episodes and a free form, just like a classical fantasia. Buxtehude’s preludes were undoubtedly among the influences of his student J. S. Bach, whose organ preludes, toccatas and fugues frequently employ similar techniques. Praeludium in C, BuxWV 137, follows the usual form, alternating between free improvisation and strict counterpoint, with heavy use of the pedal, culminating in a chaconne. The birdsong you hear in the middle of this piece comes from the Nightingale, an organ stop which imitates birdsong. The warbling comes from two or more small metal pipes whose ends are immersed in a vessel of water or light oil.
Chorale preludes are liturgical compositions for organ using a chorale tune (a hymn melody) as its basis. The long and rich history of chorale preludes in the Protestant tradition inspired me to start composing my own. All my preludes are created as Gebrauchsmusik, “music for use” in concert or church service, serving both as hymn introductions or solo pieces.
Inspired by the music of pifferari, players of the traditional Italian bagpipe (zampogna) and reed pipe (piffero), the Pastorale on New Britain (Amazing Grace) gently flows on a 6/8 meter over a drone, evoking a mood of pastoral nature. The Trio on Here I Am, Lord transforms a modern church song usually heard on piano into a Baroque trio, a musical form where three independent melodies happen in the manner of three instrumentalists playing together – two soloists over a basso continuo. Shall We Gather at the River is another delicate trio, reflective of the image, evoked by the hymn, of a shining river with a crystal tide, flowing by the throne of God and causing the pilgrims’ hearts to quiver with the melody of peace.
We Plow the Fields (Wir pflügen und wir streuen) contains mixed traits of Medieval ars antiqua and Neo-Baroque styles. I wove melodies together in a strange flow with plenty of fourths and fifths, inspired by the music of Pérotin (c. 1200), of the Notre Dame school of polyphony. Every piece can sound completely different depending on the instrument at hand, and I enjoy the search and discovery of new sounds. This piece provided a wonderful opportunity to display some of the more unique sounds found in the magnificent organ at Westwood Church, to show the listeners another unexpected color that only a pipe organ is capable of bringing forth. The most noticeable stop heard in the hymn melody today, with tremulant and combined with unison stops and mutations (pipes with intervals other than unison or octaves), is called Chrimia II 8’. I figured it would be a ‘chrimia’ to not give you a small taste of this unusual and delightful sound.
Light and bright, the Trio on Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern is another trio in Baroque style, with the melody of the hymn How Lovely Shines the Morning Star on the pedal and the bass on the left hand. The scintillating surprise at the end of the piece comes from the Glockenstern, one of three Zimbelsterns at this organ. These “toy” organ stops often consist of a metal or wooden star or wheel on which several small bells are mounted. When engaged, the star rotates, producing a continuous tinkling sound. Zimbelsterns were common in northern Europe, particularly in Germany since the sixteenth century.
Hyfrydol sur La Canarie combines the tune to Love Divine, All Loves Excelling with La Canarie, a dance original to the Canary Islands which was brought to Spain in the sixteenth century, and whose choreography features jumps, leaps, and percussive footwork. This melody was famously included in Michael Praetorius’ Terpsichore, a compendium of more than 300 instrumental dances published in 1612.
J. S. Bach was hired in 1709 by the ruling duke of Weimar, Wilhelm Ernst, as an organist and member of the court orchestra. He was particularly encouraged by the duke to make use of his unique talents with the organ. Indeed, his fame as an organist grew during that period, and he was visited by many students eager to hear him play and learn from his technique. He composed the Prelude and Fugue in D, BWV 532, during his tenure in Weimar, circa 1710. The Prelude consists of a brilliant and wide-ranging introduction, a contrapuntal Alla breve in Italian style with slowly shifting harmonies, and a slow section that ends with recitative-like passages in preparation for the fugue. The fugue subject shows Bach’s fascinating inventiveness in shaping something extraordinary out of repetitions and sequences (the same material at a different pitch). He was clearly fascinated by this remarkable subject because he reused it in his Toccata in D major, BWV 912, which may date from around the same time.
Mendelssohn’s Opus 65 consists of six Organ Sonatas, which were published in 1845. They were which originally commissioned as a ‘set of voluntaries’ by the English publishers Coventry and Hollier in 1844. Mendelssohn, however, determined to extend the works beyond his first seven movements, and eventually regrouped them into a set of six sonatas. Sonata IV was the last to be written. The sonatas demand good standards of pitch and touch from the organ, as well as a satisfactory pedalboard. Because the English instruments at that time were often not adequately equipped, the interest in the pieces grew slowly in Britain. Although the composer did not ask for any stop changes throughout the Allegretto, I treat it like an orchestral movement, where lovely solos are given to various “instruments” over a gently flowing accompaniment, each with a distinctive quality and character so unique to the pipe organ.
A student of Camille Saint-Saëns, Eugène Gigout served as the organist at the Église Saint-Augustin in Paris for 62 years. Unlike the composer, his playful Scherzo (1890) evidently moves around quite a bit, here between the chancel and the gallery, in the front and back of the church.
The Lullaby on the Latvian folk song Aijā, žūžū, lāču bērni is dedicated to my dear son Kristian Walter. Meaning “hush, my little bear cub”, Aijā, žūžū is the most well-known lullaby for any Latvian child. The joyful middle section plays like a delicate music box on the Westwood Church organ. It represents the moment when the baby is still not ready to sleep and still wants to play. A canonic statement of the tune in a minor key is followed by its final appearance in the tonic key on the pedal line – the firm ground of safety for the child sleeping on the parent’s arms while her mind flies ever higher into the land of dreams.
Fantasia came together as a compilation of joyful melodies which kept dancing inside of my head in recent years. I wrote it as it came to me, and the result was an orchestral dance with Slavic flavors, with crisp strings, shepherd’s flutes, a pizzicato waltz with mellow cellos and a singing oboe, culminating in a triumphant gallop of the cellos and basses, when the brass and piccolo gradually join in for a final display of fireworks. Can you hear it all? Also, once more, my Latvian roots made an unplanned appearance after the waltz, as the folk song Kur tad tu nu biji, āzīti manu (Where have you been, my little goat?) spontaneously found its way into this musical extravaganza when the pedal line began to dance.
All my compositions are available as PDF music scores on kristinarizzotto.com/compositions
Scan the QR code below with your phone camera to open this page on your mobile device: