Frahm CD Cover (800x747)

In April of 2012 it was my great pleasure to work on a second album of my organ works with English virtuoso Robin Walker. The recording was made live in Albuquerque at St. Luke Lutheran Church in the Northeast Heights. Much of music included on the program was written with this instrument in mind.

During the recording sessions, it was determined by the sound tech (Jason Wolf of Tripl3Tone Studios in Albuquerque) that the sound shadow created by a solid plaster balcony rail was further impeding the sound of the instrument in an already acoustically dry space. A movie sound boom was engaged and the microphones were placed about 20 feet off the nave floor and approximately two thirds down the nave from the organ gallery.

What resulted was a surprisingly accurate sound image of this bright and attractive pipe organ. The music you will hear on this recording, particularly the two sonatas, the New Mexico Sketches, and the dramatic Septem Verba for violin and organ highlights specific stops as well as registration schemes that exploit the instrument and it’s Kellner/Bach temperament.

To purchase a hi-fi copy of this recording, go to CDBaby (in the US).

Program notes

As of Fire was composed in 2008 and was commissioned by the American poet Kate Walsh. The music was inspired by Walsh’s poem of the same title. A work of musical architecture, the form is defined by clear cut sections, like blocks of stone, which stand in contrast to one another. The music seems massive, solemn, and it resonates well with the poet’s ecstatic ‘vision of Pentecost’.

Sonata d’Eglise is the second of three multi-movement organ sonatas which in this case bears a subtext: les retour des fideles (the return of the faithful). The movement titles Entrée, Mélodie Mélancolique, and Sortie Joyeuse describe music, inspired by the French symphonic tradition, which seeks to portray the faithful arriving at church for mass on an ordinary day.

Two Chorale Fantasies, Vom himmel hoch and Sheng En come from the earliest part of the composer’s oeuvre in this genre dating from 1995 and 1991 respectively. Vom himmel hoch, a sixteenth century German chorale tune, casts the cantus firmus in the relative minor. The music is characterized by a driving energy, a chromatic harmonization of the chorale, and an organo pleno registration. Sheng En, based on a modal melody written by Su Yin-Lan, a Chinese musician who died in 1937, is a colorful yet gentle work which includes the fusion of a variety of tonal fabrics. The cantus firmus while stated plainly at times in the pedal is accompanied in the manuals by mixed meter and polytonal textures.

Sonata per Organo, the first of the composer’s sonatas for organ bears a subtitle ‘Il Girovago’ (the wanderer) and is inspired by a Giuseppe Ungharetti poem. The music picks up on themes of restlessness and loneliness as expressed in the poem. A highly energetic work, with only a moment of repose in the center movement, the sonata follows a fast-slow-fast formal structure. The movement titles, Allegro Impetuoso, Adagio Malinconico, Scherzo Frenetico, suitably identify the music they describe.

In August of 2010, in advance of a recital performance at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe on the Fisk Organ, the composer scored the Three New Mexico Sketches to be premiered on that recital program. The music is descriptive of the local surroundings in the Northern New Mexico desert landscape. The triptych forms a musical ‘day’ as suggested by the movement titles: By the Rio Grande at Dawn, In Chaco Canyon at Noon, At Dusk on the Plains of St. Agustin. The Rio Grande River, which flows from southern Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico, has been a consistent source of inspiration for artists for centuries. Chaco Canyon, a national historic site, is home to ruins of a great Anasazi culture which thrived in the area from 850 to 1250 AD. The Plains of San Agustin, near Socorro, New Mexico, are home to the Very Large Array (VLA) which is a significant radio astronomy observatory.

Septem Verba, for violin and organ, was completed in February of 2011 and premiered in Albuquerque during Holy Week observances at St. Luke in April of the same year. The music was composed for violin virtuoso and conductor David Felberg who played the first performances and is featured on this recording. For Good Friday, the parish at St. Luke typically hears the St. John passion narrative with interpolations. In past years such works as the Haydn Seven Last Words from the Cross or select arias from the Bach Passion Oratorios are used to compliment the reading in progress. In 2011, the composer, who serves as the Director of Music and Principal Organist for the parish, composed the Septem Verba for use in the Good Friday liturgy. The seven movements are titled with single Latin words emblematic of the emotional and physical anguish described in the crucifixion scene: Remissio (Father, forgive them…), Paradiso (today, in paradise…), Mulier (woman, behold your son…), Desero (Why have you abandoned me?…), Sitio (I thirst…), Perfectio (It is finished…), Commendo (I commit my spirit…). The seven movements are largely abstract works and are not based on any pre-existing material. There are two exceptions to this—movements three and seven each feature fragmentary quotes of plainchant: Ave Maria and In paradisum deducant te angeli