• John McCabe
  • Dies Resurrectionis (1963)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned for the new Manchester University organ

  • organ
  • 7 min

Programme Note

Dies Resurrectionis (1963)

During the first half of the 1960s I wrote a substantial number of organ works, largely because a number of my friends were organists who asked me to write for them, and as a young composer this was a splendid way of getting performances as well as exploring the potentialities of a remarkably versatile instrument - a veritable orchestra in itself, though not (in my view) a replacement for an orchestra but rather a different kind of one. One of these friends was Gordon Thorne, who gave the première of a massive Sinfonia I wrote in 1961 - when he was invited to give a recital in the inaugural series of concerts on the new Manchester University organ in 1963, he commissioned to me to write a piece for the occasion, and Dies Resurrectionis was the result.

Gordon recalls that he asked me for a toccata "and received one with more serious content". I felt unable to restrain my innate desire for detailed structure and thematic integration, and thus produced a work which, though relatively short (about 6-7 minutes), is in three linked movements, all based on the motto theme heard in the pedals in the opening Maestoso section. The three sections follow almost a traditional sonata outline, with an opening Allegretto (Filius mortuus) of somewhat toccata-like character, a central slow part (Filius in sepulchro), and a faster final section (Filius resurrectus) which, with its irregular rhythms and C major chord punctuations, most closely resembles a straightforward toccata (though one organist described as like a crazy tango). The final chord combines the tonalities of C major and F sharp major which are at the heart of the work.

© Copyright 2001 by John McCabe