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Programme Note

Adagio for Strings, Op. 11
Chorale for a New Organ
Chorale Prelude on "Silent Night" from Die Natali, Op. 37
Prelude and Fugue for Organ
Suite for Carillon
To Longwood Gardens
Wondrous Love. Op. 34

Notes on the Music
Previously Unpublished Works

Chorale for a New Organ
Composed for the new Kilgen organ at Westminister Presbyterian Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania on August 29, 1936. Premiered in 1936 by Westminister Presbyterian organist Ruth Thomas.1 With twenty-three bars, Chorale for a New Organ is easily Barber's shortest organ work. It possesses a charming individuality and refreshing harmonic language, which adds another strain to Barber's flourishing earlier style, if only in miniature. Chorale for a New Organ can be easily performed on an instrument of just one manual.

Prelude and Fugue for Organ
Composed in 1927 during Barber's student days at the Curtis Institute of Music. While a student of Rosario Scalero he came into contact with Carl Weinrich, later Director of Music at Princeton University Chapel and an editor of many contemporary organ works. After showing the work to George Antheil in Vienna, Prelude and Fugue for Organ was premiered by Weinrich at Curtis on December 10, 1928.3

The prelude is written in the style of a trio. Indeed, the rhythmic ostinato figure in the pedals almost suggests a string trio, save for the expansive ranges of the manual parts. Marked Andante, molto sostenuto, the steady 3/4 quarter-note pulse in the pedal anchors a hauntingly beautiful duet above. As with the subsequent fugue, the manual range is quite large and requires at least a two-manual instrument in order to avoid collision of hands. The prelude is largely written in the style of a tonal canon with brief alternating interludes that occasionally employ imitation. The chromatic harmony brings to mind the later organ of works of Brahms and the more simply textured pieces of Reger.

The writing in the fugue is generally idiomatic for the instrument with the exception of some large stretches for the right hand of a thirteenth at bar 22 and elevenths at bars 24 and 54. These intervals present some obstacle to maintaining the legato touch this style of piece seems to engender. This can be accommodated by the early release of the upper voice in deference to the subject heard below. Registration markings were added to Barber's manuscript of the fugue by Scalero.1 It is difficult to tell whether the registrations for the prelude came from Barber, Scalero, or Weinrich as they appear in different hands in the manuscript. However, irrespective of who notated or influenced the registration markings, the information provided allows the modern performer a glance towards the performance practice of the day. The registrations show that this piece is in a constant, if not symphonic, sense of aural transition and development.

To Longwood Gardens
In April 1925, Barber wrote his first organ work To Longwood Gardens and dedicated it to Mr. and Mrs. Pierre S. du Pont, as a thank you for the concerts he had attended at their home, Longwood Gardens. Along with a copy of the score, Barber sent a letter to Mr. du Pont in which he describes the piece, explaining that the work is constructed around the idea of a visitor entering Longwood, and the visitor's thoughts at the conservatory. He explains how the piece begins with a chorale akin to one written or improvised by the past organ masters. The visitor's thoughts wander in confusion when confronted with all the beauty of the garden, and Barber reflects this in the music that follows the chorale. Now calm and collected, the visitor listens to bird calls in the garden. At the conclusion of the work, Barber states that he paints a picture of the visitor leaving the garden, having found a new sense of peace.2

Firmen Swinnen first performed the piece at Longwood Gardens on May 10, 1925. Swinnen had been organist at Antwerp Cathedral until the outbreak of war, when he moved first to the UK and then ultimately to the US. He became organist at the Radio Theatre in New York City and later the Rivoli Theater. In the age of the silent film, Swinnen was a noted exponent in the art of improvisation. The new Aeolian organ at Longwood would have been a special delight in this regard, with stops ranging from celestas and harp to a full range of orchestral colors.

While the nature of the house organ may seem extraordinary to the modern reader, it is worth noting that in the early twentieth century they were a regular feature in homes of the wealthy. For instance, in New York City the well-known names of Carnegie, Cartier, Gershwin, Romberg, Schwab, Tiffany, Vanderbilt, and Woolworth all had instruments installed in their residences, as did dozens of other prominent families.

Barber's Longwood letter, referenced above, helps us understand that this early by substantial work is an especially sectional one. That said, while not in any sense a symphonic poem, it is clearly a piece intended to be full of aural imagery that is replete with contrast and no leanness of creative spirit.

Barber's understanding of the instrument, as in later works, is well developed. All notes are clearly written within range and, with the rarest of exceptions, there is a keen understanding of organ technique. Although Barber did benefit from instruction in the organ, there is no evidence that it was lengthy or that a substantial amount of repertoire was studied. However, all the essential ingredients towards composition are found in this early piece. The only curious fact emerges in relation to Barber's hand-written comments, when he notes in the letter to du Pont that he has written the registrations in the score. The manuscript actually bears only minor suggestions for organ registration. The employment of the harp stop is specified as are the dynamics, but no more. This is in marked contrast, to the Prelude and Fugue for Organ, which was registered in some detail.

— Iain Quinn

Published Works

Adagio for Strings, Op. 11
Adagio for Strings originated in Barber's String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11 (1936-38). The composer arranged a movement for string orchestra and it was premiered by Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra in New York City on a November 5, 2938 radio broadcast. In 9139, organist William Strickland met Barber in New York. At the time of their meeting, Strickland was assistant organist at St. Bartholomew's Church. He conducted an early performance of Barber's choral work A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map, Op. 15 at the Army Music School in Fort Myers, Virginia, in 1942. At first uninterested when Strickland proposed an organ transcription of Adagio, Barber wrote him on August 15, 1945 and allowed the organ arrangement, which was published by G. Schirmer in 1949.3

Chorale Prelude on "Silent Night" from Die Natali, Op. 37
The orchestral work Die Natali was commissioned in 1054 by Koussevitzky Music Foundation in conjunction with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Busy at work on his opera Vanessa, it would take Barber six years to complete Die Natali. The full orchestra piece was premiered by Charled Münch and the Boston Symphony Orchestra on December 22, 1969 in Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts. The work is comprised of themes stemming from Christmas carols, including "Silent Night." Barber particularly liked the variations on "Silent Night," and transcribed the Chorale Prelude on "Silent Night" for organ in 1961.1

Suite for Carillon
The carillon is a stationary set of large, chromatically tuned bells that are typically hung in a tower and played from a key-board and petal board. Between 1929-1933, the Curtis Institute of Music sent students to the Bok Singing Tower at the Mountain Lakes bird sanctuary in Lake Wales, Florida, to study carillon. The Bok Towers Gardens, on the estate of Edward and Mary Curtis Bok, were constructed in 1927. While at the Singing Tower, Berber took lessons from carillonneur Anton Brees and composed his Suite for Carillon.3 The suite was commissioned by Edward Bok, husband of Mary Curtis Bok, founder of the Curtis Institute of Music. The first and fourth movements were performed by Anton Brees on the carillon at Bok Tower Gardens on April 4th, 1931.1 Subsequent movements were added, with the suite completed in 1932 and published in 1934. The suite had been included in this collection because it lends itself to performance on the organ.

Wondrous Love, Op. 34
Composed 1957-October 1958.1 Commissioned by Christ Episcopal Church, Grosse Point, Michigan, for the inauguration of their new three-manual Walter Holtkamp organ. Dedicated to Richard Roeckelein, the organist of the church, and premiered by him there on October 19, 1958. Barber based his piece on the shape-note hymn with S.M. Denson's 1911 added alto line has been retained and appears on page 36 of this collection.

— Joel K. Boyd
1 Barbara Heyman, A Comprehensive Thematic Catalog of the Works of Samuel Barber (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, manuscript copy consulted prior to publication.
2 Samuel Barber, Excerpt from Letter to Mr. du Pont, 1925 (Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE)
3 Barbara Heyman, Samuel Barber: The Composer and His Music (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1992)