• Kenneth Leighton
  • Organ Concerto (1970)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • timpstr
  • organ
  • 21 min

Programme Note

Concerto for Organ, String Orchestra and Timpani, Op. 58

Lament - Toccata - Chorale and Variations

This work was composed during the summer of 1970, and uses the same medium as the well-known Concerto by Poulenc. It was first performed on 4 August 1971 by Robert Munns with the London Chamber Soloists, conducted by David Willcocks in King's College Chapel, Cambridge.

The first movement - Lament - is really in the form of a Passacaglia, but the ostinato here consists of three chords moving very slowly indeed, and first heard on the organ at the outset. The three chords persist throughout the movement in direct opposition to closely knit counterpoint on the strings, eventually dominating and reaching a climax in a great cluster. The music thus moves on two very separate levels, a third element being introduced in an ostinato figure on the timpani.

In the Toccata, an attempt is made to integrate the opposing forces in a mainly light Scherzo-like movement built on two distinct themes. Much use is made here of pizzicato string accompaniments, and the timpani returns with a variation of its ostinato from the first movement.

The Chorale and Variations form the most substantial movement. The opening string melody on low 'cellos is of importance is in the light of later developments, and also serves as string interludes between the opening statements of the chorale on the organ. The tempo quickens and a new contrapuntal section is set in motion by the organ leading into a continuous series of variations and a gradual rise in tension. This culminates in an organ cadenza which alternates with high and vibrant statements of the chorale on strings (the roles of organ and strings being now reversed).

Finally there is an extended Andante in which the lyrical potentialities of the opening 'cello theme are fully exploited, leading eventually back to a triumphant version of three-chord ostinato of the first movement.

© Kenneth Leighton

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