Musical Meditations

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Come and join us on Fifth Avenue this Holy Week for two free concerts: the first presented on Monday by our own Assistant Organist Stephen Buzard and the second on Tuesday by the Dodd String Quartet.

No Tickets or Reservations Required for either of these events but donations are requested

Monday, March 30

SYMPHONIA ELEGIACA, Op. 83 – Camil van Hulse
Stephen Buzard organ

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, Stephen Buzard will play the rarely heard Symphonia Elegiaca by the Belgian-American organist and composer, Camil van Hulse (1897-1988). Born in Belgium, van Hulse served in the war, suffering severe lung damage from exposure to poison gas and tuberculosis. Seeking the therapeutic desert air, Van Hulse moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1923 where he built his career as an organist, composer, church musician, and founding conductor of the Tucson Symphony.

Constructing the work on material borrowed from the Requiem mass, van Hulse dedicated the symphony to the American impresario, Bernard R. La Berge, who died on December 28, 1951, after devoting his life to the advancement of organ music. The work is at once virtuosic and contemplative, exciting and meditative. In style, it is stark and modernist like Stravinsky, yet with the liturgical sensibility of Duruflé – a unique, yet neglected voice of the organ repertoire. American organist Claire Coci premiered the work on April 12, 1954 at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York.

Stephen Buzard, Assistant Organist at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, holds degrees from Yale University and Westminster Choir College where he studied organ with Thomas Murray and Ken Cowan and improvisation with Jeffrey Brillhart and Bruce Neswick. He has a solo recording available on the Delos label, featuring works by Mendelssohn, Schubert, Paulus, Vierne, Howells, and Reubke.

Tuesday, March 31

The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour On the Cross (German:Die sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze) is an orchestral work by Joseph Haydn, commissioned in 1785 or 1786 for the Good Friday service at Cádiz Cathedral in Spain. The composer adapted it for string quartet in 1787.
The seven main meditative sections—labelled “sonatas” and all slow—are framed by an Introduction and a speedy “Earthquake” conclusion, for a total of nine movements. Haydn himself explained the origin and difficulty of writing the work when the publisher Breitkopf & Härtel issued (in 1801) a new edition and requested a preface:

Some fifteen years ago I was requested by a canon of Cádiz to compose instrumental music on the Seven Last Words of Our Savior On the Cross. It was customary at the Cathedral of Cádiz to produce an oratorio every year during Lent, the effect of the performance being not a little enhanced by the following circumstances. The walls, windows, and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only one large lamp hanging from the centre of the roof broke the solemn darkness. At midday, the doors were closed and the ceremony began. After a short service the bishop ascended the pulpit, pronounced the first of the seven words (or sentences) and delivered a discourse thereon. This ended, he left the pulpit and fell to his knees before the altar. The interval was filled by music. The bishop then in like manner pronounced the second word, then the third, and so on, the orchestra following on the conclusion of each discourse. My composition was subject to these conditions, and it was no easy task to compose seven adagios lasting ten minutes each, and to succeed one another without fatiguing the listeners; indeed, I found it quite impossible to confine myself to the appointed limits.

Formed in 2007, The Dodd String Quartet is one of the very few quartets today performing on period instruments. Focusing on the 100 years that saw the birth and subsequent evolution of the string quartet, the Quartet enjoys exploring rarely performed works along side the glorious mainstays of the quartet repertoire. Named for the great English family of bow makers whose designs spanned the evolution from the baroque bow into the modern bow in use today, the Quartet’s repertoire reflects the musical developments of this same age, from the late Baroque through early Romanticism.

In the brief time since its inception, the Quartet has performed in the United States and Europe to critical and popular acclaim – from Crested Butte, CO to Wiesbaden, Germany, and in a variety of venues in the NYC area, such as Merkin Concert Hall, the Times Center, and the Mark Morris Dance Center, and on a variety of concert series, including Salon Sanctuary, Friends of Mozart, and Midtown Concerts.

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