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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67317
Recording details: October 2001
Truro Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Paul Spicer
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: June 2002
Total duration: 32 minutes 58 seconds

'A beautiful sense of intimacy and privacy pervades; nothing is hurried, nothing overdone … This is a superb disc' (Gramophone)

'the programming works exceptionally well … Herrick gives a compelling performance' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Herrick’s performances offer not only state-of-the-art sound, but the sounds of a quite special British organ' (Fanfare, USA)

Eleven Choral Preludes, Op 122

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Brahms spent the summer of 1896, his last, at Ischl in Upper Austria. In the previous few years he had lost a great many of his closest friends, including the pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow and the scholar Philip Spitta, but perhaps the cruellest loss was that of Clara Schumann, who had succumbed to a stroke in May. The gruelling forty-hour journey which he undertook to attend her funeral undoubtedly took its toll on his own health; the liver cancer that would end his life in April of the following year was already far advanced, and he spent much of his time putting his affairs in order. It was at Ischl that he composed his last music, the Eleven Chorale Preludes, Op 122. It is intensely private music, and while certain of the chorales he chose treat of death, the collection is not exclusively to do with endings. In fact, the best-known item, Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen, is concerned with a most important beginning – the birth of the Saviour. Even in the pieces about death, particularly the final setting of O Welt ich muss dich lassen the emphasis is on the bliss and transcendence which will come beyond mortal life. Although in a letter he did refer to them as being not for publication, he did not destroy the manuscript as he had done much other material, and he did have a fair copy made of the first seven preludes; his friend and editor Mandyczewski took this as an indication that he may have been planning to add further pieces. They were finally published in 1902.

(1) Mein Jesu, der du mich (‘My Jesus, you who have chosen me for eternal delight’): Cantus firmus in the pedal with imitative interludes in the manuals, in motet style.

(2) Herzliebster Jesu (‘Beloved Jesus, how have you offended’): Lightly decorated chorale melody in upper part with expressive motivic working underneath, in a style reminiscent of the Orgelbüchlein.

(3) O Welt, ich muss dich lassen (‘O world, I must leave you’) (first setting): Again cantus firmus in upper part, but this time with brief interludes. A richly chromatic sighing motif in accompaniment.

(4) Herzlich tut mich erfreuen (‘I am deeply gladdened by the lovely summertime’): Melody in top part with more extended interludes. The figuration is somewhat pianistic with typically Brahmsian cross-rhythms.

(5) Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele (‘Bedeck yourself, O dear soul’): Unadorned chorale melody in upper part with two free-flowing contrapuntal lines underneath.

(6) O wie selig seid ihr doch, ihr Frommen (‘Oh, how blessed you are, you godly ones’): Similar to previous number but the accompanying texture is fuller and more harmonically based.

(7) O Gott, du frommer Gott (‘O God, you benevolent God’): Another movement in motet style in which the chorale migrates between the different voices.

(8) Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen (‘A rose has arisen from a tender root’): Unlike all the other preludes in the set there is no obvious Bach model for this setting. It is a harmonic meditation on the chorale in a consistent four-part texture (until the last bar) – the chorale is rendered virtually undetectable by the constant use of expressive appoggiaturas.

(9) Herzlich tut mich verlangen (‘ I deeply long for a blissful end’) (first setting): Decorated melody in upper voice with motivic working underneath.

(10) Herzlich tut mich verlangen (second setting): Cantus firmus in pedal with flowing semiquaver accompaniment.

(11) O Welt, ich muss dich lassen (second setting): A relatively straightforward harmonisation of the lines of the chorale, broken up by answering phrases which echo the final notes of each line.

from notes by Stephen Westrop © 2002

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