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Naji Hakim

Organ of Glenalmond College
Naji Hakim (organ)
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Label: Signum Classics
Recording details: June 2007
Glenalmond College, Scotland
Produced by Paul Baxter
Engineered by Paul Baxter
Release date: July 2008
Total duration: 71 minutes 53 seconds

The premiere recording of two of Naji Hakim’s latest works entitled Sakskøbing Præludier and Glenalmond Suite are performed by the composer himself in this fantastic collection of organ works.

Hakim arranged this programme to articulate the timbres of the new 26 stop organ at Glenalmond College, including works by Grigny, Boëllmann and Franck as well as opening with Te Deum, one of the most famous pieces by Jean Langlais.


'The playing is beautifully polished, the organ sound is natural and engrossing and the booklet full of interest' (Gramophone)
The French virtuoso organist, composer and improviser Naji Subhy Paul Irénée Hakim, born in Beirut, 31 October 1955, studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Falcinelli and others, gaining seven premiers prix in harmony, counterpoint, fugue, orchestration, analysis, organ and improvisation. He came to international prominence winning the organ competitions at Beauvais (1981), Haarlem (1982), Lyon, Nuremberg and St Albans (1983), and Rennes and Strasbourg (1984). Hakim was appointed organist of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur in Paris (1985-93), and in 1993 succeeded Messiaen as organist of La Trinité. Professor of musical analysis at the Conservatoire National de Région de Boulogne- Billancourt, he taught formerly at the Schola Cantorum, Paris (1986-88), and since 1993 has been visiting professor of organ, improvisation and composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London. During 2004 he was Composer-in-Residence at Trinity College of Music, Greenwich. A member of the Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae in Rome and holder of a doctorate honoris causa from the Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik, Lebanon, he received the Holy Cross Pro ecclesia et pontifice from Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, the highest lay decoration for services to the Church awarded by the Vatican. A prolific composer, in the French tradition of his teachers, Hakim’s catalogue includes symphonic works, four organ concertos (1988, 2000, 2003, 2007), a violin concerto (2002), Fantaisie Celtique for piano and orchestra (1985), an oratorio, Saul de Tarse (1991), a Magnificat (1991), three masses (1994, 1995, 1999, the last commissioned by the Dean and Chapter of Manchester Cathedral), and various instrumental and chamber items. His organ Symphony in Three Movements (1984) gained the Prix de Composition des Amis de l’Orgue; and The Embrace of Fire triptych (1986) the Anton Heiller Prize in America. In 1991 he won the André Caplet Composition Prize (Académie des Beaux-Arts). He’s also found time to write four books: Anthologie musicale pour l’analyse de la forme (1991), Guide pratique d’analyse musicale (1995), The Improvisation Companion (2000), Guide pratique d’improvisation (2001)—the first two with his wife, the musicologist and organist Marie-Bernadette Dufourcet.

Sakskøbing Præludier (2005)
Excluding the first number, these pieces draw on chorales from a CD compilation, Salmer til tiden (Hymns of Our Time), initiated by Pastor Hanne Margrethe Tougaard and the organist Flemming Chr. Hansen and released under the auspices of the town Church, Sakskøbing, South Denmark. (Hakim inaugurated the Church’s 58-stop three-manual Allen Quantum digital organ in June 2005.) Two versions exist, for (a) organ solo, and (b) chamber ensemble (flute, clarinet, bassoon, harp, violin, viola, cello). ‘Within an ecumenical framework,’ the composer says, ‘the Preludes pay homage to the Sakskøbing parish, its organist and pastor,’ each reflecting the inherent contrasts within ‘the poetic lines of the hymns, the theological axis that underlies them, and the liturgical time-scale they represent. They belong as much to a sacred context as a secular one’. He writes: ‘(1) Mit hjerte altid vanker (Always my heart wanders to the birthplace of Jesus) develops a dancing motion around the chorale by Carl Nielsen [1919, after Hans Adolph Brorson 1732: “Always my heart wanders/To the birthplace of Jesus,/There gather all my thoughts;/There my longing has a home,/There my faith finds its treasure;/I can never forget you,/Sweet Christmas night!”]. Chimes, melismas, [Near Eastern] aksak rhythms (3+2+2) or toccata style set the dominant colour of the cycle, emerging out of the joy of Christmas. Expressive harmonies accompany the declamation of the tenor in (2) Nærmere, Gud, tildig (Nearer, my God, to Thee). In (3) O Gud, du ved og kinder (O God, Thou knowest) the cantus is counterpointed by a perpetuum mobile, creating an image of the confident Christian carried upwards by a compelling stream in the steps of Christ. (4) At sige verden ret farvel (The last farewell to life on earth) is an expressive, chromaticised meditation facing the torments of death and the mystery of Redemption. (5) Hil dig, Frelser og Forsoner! (Hail You, Saviour and Atoner!) illustrates the loving and grateful drive of the Christian soul towards the Crucified, Saviour and Consoler. Eternal Joy in Christ may be pictured in the perpetuum mobile of the central section. Serenity and light frame the majestic tenor declamation in (6) Den mørke nat forgangen er (The gloomy night to morning yields). Based on a Swedish popular melody, (7) Nu blomstertiden kommer (Now the flowers are blooming) offers a cheerful, dancing thanksgiving in praise of the Creator. The Danish Easter chorale par excellence, Påskeblomst! Hvad vil du her? (Paschal Flow’r! why do you care to come forth?) [additionally the source of Hakim’s Påskeblomst for string orchestra or quartet (2005)] is recollected harmonically in (8), with an ascending cadential progression and a crescendo culminating in the splendour of the Resurrection. The overflowing joy of (9) Op, al den ting, som Gud har gjort (Arise, all things that God has made) recalls the character of the first movement, as well as the thrust of Psalm 150: “Let all that breathes praise the Lord”. (10) O kristelighed! (O thou, image of Christ!) is a peaceful paraphrase conjugating ABA form with ornamental variation. The lighter writing of (11) Så vældigt det mødte os først I vor dåb (How wonderful, that the Word first met us in baptism) symbolises the baptismal water and the Beloved encountered. (12) Befal du dine veje (Commit thy way [unto God]) provides a popular, festive conclusion, joyously exuberant.’ Thecollection, premiered integrally in Bensberg, Westphalia, 28 May 2006, is dedicated to Flemming Chr. Hansen.

Glenalmond Suite (2007)
Hebrews 13, 20-21: ‘Now the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen’. Inscribed to Pastor Hanne Margrethe Tougaard, this Suite was commissioned by Glenalmond College to mark the inauguration of their Harrison & Harrison organ in June 2007. The composer writes: ‘In the same way that the Pastor’s mission is to gather the community, and to go forth, such as the Good Shepherd, to find the sheep that have gone astray, so the bell’s mission is to summon the faithful to Assembly, to reach out to the farthest ones, to wake the sleeping ones, and to stimulate the indifferent. My Suite is based on the chime of Glemalmond College’s clock tower. The music prolongs the Christian symbolism of bells to comment on biblical quotations referring to the Good Shepherd. The opening movement, Strømmende (Streaming), develops the chime melody in cantabile style but with a lively coda. Psalm 23, 1- 2: ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.’ In the second movement, Favnende (Embracing), the theme unfolds against ostinato figures and dark harmonic colouring. The middle section, scherzando, prepares for a clear diatonic recapitulation. Matt. 18, 12-13 ‘If a man have a hundred sheep and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if it so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more over that sheep than over the ninety and nine which went not astray’. Smilende (Smiling) is characterised by light textures and registration (flutes 4 and manuals alone). Psalm 23, 5: ‘Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.’ Jublende (Jubilating) is a more evolved movement combining rondo-sonata and variation forms. Psalm 23, 6: ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’

Improvisation (2007)
‘Artistic activity consists of both intuition and calculation,’ Hakim maintains. ‘The artist should aim for a certain balance between the two; for a reflection nourished by experience and instinct, the fruit of grace, “When reason is silent instinct will answer you” (Lamartine). Improvisation offers ground for such a balance. Instrumental mastery is a prerequisite for the improviser, on the levels of virtuosity, of knowledge of the expressive possibilities of the instrument, and of live performance. It involves an awareness of primary melody (Hauptstimme) and secondary melodic lines (Nebenstimmen), rhythmic development and elements of harmonic tension and relaxation. All the world’s civilisations and cultures have known improvisation, whether as the sole form of musical expression (eg in various Eastern traditions) or, as in the case of Western music, as the primary basis or preparation for a written work. Moreover, the history of music provides us with many examples of composers, from Bach to Stravinsky, who were noted for their improvisational mastery […] Being a particular form of human expression, Art should reflect emotional sensibility through the prism of the work. To attain to the poetic grace of the artistic gesture in improvisation, it is not enough to apply harmonic progressions, contrapuntal rules, formal diagrams, combinations of timbres or tricks of the trade. All technical aspects must rather be made subject to authentic compositional reflection in real-time, organized according to the three steps already referred to, ie consideration of the material, its absorption and lastly its commentary. The improviser will then be able to project an artistic thought through the evolutions of a theme so as to bring about the magical transfiguration of a moment in time’ (‘Principles of Improvisation’, Church Music Quarterly, July 2001). The present example, bordering on grand old-world fantasy, takes for its main subjects John Newton’s Amazing Grace (1772), the anonymous shaper-note hymn New Britain (1829/1835), and Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne (1788) in its traditional Scots dress. The theatrically climactic combination of the two pentatonic melodies is a heroic tour-de-force.

Jean Langlais Te Deum Op 5 No 3 (1933-34)
Born in Britanny near Mont-Saint-Michel and blind from the age of two, Langlais, Hakim’s teacher, studied with Albert Mahaut (a Franck disciple), André Marchal, Marcel Dupré, Tournemire (improvisation), and Dukas (composition). He taught at the Schola Cantorum (1961-76), and succeeded Franck and Tournemire as the post-war organist at Sainte-Clotilde (1945-87). Master of the Cavaillé-Coll, his organ works stand supreme among the great classics of the twentieth century French school. The Hymne d’actions de grâce ‘Te Deum’ comprises the third movement of the early Trois Paraphrases Grégoriennes.

Nicholas de Grigny Récit de tierce en taille (1699)
Grigny, towards the end of his brief life organist at Notre-Dame de Reims, was one of the high contrapuntalists of the French baroque, admired particularly by the young Bach (who copied out his only surviving work, the Premier livre d’orgue contenant une messe et les hymnes des principalles festes de l’année, engraved in Paris in 1699).

César Franck Choral No 3 in A minor M40 (1890)
French music before the First World War, noted Ravel, was a severely partisan, factional phenomenon, divided broadly into two opposing schools. ‘The Old comprises the disciples of César Franck [d’Indy, the Schola Cantorumites, Duparc, Dukas], and Claude Debussy may justly be considered the principal initiator of the New’ (Cahiers d’aujourd’hui, February 1913). Artistic crossover and the open admiration of one for the other wasn’t discouraged though—witness Debussy in the Easter issue of Gil Blas (13 April 1903). ‘In Franck we find a real devotion to music. We must take it or leave it. Nothing in the world could have made him alter any part he considered right and necessary, however long it may have been—we just have to sit through it […] César Franck serves music without seeking any glory. What he takes from life, he puts back into art with a modesty that is almost selfless.’ Tournemire thought the late Third Choral to be ‘the simplest’ of the series. Structurally, it follows a broad tripartite scheme: Exposition (toccata/chorale)—Middle Section (‘seraphic’ subject/development)—Reprise (chorale).

Léon Boëllmann Prière à Notre-Dame Op 25 No 3 (1895)
Boëllmann from Alsace studied at the École Niedermeyer, working subsequently as choir organist, cantor and organiste titulaire at the church of St Vincent de Paul in Paris. The tranquil Prière à Notre-Dame in A flat major comes from the Suite Gothique.

'Day-to-day we set great store by the timeless qualities that have their roots firmly in the British tradition: courtesy, honesty, integrity, modesty and a respect for others are values that we uphold in all that we aim to achieve’ (Gordon Woods, Warden). This CD is a ‘live’ recording of Naji Hakim’s concert inaugurating the Harrison & Harrison in the Chapel of Glenalmond College, 10 June 2007. Glenalmond, an independent boarding school set imperiously in over 300 acres at the foot of the Grampians in Perthshire & Kinross, ‘north of the Firth of Forth, and removed from the vicinity of any large town,’ was founded by William Gladstone and James Robert Hope in 1847: ‘a College to be called The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, which may receive and board a large number, say ultimately 150 to 200 youths from eight to eighteen years of age, and also afford a sound Clerical Education to young men destined for Holy Orders’. The first Warden was the Rev Charles Wordsworth, a nephew of the poet. Ogs have included some celebrated names—the 9th Earl of Elgin, Viceroy of India, Baron Falconer of Thoroton, the actor Robbie Coltrane, the wit and humorist Miles Kington, film director Kevin Macdonald, and the ITN newscaster Sandy Gall. Central to the multi-faceted musical life of the College is the Chapel. Built in consultation with Glenalmond’s Music Director, Robert Gower, and the organ adviser Paul Hale, the new 26-stop twomanual and pedal tracker organ on the north wall replaces the original 1880s Forster & Andrews instrument accidentally flooded and terminally damaged during re-roofing of the Chapel. The casework takes as its starting point a 1954 design by Basil Spence, the architect responsible not only for the re-ordering of the Chapel Gallery but also the purpose-built Music School and concert auditorium opened in 1963.

Ateş Orga © 2008

I chose the repertoire for the opening recital of the Glenalmond College instrument having in mind the stylistic flexibility and great elegance of Harrison & Harrison organs. As 2007 was the centenary year of my master and friend Jean Langlais, I decided to open the programme with one of his most famous pieces—Te Deum—on the Tutti of the organ, followed by works of Grigny, Boëllmann and Franck, articulating the programme to put in relief the colours of the instrument, such as mutations, flutes, voix céleste, foundations and reeds. The Sakskøbing Præludier, based on Danish hymns, are the prolongation of my credo, and, along with the Glenalmond Suite, are recorded here for the very first time.

The 26 stop two manual Harrison & Harrison tracker organ 2007

Pedal organ
1. Open Diapason 16
2. Sub Bass 16
3. Principal 8
4. Flute 8
5. Gemshorn 4
6. Trombone 16

I Great to Pedal
II Swell to Pedal

Great organ
7. Bourdon 16
8. Open Diapason 8
9. Stopped Diapason 8
10. Principal 4
11. Open Flute 4
12. Nazard 22/3
13. Fifteenth 2
14. Tierce 13/5
15. Mixture IV
16. Trumpet 8

III Tremulant
IV Swell to Great

Swell organ
17. Open Diapason 8
18. Rohr Gedackt 8
19. Salicional 8
20. Voix Céleste (tenor c) 8
21. Gemshorn 4
22. Nason Flute 4
23. Flageolet 2
24. Mixture IV
25. Contra Fagotto 16
26. Cornopean 8

V Tremulant

Eight general pistons and general cancel
Eight foot pistons to Pedal
Eight pistons to Great
Eight pistons to Swell (duplicated by foot pistons)
Eight divisional and 64 general memory levels
Reversible pistons: Great to Pedal, Swell to Pedal, Swell to Great
Reversible foot pistons: Great to pedal, Swell to Great
Stepper, operating general pistons in sequence
Combination couplers: Great & Pedal pistons, Generals on Swell foot pistons

About Glenalmond College
Founded by W.E. Gladstone and others in 1847, Glenalmond College is a co-educational full boarding and day school integrating a sense of heritage with a 21st century working life. Enjoying a campus of 300 acres surrounded by a setting of unique beauty, the school provides a complete education, balancing academic work of the highest standard with an extensive range of creative, sporting, social and adventure activities. Stemming from its tradition of daily Chapel for the whole school, Glenalmond enjoys an enviable reputation for the strength of its choral life. Glenalmond is a registered Scottish Charity (SC006123). A range of scholarships, together with means-tested bursaries provides for a potential full remission of fees, enabling the widest access to its educational opportunities.


Naji Hakim © 2007

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