Musings from the Artistic Director

“Sound the Trumpet” – Bruckner and Jongen

Yesterday St. Martin’s Chamber Choir had our first rehearsal with Richard Robertson, the organist for our season finale concerts “Sound the Trumpet!”, which will feature the Joseph Jongen (1873-1953) Mass for brass, organ, and chorus; and several motets by Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) for similar forces.  And it is thrilling hearing the parts coming together.  The choir sounds marvelous, and I am gaining a deep appreciation for the Jongen Mass as a thrilling and exquisite piece of music.  It’s interesting to observe the roots of fame, neglect, obscurity, and the tendency for a composer to get “pigeon-holed” for one thing.  Jongen is one of those who had a brilliant career as a teacher and performer, writing much orchestral and chamber music that got performed in his lifetime to wide acclaim; yet his music fell into obscurity after his death, and he is now chiefly remembered for only a small part of his oeuvre – his works for organ.  His Symphonie Concertante is heard now and then, and considered by many to be the finest work for orchestra and organ in the repertoire.  Likewise, his Mass Op. 130 has been championed sporadically over the last half-century as a tour de force.  These partly explain his fate of being remembered as an organ composer, but one can’t help feeling it’s a bit unjust.

 It’s also interesting to juxtapose the rather Teutonic solidity of Bruckner’s motets to the Gallic finesse and lyricism of the Jongen.  Both reach rather thrilling climaxes; and both have moments of lush romantic harmonies couched in largely subdued dynamics; but the similarities end there.  Bruckner’s motivic development is much tighter and more satisfying (to me); but his music will come off to some as inflexibly forced when compared to the supple beauty of what will come after the intermission in the Belgian composer’s work.

The works by Bruckner are Afferentur regi (SATB, 3 trombones), Libera me (SSATB, organ, 3 trombones), Inveni David (TTBB, 3 trombones), Locus iste (SATB), Christus factus est (I) (SATB, div.), Christus factus est (II) (SSAATTBB, organ, 3 trombones), and Ecce sacerdos magnus (SSAATTBB, organ, 4 trombones); as well as two Aequale for 3 trombones.

 We collaborate with members of the justly famous Denver Brass.  Anyway, get your tickets now to what will be an exciting concert:  www.StMartinsChamberChoir.org/concerts, or call (303) 298-1970 for assistance.

Friday, May 19, 7:30 pm: Saint John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Denver
Sunday, May 21, 3:00 pm: Saint Paul Community of Faith, Denver