William Albright: Organ Works
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCRL277     Release Date: 2010-09-15
William Albright, organ; Marilyn Mason, organ

My first major organ work, Juba (1965), could easily be numbered among those works indebted to Messiaen. The treatment of color and even some of the musical elements show the influence of such large scale works as Messe de la Pentecôte (1950) and Livre d'orgue (1951). The writing is frankly virtuoso, highly chromatic, but with elements of lyricism. The most difficult passages are those that reflect the restrained rage of the organ - a caged beast bellow - in frustration and anger. By contrast, the long middle section is a series of gently rising four-note chords, each one successively shorter in duration. Underpinning the progression is a six- note drone either held by an assistant or fixed in place by pencils; the free hand and the feet lace the texture with roulades and melodies.

Pneuma, a composition of the following year, is one of a number of organ works commissioned by Marilyn Mason, a brilliant performer of new music. To a large extent the work explores the relations and points of tangency between a totally chromatic (atonal) approach and a strongly tonal one. For example, in fast passages that seem superficially atonal, the individual elements are most often familiar tonal devices: major-minor triads, scales and arpeggios. The intention of this and other mixing was to find a dynamic tension in the opposition of various sound-worlds and a strong formal motivation in their resolution.

Whereas the above pieces tend toward dynamic, closed forms with sharp juxtapositions and conflicts within their relatively brief lengths, Organbook (1967) deals with four static situations in the same number of movements. The title, an adaptation of the French Baroque term Livre d'orgue, implies a collection of relatively short works, each of which deals with a sonoral aspect of the instrument and a particular type of composition. As with many organ collections, the individual titles of the movements are pious and, in this case, semi-religious. Benediction employs only the softest sounds of the organ: flutes, strings, celestes. They are unrolled in expansive harmonies, the slow motion and dynamics of which allow an appreciation of the beauties of organ sound. Melisma is basically a single line, expanded and exaggerated beyond recognition. Scalar lines are transformed into handfuls of cluster glissandi, fast notes suddenly become static chords. The registration is soft and flutey. Fanfare is a demonically fast toccata-like movement using full organ. Recessional is atmospheric with a distorted perspective: a rich and lush wall of sound containing tonal windows. The influence of Charles Ives is apparent throughout.
-William Albright


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William Albright

William Albright: Organ Works

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Track Listing

Organbook: I. Benediction
William Albright
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Organbook: II. Melisma
William Albright
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Organbook: III. Fanfare
William Albright
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Organbook: IV. Recessional
William Albright
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Juba
William Albright
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Pneuma
William Albright
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