St Petersburg, Concert Hall

Alain. Butsko. Ledenyov. Guillou. Bartók. Karev. Vustin

III New Horizons festival

Evening of organ music
Jehan Alain. Fantaisie No 2
Yuri Butsko. Counterpoint No 4 from Polyphonic Concerto.
Toccata from Big Organ Book
Roman Ledenyov. Mini Suite
Jean Guillou. L’Oiseau bleu. Saga No 2
Béla Bartók. Romanian Dances transcribed for organ by André Isoir
Leonid Karev. Impromptu Dedication
Alexander Vustin. White Music
Leonid Karev. Apocryphal Pictures

Organ Disposition >>

Jehan Alain (1911–1940) was a French composer and organist who studied at the Paris Conservatoire under outstanding teachers – the organist Marcel Dupré and the composer Paul Dukas. He served as the organist of Paris’ Église Saint Nicholas (1935 – 1939). At the age of twenty-nine, he died on the front during the Second World War, leaving behind him a legacy of works for organ and piano and choral and chamber pieces which were written between 1929 and 1939.
The composer’s creative legacy includes various styles and genres. His language shows the influence of Messiaen and Debussy as well as the capriciousness of the Renaissance and a unique “baroque quality”, an attraction to the expressive means of eastern cultures. Alain’s compositions are written in the dramatic language of the last century, the lexis of which combines rejoinders of “the personal” with the powerful dissonance of the world and bursts of general exultation. The composer’s main works for organ include Litanies, Trois Danses and two Fantaisies (1934, 1936).

Yuri Butsko (born 1938) is a professor of the Moscow Conservatoire, a teacher and a composer. He has written many works in various styles, including operas, symphonies, oratorios, cantatas, chamber works, film music and music for organ. Yuri Butsko was one of the first who consciously turned to the world of resolute faith and eternal moral truths and to the melodies of Ancient Russian chants. Polyphonic Concerto for four keyboard instruments (organ, harpsichord, piano and celesta) to themes of a glorious chant (1969) is a monumental fresco that takes almost three hours to perform. In the composition as a whole, the organ performs one of the leading roles. The concerto dates from the “glory days” of the composer’s work. The themes of the glorious refrain quoted in the work have a deeply symbolic sound and, at the same time, they form material for the composer’s brilliant polyphonic work. Grand Organ Book (2003) is unique among organ works written by Yuri Butsko in Russia. The integral musical space of the work is linked with motifs of Ancient Russian song from the Orthodox tradition. The unique integrity of the genre and of its interpretation are presented in the Toccata, where recitative refrains from the requiem Remember, Oh Lord, the souls of Your deceased servants sound like a distant memory of passing antiquity.

Roman Ledenyov (born 1930) is a composer, teacher and professor at the Moscow Conservatoire. He has written orchestral and chamber works, choral compositions and music for cinema, TV films and theatre productions. One of the central themes of the composer’s work is Russian nature. According to the composer, the greatest miracles and impressions in life are connected with examples of this. The composer could also be called both a neo-romantic and a traditionalist, and even a minimalist to some extent. Having mastered the dodecaphonic technique, he approached diatonic “new simplicity” using elements of Russian folklore. Ledenyov’s canvases of sound are filled with an inner light, a lofty beauty, sincerity and crystal purity; they are noteworthy for their unfailing sound of beautiful timbres and the clarity of their structure.

Jean Guillou (born 1930) is a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. The composer’s works include both solo organ pieces and music for organ and orchestra (seven concertos). The field of experimentation comprises combinations of organ and other instruments: organ and cello, organ and marimba, violin and organ. In 2002, Jean Guillou was the first performer of a revived 19th century instrument – the pedal piano. A creator and innovator in the field of organ construction (he has acted as a consultant in Brussels, Zurich, Naples and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Jean Guillou recounted his own innovative concept in the book The Organ: The Past and the Future. Jean Guillou created the Transportable Organ, comprising fifteen individual blocks that can be easily transported. The broadening of the possibilities of register, the perfecting of the instrument’s sound and the poeticisation of timbres – all of this is embodied in the organ maestro’s music.


Béla Bartók’s cycle Romanian Folk Dances was composed in 1915. This “folkloric” opus was based on actual folk melodies heard by the composer in Transylvania, performed by a duo of gypsy violinists. Initially, the work was written for piano, but in 1917 the orchestral version of the cycle appeared. In the work, we can hear imitations of “voices” of Romanian folk instruments – the village violin, a shepherd’s fluier – an archaic reed-pipe. It is vivid, inspired and elemental music that combines folk motifs with the composer’s innovations, filled with energy, mischief and wit.
The incredible colour and character of the music of the “dances” has drawn the attention of many musicians who have made transcriptions of the work for various instruments. In addition to the composer’s own versions (for piano and for orchestra), there are equally popular arrangements for chamber ensemble and for flute and harp among others (Zoltán Székely’s transcription for violin and piano is particularly well-known). André Isoir’s transcription for organ opens up new phonic qualities of Romanian folk music. Each piece lasts no longer than one and a half minutes. Regardless of its laconic nature, the cycle is unusually diverse – it includes the most varied pieces, ranging from languid and lyrical improvisations to incendiary and impetuous dances.

Leonid Karev (1969) is the organist of the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin in Paris and Professor at the Hierres and Auxerre Conservatoires. The compositional integrity, the musical language, technically complex though accessible, the stylistic cohesion and the careful respect for materials quoted and for the sound possibilities of the instrumental ensemble – these are the main features of this composer’s art. Adapting and updating folk melodies and ancient church chants, Karev tries to maintain the contextual conditions of the life of folk themes and glorious chant. The composer says: “In trying to fit in with the deep-rooted tradition of Russian music, I consciously took the path of a “transparent” style, which brought me to certain criteria of aesthetic self-rhetoric; the harsher that is, the simpler the outer appearance of my “product” is. With their outer generality, these criteria refer back to humanity’s cultural values, developed over centuries, which for me are more weighty arguments than this or that individual of “technique” born from fantasy.

Alexander Vustin (born 1943) is a composer and an active member of the new Association of Contemporary Music and has written many works in diverse genres. His first works date from 1952, though Vustin’s individual signature style as a composer had fully crystallised by 1972. The composer’s work was greatly influenced by folkloric expeditions throughout the regions of Russia. Alexander Vustin tries himself in various styles and “co-ordination systems”, and in terms of brilliance he has scaled lofty peaks in every field. Timbre plays a special role in his compositions. The musical language of his works stands out for its extreme restraint, its depth, its concentration of meaning and the intense experience of time; in this sense, he could be called an heir to the traditions of Anton Webern. The composer uses various techniques, among them the development of the idea of dodecatonality.


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