Wednesday 13 February 2019 – 1:00 pm
On Wednesday 13th February we were very pleased to welcome again the accomplished organist Domenico Gioffrè to Brentwood Cathedral for another inspiring programme of organ repertoire and, with pieces by J. S. Bach, César Franck and Franz Liszt, we knew that this would be a recital of huge enjoyment and musical reflection.
Domenico is a scholar of the Royal College of Music, London, where he is reading Music on an M.Mus. degree, studying organ with David Graham and Andrew Dewar, piano with Nigel Clayton, and improvisation with Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin. Born in Messina, Sicily, he read classics at the National University and attended the local conservatoire, studying piano and composition. Alongside his undergraduate studies in music in the UK, he held scholarships at both All Saints’ Church, Fulham and the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Farm Street, and was Assistant Director of Music at Buckfast Abbey, Devon, where he led research on both Gregorian Chant and Chant Accompaniment in conjunction with the Projekt Kultur of the Lutheran Church in Italy.
Domenico has collaborated as an author and translator with the Poetry Society, London, and the Faculty of Classical and Modern Literature of his home-town university, where he has mentored as Classics and Italian Literature tutor. He was awarded the ‘Montale’ Prize for Poetry, Rome July 2012. Finally – and quoting from his programme notes – apart from organ music, Domenico “adores rabbits”!
After Domenico spoke to the audience about his pieces, he began his recital with: ‘Pièce d’Orgue, BWV 572’ (also known as ‘Fantasia in G Major’) by J. S. Bach (1685-1750), composed in Weimar, with earliest manuscript copies originating 1710-1720 and a revised version completed before Bach moved to Leipzig in 1723. The composer’s renewal of this stunning organ work indicates the importance he attached to the writing of the piece. With its sparkling opening bars, continuing with a strong, spiritual style, its broad melodic sounds filled the Cathedral. In spite of a French title, the only possible connection with France is the use of ‘ninths’ in the style of the composer, de Grigny; otherwise, it is more like a Toccata, as its structure is identical to that of Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in D Minor’ (BWV 565). The piece concluded with joyous energy, which Domenico conveyed with the expertise and conviction demanded by this exquisite organ work.
For his second piece, Domenico performed the ‘Prelude, fugue et variation, Op. 18’ by French composer César Franck (1822-1890), which is the third of his ‘Six Pieces’ (1860-62) and is dedicated to Saint-Saens. Like Widor, Franck was a Parisian organist, clearly understanding the range of emotions to be found in composing for the organ. This was illustrated poignantly and profoundly in the haunting opening theme of the ‘prelude’, initially in gently flowing, five-bar phrases, played by Domenico with such empathy and sensitivity. A short bridge-passage introduced the second movement, the ‘fugue’, and then without a break proceeded to the final ‘variation’, with a return to the opening theme, accompanied by soothing semiquavers. Once more, our hearts were melted and our souls were comforted!
The final organ work, and with another French title, was: ‘Légende No. 2 “Saint Franҫois de Paule Marchant sur les flots”’, by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886). Originally for piano, before being transcribed for organ by Lional Rogg, it depicts St. Francis de Paola walking on the waves. As a wonderful climax to a beautiful recital, Domenico treated us to a rich harmonic texture of sound in this exhilarating work, which he undoubtedly enjoyed performing in the elegant and spiritual surroundings of the Cathedral. We heard the ‘steps of St. Francis’ through imaginative and expressive phrasing, followed by a short, reflective section before the final climax of this party piece, resulting in the inevitable loud applause!
On behalf of Andrew Wright, our Director of Music, we thank Domenico Gioffrè for another superb performance and look forward to hearing him again soon at Brentwood Cathedral.
|J.S. Bach (1685-1750)||Pièce d’orgue BWV 572|
|César Frank (1822-1890)||Prélude, Fugue et Variation Op 18|
|Franz Liszt (1811-1886)||
Légende, tr. L.Rogg
Saint François de Paule marchant sur les flots
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Photos – Graham Hillman