Max Derrickson

Writing Music Program Notes for Over 30 Years

Category: Program Notes Excerpt

Sonata 1 in F minor, Op. 65 – Finale. Allegro assai vivace

Among his many talents, Mendelssohn was one of the early admirers and scholars of “early” music. Indeed, were it not for Mendelssohn’s (and some of his friends, such as Schumann and Brahms) efforts, some of Bach’s great works may have been lost to the ages. The musical craft of those great masters who came before him clearly informed Mendelssohn’s work – although certainly capable of Romantic bombast, Mendelssohn preferred the intellectual styles of Mozart and Bach. A splendid organist and renowned as an early music scholar, Mendelssohn was commissioned in 1844 to write a series of Voluntaries (such as we heard earlier from English composer John Stanley). Mendelssohn, instead, wrote six full multi-movement organ sonatas….

Concerto for Organ and Orchestra in F Major, Op. 4, No. 5 (HWV 293)

Concerto No. 5 was written in 1735 for the revival of Deborah and is one of the great works of its time. The opening Larghetto is a soft and gentle thing of beauty, mostly played by solo organ. The and crisp Allegro is followed by the “Alla siciliana” which is surely one of Handel’s most poignant musical moments. …

Voluntary No. 1 from Ten Voluntaries, Op. 5

In Baroque England, the organ was very much of part of Christian worship services and composers became especially keen on using the different stops (specific sets of pipes and sounds) available on an organ. One such stop that particularly captured the imagination of the great British composers was the “Trumpet” stop, which, like a trumpet, belted out loud and clarion-like sounds. It even created, in a way, its own genre of music called the Trumpet Voluntary

Prelude and Fugue in E Major

Vincent Lübeck (Born in Padingbüttel, Germany in 1654; died in Hamburg, Germany in 1740) Prelude and Fugue in E Major By the 18th Century, long after the organ’s first appearance as the hydraulis, the pipe organ was well established with its wind bellows and distinctive-sounding pipes that have continued as the modern organ, and organ […]

“I Got a Home in dat Rock” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

Margaret Bonds (1913 – 1972) was a virtuoso pianist and composer, and one of the very few Blacks to attend the Chicago University and the Julliard School… not to mention achieve post-graduate degrees in music. She was a gifted Classical composer, but also cherished the value of Spirituals as important musical expressions. She also had an uncanny talent for arranging, and thereby arranged a fair number of the great spirituals for voice and Orchestra to bring this powerful genre to even wider audiences: …

“Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child” and “I Want to Be Ready”

Black singer and composer Harry T. Burleigh (1866 – 1949) knew Czech Nationalist composer Dvořák well. In fact, Burleigh was one of the first Black students to attend the newly created National Conservatory of Music in New York which was headed by Dvořák. It was Burleigh who introduced him to Spirituals, and, as the story goes, elements of Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony were inspired by those Spirituals that Burleigh sang to the rapt composer.

Three Spirituals

Those beautiful and emotionally-charged Spirituals that today are considered something between folksong and worship songs were created by black slaves of the American South. They captured the slaves’ devotion to Jesus, their Savior, and often described, in veiled terms, their agonies and hopes for a new life – not only in Heaven but for freedom now.

Prelude and fugue in G Major, BWV 541

In 1708, the 23-year old Bach was already well known as an extraordinary organist, as well as an organ tester, and at that point he began a seven-year post as the organist at the ducal court in Weimar. Bach was also a bit of a fire-brand and enjoyed showing off. This great Prelude and Fugue was most likely written in that year, and was meant not only to show off Bach’s virtuosic talents but also, most likely, to “test the lungs” of the Weimar court’s organ. The Prelude and Fugue in G Major is a motorific powerhouse of a piece…

Chorale Prelude on “Herzlich tut mich verlangen,” Op. 122/10

Brahms’s love of Bach and older music was legendary in his time. Like Mendelssohn, Brahms held a great indebtedness to his musical forebears. He was also very fond of writing for the organ, and it’s telling that in the last summer of his life, the very last pieces he wrote were a very private set of works for organ, written in the style of Bach.

Partita: Variations on “Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele”

German Baroque composer and organist Böhm was a great organist and an important influence in two ways: his probable tutelage of the young Johann Sebastian Bach, and his great advancement of the partita form for keyboard, which would deeply influence Bach’s later perfection of the solo partitas, which would eventually evolve into the sonata form and the symphony (as we know them today).