About this work:
The first of the Six Praeludia for organ was composed as a gift to Don and Jean Hazard for their wedding at the United Methodist Church in Westport, CT on April 13, 1991; ita was performed on that occasion by EdWard Thompson. The remaining pieces werer written netween February 1992 and January 1993 in an effort to provide church organists with music that could be played before, during, and after the liturgy when music of particular character is needed, meditative during the distribution of Holy Communion, for example, or festive after the dismissal. The six together were also conceived as a collection of short pieces that could be compiled into a suite for performance on a recital program; the order then might be either the one already suggested by the composer or one determined by the performer. In this way five of them were fist performed by Robert Fertitta at a concert at Queens College on October 4, 1993.
While everything that I have written for more than the last thirty years reveals my special concern for the expressive and structural functions of harmony in an avowedly late twentieth-century idiom, the Six Praeludia might almost be considered--though I never intended for them to be understood that way--as illustrations to young composers of how tones may be combined so that they contribute to a kind of harmonic motion similar to that found in music of the tonal system.
Although I have never consciously been influenced by the styles of other composers, the achievements of such masters of the organ as Bach and Messiaen are unavoidable; not would I ever wish to avoid them. My only hope in having composed these praeludia is that in time they may earn a modest place in the shadows of these masterpieces.
Score available from Mira Music Associates. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Recorded on Capstone Records CPS-8679
Reviews: "One disc that has stood out...is Music for Keyboard Instruments.... Brings shows his very impressive versatility on this disc as he appears in the roles of composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher, the last through his candid and very informative booklet notes for the CD."
"...a harpsichord concerto...that might well be the best American harpsichord concerto on the market today."
"There is a real composer's voice here with no padding, no filler, no unnecessary notes. He says what he has to say and then stops. No grandiose posturings or insincere gestures occur in this music."
"The five contrasting movements of [Five Pieces (1980)] are very idiomatically written for the piano and would definitely reward the pianist willing to undertake them. Their clear contrasts and appropriate length should make them attractive to audiences as well."
"Allen Brings seems quite comfortable composing for all types of keyboard instruments.... After the first hearing of the CD [Music for Keyboard Instruments by Allen Brings], this listener was exhausted and could only imagine the fatigue of the performers. The music possesses such an unyielding drive that, whatever the composer's intent, it may be lost on us before we ever get to the last work. But after several hearings Brings' voice became amazingly clear to me, and the gems in his music, not readily apparent upon first acquaintance, were now quite recognizable. For it's obvious that Brings looks back and takes classical forms as structure for his works. Although the harmonies he chooses are much more suited to this past century, his pieces seem to marry the past with the present to create an unusually perplexing offspring....
"...Brings delves into the past for his structure, searches the outer limits for his harmonies, and yet seems to shun the 20th century altogether when it comes to those impossible rhythms we pianists love to hate....
"The final work on this recording, Concerto da camera No. 4 for harpsichord and strings (1994), is by far the most passionately performed, rhythmically diverse, and harmonically compelling of all the works. While there are traces of that undying rhythmic uniformity in the harpsichord, the strings add long-awaited color changes, both sensuous and exotic....
"One can finally feel at ease with Brings' never ending quest to unite the past and present. This is clearly his most thought-provoking work, one that certainly makes this recording worth owning!"
New Music Connoisseur
Vol.9, No. 2
"He has published dozens of rigorous and imaginative works for various instruments and ensembles in an 'avowedly late 20th-century idiom.'...Though Brings' contrapuntal textures [in Six Praeludia recorded on Music for Keyboard Instruments by Allen Brings] may not easily beguile the ear, these works do impress both on initial hearing and after repeated listening....The other compositions are worthwhile, too, and are also well performed."
The American Organist
"Despite the complexities often offered, there is something in Western music that suggests getting down to the basics when composing keyboard music. There are no color supplements or distractions (depending on the point of view). It's all about pitch and rhythm, line and harmony and form. So we're happy to report that Allen Brings brings the right stuff to the table when that table is full of keys—be they of the piano, harpsichord, or organ.
"The composer characterizes Five Pieces (1980) as pianistically 'serious divertimenti,' and he's got that paradox right. In the related piano Sonatine (1972), he worries that there 'have been many Kalkbrenners for every Chopin,' but, hey! perhaps another paradox is that the Kalkbrenners write pretty well, too. . .
"Medium remains a powerful notion, however, because the coloristic tendencies of harpsichord and organ bring us completely into other worlds. The environment is a skeletal one in the harpsichordistic Tre esercizi (1986, the title is after D. Scarlatti)—with its second-movement grim-reaper steady bass flanked by active, truculent outer exercises—but warmed and punched up quite a bit by string ensemble in Concerto da camera No. 4 with its baroque-and-Bartók overtones. The soundscape turns another corner in the austere, grim, flamboyant, and liturgical Six Praeludia for organ.
"The performers—pianists Genevieve Chinn and Brings, harpsichordist Bradley Brookshire, organist Stephen Tharp, and a string ensemble under the composer's direction—carry off all with aplomb."
Version: organ alone
Year composed: 1993
Ensemble type: Keyboard:Organ
Instrumentation: 1 Organ
Instrumentation notes: A recording by Stephen Tharp was made for Capstone Records on a North-German-style tracker-action organ with elastic temperament (Vallotti) built in 1991 by Gene Bedient.