|Performer Alfred V. Fedak, organist
Length 76' 15" Price $16.95 (U.S.)
Released June, 2008
Catalog no. 520-160
"The instrument in this recording is a fine IV/42 E.M. Skinner of 1929, with the chancel organ reconstructed and an antiphonal division added by Austin Organs, Inc., in 2003. A detailed history of the organ, including its 20-year removal from the church beginning in 1976, is provided along with a stoplist. The predominately mellow sound serves Fedak's music admirably.
The selections on the program, all of which are published by Selah, emphasize free treatments of hymn tunes (Veni Creator Spiritus, Divinum Mysterium, Hyfrydol, Pange Lingua, Adoro te Devote, St. Anne) and some larger works. Two Sonatas for Worship are clearly intended to be the primary instrumental service music for, in the 1995 suite, a Daily Office, and in the 2005 one, a Eucharist. The 2003 Lyric Suite is probably best suited to be a recital work, but the individual movements could be incorporated nicely into worship. More abstract works are Plainsong-based In Paradisum and a set of Variations on a Ground. All of the pieces and movements are of moderate length and could be used in various liturgical contexts.
The compositional style is tuneful and quite accessible with only occasional mild dissonances, as in the opening improvisation on the Veni Creator. Fedak (unlike a few composers I have encountered) plays his own work convincingly. This collection of his music provides a representative sample for an organist's consideration as well as the opportunity to hear 'how he plays it.' The engineering by Ed Kelly is thoroughly sympathetic." --AAM Journal, December 2008
"The fourth of the six 'Pange Lingua Variations' (2001) presents a piquant ostinato figuration in the right hand that outlines the plainsong melody with a decidedly French harmonic flavor. 'In Paradisum' (1996) is an attractively atmospheric tone poem based on the Gregorian melody from the Burial Office. The ground bass for 'Variations on a Ground' (2002) consists mainly of a series of falling tritones whose harmonic implications lend a mysterious and unsettled quality to the piece as a whole." --American Record Guide, March/April 2009
"The CD includes twelve of Fedak's compositions, most of which are based on traditional hymns, such as HYFRYDOL, and ST. ANNE, and chants, including VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS and ADORO TE DEVOTE. All are published by Selah. He writes in classic forms such as theme and variation, ground bass, fanfares and processionals, but often with fresh harmonies. He demonstrates complete mastery of improvisational techniques, as is shown in his Improvisation on VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS and his Fantasia on ST. ANNE. ...In addition to hearing good contemporary music played by a fine organist on a beautiful organ, one might want to own this CD as a means of exploring new music to add to one's own repertoire. Those who do that should have intermediate to advanced skills." -- Worship Arts, March-April 2009
"In the 1970s, local arts patrons Thomas and Anne Older saved the Westminster Presbyterian Church's 1929 Skinner pipe organ from being pitched out by having it reinstalled in their home. An electronic instrument served the congregation until 2003, when the original was donated back, refurbished and expanded.
Organist and composer Alfred V. Fedak employs it well in a new recording on his original works, 'Come, Creator Spirit.' Mostly variations and improvisations on familiar hymns and chants, the disc has a clear, warm and inviting sound. Just when Fedak's writing seems overly churchy, he'll take some unexpected harmonic excursions or ramp up the volume." --Albany Times-Union, 12/7/08
The well-known composer Alfred V. Fedak finally has a definitive recording of a dozen of his organ compositions, recorded by Fedak May 15-16, 2008 on the historic E.M. Skinner organ (opus 780, 1929) in Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, N.Y.
You will want to own it both for the great music included and to listen to this wonderful instrument. Fedak's effectively utilizes the entire 52 ranks on the organ, and the quality recording by engineer Ed Kelly gives you every nuance.
History of the Organ
Ernest M. Skinner (1866-1960) is considered by many to be the finest pipe-organ builder America has ever produced. His instruments are prized for their rich tonal beauty and exquisite workmanship. In 1929 Skinner installed his Opus 780, a four-manual instrument of 42 ranks, in Westminster Church after a fire the previous year had destroyed the church's roof and interior, including its original 1863 Johnson organ. The Skinner organ served Westminster Church until 1976, when it was replaced by an electronic organ, due to the church's inability at the time to fund some much-needed repairs. Fortunately the Skinner was not lost, but was moved to the nearby residence of church members Dr. Thomas and Anne Older, who preserved it by installing the Skinner in their home while keeping it tonally intact. When the church's electronic instrument began to fail in the late 1990s, the Olders donated the Skinner back to the church, more than 20 years after it had been removed.
In 2000, Westminster engaged Austin Organs, Inc., of Hartford, Conn., to refurbish and re-install the Skinner in its original chancel location, with the work being completed in May of 2003. The Chancel organ's 1929 stoplist was largely retained, the most significant alterations being a new 4-rank Mixture and 8' Trumpet added to the Great. In addition, a 2' Piccolo replaces a 4' Unda Maris on the Choir, and a new Solo Cor Anglais and Swell Vox Humana (the latter from the old Echo Organ) were added to the Chancel stoplist. The original console was retained and rebuilt, placed on a moveable platform, and fitted with a computerized multiplex switching system and multi-level combination action.
The instrument's most striking visual feature is its Austin 10-rank Antiphonal division situated in the rear gallery. With its casework designed by the noted British organ architect and author Stephen Bicknell, this division was added to the organ during the 2003 re-installation to support congregational hymn-singing. The organ now encompasses 52 ranks of pipes distributed over its six divisions. It is tuned and maintained by the L.A. Carlson Company of East Greenbush, N.Y.
Since its return to the church, Skinner's Opus 780 has quickly achieved wide recognition throughout the organ world. Shortly after its first dedicatory recital, performed by John Weaver (then organist at Manhattan's Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church and head of the organ departments at both the Juilliard School and Curtis Institute), the organ was prominently featured during the 2003 Region II Convention of the American Guild of Organists in a recital given by David Hill, Director of Music at St. John's College, Cambridge, England. The organ was also showcased by the Organ Historical Society during its 50th Annieversary National Convention in June of 2006. Thomas Murray, Organ Professor at Yale University, performed a recital on the organ during that convention. In describing the event The Diapason praised it as "a great recital on a great organ!" And not long afterwards, MWHT-FM declared the organ's restoration to be a "Great Moment in Classical Music."
Westminster Church is a Presbyterian congregation (PCUSA) organized in 1919, the product of the merger of three earlier Albany churches: Second Presbyterian, Third Presbyterian, and State Street Presbyterian, whose 1862 building the present congregation now occupies.
Contents Listen to excerpts below
Improvisation on VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS
Sonata II for Worship:
Festival Prelude on HYFRYDOL
Variations on PANGE LINGUA:
Sonata for Worship:
Variations on a Ground
Variations on BEACH SPRING:
Meditation on ADORO TE DEVOTE
Fantasia on ST. ANNE