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Two Ballades for organ Op2

No1 - The First Ballade was composed between June 1984 and March 1985, with a romantic instrument in mind, and inscribed in memoriam Fr. Theodore Cunningham-Burley. Its theme, in four phrases, is not so much stated as insinuated in the right-hand part against the meandering left-hand quavers; then the process is reversed, with the pedals and left-hand in canon. A recitative-like passage leads to a more tranquil section, using harmonies and melodic lines derived from the theme. A fugal passage is well under way when the main theme enters above it: its clearest appearance in the piece. Its last phrase is entended and reiterated. There follows a toccata-like section with irregular rhythms. The pedals, answered by the right-hand, allude to the theme's first phrase, before the music subsides into low chords below two solo lines. Then, like the eye of a storm, before the return of the toccata, a quiet sequence of chords and tremolos reminisces wistfully. The return of the toccata brings references to the theme's fourth phrase, gradually coming to rest in E, the key in which the piece began. Duration: c10mins

No2 - The Second Ballade, like the first, explores the colours of the romantic organ. It is prefaced, as it were, by a sentence of nine bars in which the right-hand states a bare theme - Theme I - the essence of the whole piece. Then begins the main theme - Theme II - actually an elaborated and lengthened version of the initial theme, using exclusively the notes of the mode, or scale, outlined by Theme I. Theme II is characterised by the augmented seconds of the mode. A new section, marked Piu Vivo, brings Theme I in three-four time against detached chords in two-four. The music rises, before chords descend to below the pitch of the pedal parts, resting there to await the return of Theme II. Its further extended second statement is echoed and answered by related phrases in the pedals and left-hand. The music then becomes more contrapuntal, and phrases from Theme II are heard in combination at difference speeds, with a gradual increase in volume and momentum. Swell reeds are added when Themes I and II combine. Newly united, these go on to form the climax of the whole piece. Subsiding and fragmenting, the music returns to the initial mode with a passage that reflects on the just-passed central climax and on the imminent return of the opening. A full statement of Theme II is followed, as before, by a Piu Vivo section based on Theme I, with the same detached chords. Once again, the music rises and falls, but the left-hand phrases increase in speed, and a triplet figure develops under the detached right-hand chords. With the start of the sustained harmonies on Swell Voix Céleste, angular outlines soften into a more opaque texture. Against its held right-hand chords and weaving left-hand quavers, Theme II enters canonically in two pedal voices, the lower strangely reshaped by the formation of the mode. Gradually slowing down, the quavers transfer to the Voix Céleste, and the piece dies away to its pianissimo end on a chord of G sharp minor. Duration: c10mins

Buy the music!   Publisher: Novello - price £9.95

Recording: CD DTR 8706 played by the composer at Trenton Cathedral NJ