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Partitas for organ Op22-24

Composer's note

Originally written for harmonium, these three Partitas fulfil my project to supply suites in the three keys which César Franck left unaddressed in his ‘L’Organiste’. Their effect on organ versus harmonium has been compared to oil painting versus watercolour. I am very happy to present here the oil paintings!

Franck’s ‘L’Organiste’ was planned to contain suites in the twelve keys, starting in C, rising up through D flat, D, E flat etc. He died leaving the last three suites unwritten. Each suite consists of seven movements, six short, and a longer final piece recalling themes from the previous movements, providing a satisfying cyclical structure.


Written between June and July 2016, my ‘Partita espressiva’ picks up where Franck left off: in the key of A. It is both a salute to the master, while also being a personal expression in my own idiom. Light and dark aspects of a theme are explored, and two Armenian melodies are featured. Even the role of the Amen is significant in this musical sequence, looking equally towards concert or church performance.


‘Partita narrativa’ in B was written between February and April 2017. Op.22 stayed close to César Franck’s spirit and plan. Though still indebted to this model, Op.23 has a modified focus, and is the most demanding on both performer and range of organ colours.

Throughout ‘Partita narrativa’ there is a strong tonal pull towards F, rather than F sharp, as a notional ‘dominant’. The Gregorian ‘Tonus Peregrinus’ is present in movements 1, 4 and 7, alongside a modified version of my Valse Locrienne, a setting of the ‘Kol Nidrei’, an exploration of opposing high and low pitched stops, and a melodic Madrigal.


Composed between June and July 2019, ‘Partita penultima’ in B flat has a range of harmonic idioms, from diatonic to stark, less tonal, via degrees of chromatic richness. One Scottish, one Welsh and three Irish themes are incorporated, - ‘The Caledonian Hunt’s Delight’, ‘All Through the Night’, ‘Gartan’, ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’, and ‘Slane’. The sixth movement comprises an ominous tremolo and a seven-note motif of foreboding, which later brings the work to its close.

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