TRIPTYCH FOR ORGAN AND LARGE ORCHESTRA (2004)
Premiered by Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
"Formidable, prodigious, extravagant ... “Logos” is a sonic tour de force, making full use of colors, dynamics, and rhythmic energy characteristic of organ and orchestra. “Agape,” which opens with an organ solo in which one feels bathed in love, is a welcome contrast to the surrounding movements. The concluding section, “Angelus,” demanding the utmost from all the players, is filled with complex rhythms and textures and brings the extended work to a stunning climax."
The American Organist
“Sparked by multiple talents of composer-conductor Julian Wachner, this disc succeeds on all fronts! Out of orchestral chaos the organ enters with chordal grandeur in the introductory “Logos.” An introspective two-part organ passage plus its aggressive string response become the bases for the following allegro…Bélanger and selected instrumentalists are beautifully reflective again in the middle movement “Agape,” the violins serene and inspired in the closing melody. The organist shines in the final “Angelus,” building steadily with the orchestra through tricky metre changes to a great, moving conclusion. Himself a virtuoso organist, Wachner has created long sonorities, repeated chords, and busy passages that are static harmonically to suit the highly reverberant space. Highly recommended.”
The Whole Note
“It’s difficult not to think of Messiaen when listening to Triptych for organ and full orchestra by Wachner (who conducts excellently here, by the way): splendour, dignity, outstanding tone combinations, sophisticated chromatic exploration, albeit polarized—but also a certain personal “je ne sais quoi”. Among its other qualities there is a rich backdrop, wavering between a glimmer and a tingle.”
La Scena Musicale
"The Triptych, performed here by French-Canadian keyboardist Philippe Bélanger and the Orchestre Métropolitain of Montréal, is a three-movement, 40-minute tour-de-force of imposing power, virtuosic toccatas, quiet meditation, and joyful celebration. Wachner is both an unapologetic modernist and an open-minded eclectic…his music has something to say."
American Record Guide
The Triptych for Organ and Large Orchestra was commissioned by the Oratory of St. Joseph of Montreal in celebration of its 100th anniversary. Logos was completed in June of 2004, and premiered at the Oratory with Philippe Bélanger, titular organist of the oratory, and the Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal under the direction of Yannick Nezet-Seguin. The American premiere of Logos was performed by the New Haven Symphony with the composer at the organ on April 1st, 2006 at Yale University's Woolsey Hall, conducted by Gerald Steichen. The world premiere was presented at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall on 2 July, 2006 as part of the opening concert of the American Guild of Organists National Convention. In 2010, ATMA Classique has released a surround sound recording featuring the complete Triptych for Organ and Large Orchestra, in addition to other works for orchestra.
As one of the most prominent architectural landmarks in Montreal, second perhaps only to the Olympic Stadium, St. Joseph’s Oratory is to many the North American Vatican. It is a monument to Québec Catholicism and just as some would label it a vestige of the pre-silent revolution power of the Catholic Church, others see in it an awesome reminder of the grandeur and splendor of a non-politicized Roman Catholic faith. The building edifice itself, and particularly its enormous dome, climbs over the mountain (Mont-Royal) from which Montreal derives its name. The main basilica, resting at the peak of the structure, boasts a reverberation time of over 10 seconds and is almost two football fields in length!
All of these background elements influenced the composition of this Triptych for Organ and Large Orchestra. From a simply pragmatic point of view, 10 seconds of reverberation certainly limits the harmonic and textural complexity that a listener would be able to perceive. Thus many choices were determined based upon a very wet sound stage! From a programmatic vantage point, it was necessary to consider elements of theology and language, specifically the French Roman Catholic tradition as passed down through the great French and Québec cathedral organist-composers. Thus, before embarking on the composition of this work, it was necessary to revisit De Grigny, Couperin, Dupré, Widor, Gigout, Vierne, Duruflé, Tournemire and particularly Olivier Messiaen. In addition, careful study was made of the purely concert works of Poulenc and Jongen, both of whose concerti stand as the model of successful works for organ and orchestra. The three movements of the Triptych: Logos, Agape and Angelus, make clear even in their labeling a theological and philosophical base. Globally Trinitarian in the organization of the movements, many ancient compositional methodologies are at work in this piece including iso-rhythmic techniques and a hermeneutical-rhetorical use of harmony and melodic gesture. These « old-fashioned » organizational techniques are paired with a 20th/21st century sound world. Logos, the first and longest movement, was also composed to stand alone as a single-movement concerto. 20 minutes in length, it begins with a sweeping introduction followed by a typical Sonata-Allegro exposition. The philosophical and theological arguments at work in Logos combine the 1st chapter of the Gospel of John, (And the word became flesh...) and the human gift of intelligence, analysis and understanding of logic. Indeed the final two pages of the score paint the picture of an epic birthing scene, ending gloriously in E-major after an extended and sustained passage combining octatonic systems with bi-tonality. In Agape and Angelus the programmatic elements deal respectively with Godly love and the mystery of the concept of transubstantiation. Thus Agape is a beautiful adagio with extended duets between individual instruments of the orchestra and the organ while Angelus is a wild and flamboyant toccata in the French cathedral style for full organ and orchestra.