Wednesday 19 February 2020 – 1:00 – 1:40 pm
On Wednesday, 19th February 2020 we welcomed Eric Chan, who introduced the RCM’s Twelfth Organ Series at Brentwood Cathedral. It was Eric’s fifth recital here and it has been a privilege to follow his progress during his successful studies at the Royal College of Music, where he is now a postgraduate student. Further information about Eric’s biography is at the end of this review.
Eric’s first piece was ‘Chorale No.1 in E Major’, the first of three chorales by the famous composer, pianist and organist Cesar Franck (1822-1890). Franck wrote over a hundred pieces for organ, mainly for liturgical use, and although sometimes lacking a pedal part, they were always musically significant and appealing. However, it is for his twelve major organ works, composed between 1859 and 1890, that he is best known; his Trois Chorales (1890) were his final works and are very popular with organists. In the E Major chorale, Franck believed that the main theme created itself as it progressed, developing through three variations, firstly joining flutes with the ‘flue’ pipes, in five-part harmony, and all within vocal range. The beautiful Romanic meanderings were movingly expressed, described by Eric as “like a flowing river”, reaching its musical destination (via triple motion) with a profoundly distinctive conclusion – the ideal reflective respite for the busy Brentwood shopper or city commuter!
The recital continued with ‘Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 654’ by J.S. Bach (1685-1750). The translation is: “Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness”, a Lutheran hymn from 1649, often sung at communion services. It is one of The Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes, prepared by Bach during his last ten years (1740-1750) in Leipzig, from earlier works he composed in Weimar, where he was court organist. The mood of this chorale was sombre, reverent and meditative as the Baroque sounds graced this beautiful cathedral, while a projection screen enabled the audience to follow the music in a visual way and appreciate the performer’s movements around the organ. Eric’s superb and sensitive interpretation drew us into the soulfulness of Bach’s music, leading us through the melodic phrasing, key changes and counterpoint in a seamless manner and sharing with us the spirituality of this work.
For his final piece, Eric delighted us with a work with which most of us were unfamiliar! It was the impressive ‘Passacaglia in A Minor, op. 40’, composed by the late Romantic Dutch organist and composer Gerard Bunk (1888-1958). Born in Rotterdam, and later with the support of German composer Max Reger, Gerard Bunk was a lecturer at the Dortmund Conservatory and became known as one of the greatest organists of the first half of the 20th century. His ‘Passacaglia’ began quietly and mysteriously, slowly but surely gathering momentum through melodic sequences, with ever richer harmonies and further chordal progressions. In one of the middle sections the influence of Bach was evident briefly, before the composer returned to his own particular style. The eventual climax was a wonderful conclusion to this lesser known concert work, thrilling the audience with an incredible fortissimo finish, which was followed by the inevitable loud applause!
On behalf of Nina How, who introduces and organises the recitals, and Andrew Wright, Brentwood Cathedral’s Director of Music, we would like to thank Eric Chan for another inspiring lunchtime recital. We wish him every success this year in his organ studies and concerts, and we very much hope he will return to Brentwood soon!
César Franck (1882-1890)
|Chorale No. 1 in E Major|
|J. S. Bach (1685-1750)||Schmücke dich, o liebe seele – BWV 654|
|Gerard Bunk (1888-1958)||Passacaglia in A Minor, Op. 40
Born in Hong Kong, Eric Chan was taught the piano and violin from the age of four. Whilst a pupil at Ratcliffe College, he studied organ with Edward McCall, and gave recitals throughout the country. He was invited by the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra to play at the Last Night of the School Proms 2014 at the Royal Albert Hall as an organist, and was subsequently interviewed by Leicester Mercury.
Eric graduated with first class from the Bachelor of Music program at the Royal College of Music and received the Harold Darke Memorial Prize for Organ. He was taught by David Graham and Andy Dewar on the organ and Kathron Sturrock on the piano. He also studied organ improvisation with Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin. He is pursuing his postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Music as a John Birch Scholar, supported by the Peter Wiles Scholarship from the Royal College of Organists. Eric currently holds the position of Director of Music at the Catholic church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Fulham.
This year in March, Eric will perform the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony as a soloist with the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Sir Antonio Pappano.
Admission is free, but there will be a retiring collection to help to fund these recitals. If you are able to use Gift Aid this will increase the value of your donation by 25% at no extra cost to you
Photos – Nina How