The musical pearls from our new album Hidden Gems are imbued with remarkable facts and background stories. You can read them here. The first piece that we highlight is the Prélude, fugue et variation by César Franck (1822-1890).
Prélude, fugue et variation
It took us, surprisingly, a long time to turn our attention to the organ repertoire. Today, organ works by Bach and Buxtehude regularly appear on concert programs, but Jelte Althuis took the first step in 2014 in arranging the organ version of the Prélude, fugue et variation by César Franck (1822-1890) for reed quintet.
The work opens with a melody that Althuis describes as ‘one of the most beautiful in the music literature’. Following a brief fugue, an ostensibly new piece starts, but this turns out to be the softly-sparkling accompaniment to the return of the melody from the Prélude. A memory of Althuis illustrates the gripping beauty of this opening melody. ‘I heard this piece performed by four clarinets at the first chamber music concert I ever attended. I thought it was beautiful, and never forgot the music—without knowing what it was. Until I was a student at the Utrecht Conservatory, where in addition to the clarinet, the organ was a great passion of mine. One day I was given this piece to study, and it immediately rekindled memories of my first-ever concert.’