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Organ Sonata on the 94th Psalm

Julius Reubke (1834-1858)

Organ Sonata on The 94th Psalm

Julius Reubke was a tragic figure, a young composer of amazing talent who died in his early twenties, leaving only two completed works behind him - a grand romantic sonata for piano and another for organ; the diary of one of his friends gives an evocative impression of the young artist at the piano not long before his death: "Playing us his sonata, seated in his characteristically bowed form at the piano, absorbed in his own creation, Reubke forgot everything about him; and we then looked at his pale appearance, at the unnatural shine of his gleaming eyes, and heard his heavy breath - we suspected then that he would not be with us for long." In 1856, the year before he composed his sonatas, Reubke moved to Weimar to study with Franz Liszt. He fell completely under the spell of the idealistic, revolutionary music of Liszt and Wagner, and the influence of these two great composers is evident in many aspects of the Organ Sonata - in its literary inspiration, its structure (a single movement falling into several different sections, all based on the same musical theme), and its harmonic language, which is very advanced for its time.

The 94th Psalm is a psalm of vengeance, and its conflicting emotions are vividly captured in the passionate intensity of Reubke’s music. A selection of verses from the psalm are quoted at the head of the score, and these can clearly be related to the different sections of the sonata - a vision of the Day of Judgement in the dramatic opening pages (Arise, thou Judge of the world...), followed by despair and anger( They murder the widow and stranger...), by peace and consolation (Thy comforts have refreshed my soul...), and ending in triumph in the final fugue (The Lord is my refuge...) The 94th Psalm

Grave: "O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself. Arise, thou Judge of the world: and reward the proud after their deserving."

Larghetto - Allegro con fuoco: "Lord, how long shall the ungodly triumph? They murder the widow and stranger: and put the fatherless to death. And yet they say, Tush, the Lord shall not see: neither shall the god of Jacob regard it."

Adagio: "If the Lord had not helped me: it had not failed but my soul had been put to silence. In the multitude of the sorrows that I had in my heart: thy comforts have refreshed my soul."

Allegro: "But the Lord is my refuge: and my God is the strength of my confidence. He shall recompense them their wickedness: and destroy them in their own malice."

(c) David Gammie

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