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Playing Henry Smart (1813 - 1879) - Smart but not "smart" by Dr. Wolfram Syré

2021-03-03 - Playing and Pieces

Playing Henry Smart (1813 - 1879) - Smart but not "smart" by Dr. Wolfram Syré

My first piece of Henry Smart I studied was his Festive March. This solemn March in the style of classicism has the form of a Rondo and presents very popular melodies in its couplets. See:
https://www.contrebombarde.com/concerthall/music/10602
Henry Smart got his first musical lessons with his father who was violinist. He studied Jura and learnt playing the organ as an autodidact. He became soon a virtuos and poular organist who was invited to play recitals at the Great Exhibition in 1851 together with four collegues. He hold the posts as organist at the Parish Church in Blackburn, Lancashire, at St. Philip’s, Regent Street, London, at St. Luke’s, Old Street, London, and at St. Pancras Church, London. Later he designed the organs of the Town Hall, Leeds, in 1858 and of the St. Andrew’s Hall, Glasgow, in 1877.
The first organs which Smart played were probably instruments from the Regeny period. Later he became familar with the large symphonic instruments of e. g. Father Willis.
Smart developed his organ music from the style of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and created so large symphonic and melodical compositions instead of traditional Voluntaries with two or three mouvements. But also Georg Friedrich Händel was one of his musical sources. Smart used the organ stops no longer in the baroque way of Mendelssohn. Smart's indidications of registration include Cantilena-episisodes with a solo-melody as well as large dynamical crescendi or decrescendi. He used additionally the Swell-pedal in a extensive way. Smart was also probably the first British organ soloist who played obligate pedal parts. So became he the father of the British symphonic organ music.
Many titles of Smart's organ compositions like Andante or Con moto say nothing about the size and the quality of these compositions. These pieces are large mouvements of symphonic dimensions.
I choiced 17 pieces and the organs Annaberg, Armley, Berlin (Hill), Doesburg, Tholen, and Utrecht for my Smart-presentation.
The first chapter of this repertory are pieces with the Full Organ.
Marcia - a classical piece in Rondo-form in the style of Georg Friedrich Händel and Felix Mendelssohn-Martholdy.
Postlude in C major - Smart's most famous organ composition en rondo-form; the Rondeaus has the mouvement of a Pavana; the style of the piece follows Georg Friedrich Händel and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.
Postlude in D major - a symphonic Menuet in the style of Georg Friedrich Händel.
Minuet - Händel-style, Rondo-form, but a large symphonic piece.
En Forme d'Ouverture - slow Prologue, style of Classicism, orchestral effects and perhaps a model for many organ-Overtures of later British composers.
Postlude (Chorale) in c minor - a magnificent symphonic and dramatical Prelude; Smart follows here an idea of Felix Mendelssohn-Batholdy to use a Chorale in a symphonic piece; the structure of the piece is a little bit simular to César Franck's Trois Chorals; the first time we here a Chorale-Finale with an obligat Pedalpart, which was copied by many British and US-american organ composers in the Final of their Variations.
The next chapter are symphonic mouvements.
Andante in A major - extremly beautiful, visionary sounds, symphonic dimensions, one of Smart's bests.
Andante in G major - large symphonic Mendelssohn-format, lyrical and dramatic situations, solo-Cantilenas, and also one of Smart's bests.
Andante grazioso - a large slow, very beautiful mouvement.
Con moto - another large symphonic mouvement in the Mendelssohn-tradition.
The last chapter are smaller pieces.
Six short and easy pieces
Theses pieces use the organ stops in a more classical way like Mendelssohn and show Smart's gifts as a great romantic composer in a little bit smaller, but not small size.
No. 1 Poco Adagio - a lyrical piece with Fonds d'Orgue and a solo-Cantilena.
No. 2 Com moto moderato - another lyrical piece.
No. 3 Andante con moto - a kind of Pastorale and "Lied ohne Worte".
No. 4 Con moto moderato - a march.
No. 5 Allegro maestoso - a Prelude in the tradition of Georg Friedrich Händel.
No. 6 Con Spirito - a solemn march alla Händel.
Voluntary in A minor - a "Lied ohne Worte" alla Mendelssohn.

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