Thomas Åberg (b. 1952) — Petite suite romantique (1981, rev. 1997) for organ
“Petite suite romantique” (1981, rev. 1997) is inscribed by the composer in explicit homage to the French composer Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897). Boëllmann’s iconic “Suite gothique” (1895) was one of the first concert organ pieces that Åberg heard as a child, and it remained important to him in his youth. In more general terms, this suite is a tribute to late 19th century French romanticism, filtered through Åberg’s distinctly 20th century Swedish lens. The result is an integrated dialogue between past and “present” (the time of its composition.) The opening “Prélude” begins with a descending scalar series of notes that (along with its harmonization) is the primary source material for the suite. The second movement, “Fantaisie,” develops this material within a more animated context. Within this movement, Åberg’s characteristic modal shifts provide unexpected twists to the underlying romantic harmony. “Cantilène” is a movement wholly of the 20th century, with its stark harmonic stasis and spare, modal evocations. The concluding “Final” is a toccata in which part of the main theme (introduced in the pedals) resembles the main motive of the toccata in Boëllmann’s suite. However, as in the other movements, Åberg takes the music down unexpected paths within the larger toccata-rondo structure. The final coda makes very explicit the “forward-looking” sense of the suite’s trajectory—cadencing in a key entirely new to the piece.