Listening & Learning: May

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Listening & Learning, Music Library, Violin, Organ, Musicology As a student of Athabasca University, you not only have access to brilliant minds and mind-blowing programs or courses, you have access to a very extensive music library database. In this month’s Listening & Learning, Dr. Kevin Whittingham walks us through duets for violin and organ that can be found in the Naxos Music Library. Like in previous months, we think the suggestions he provides are great to add to your studying music playlist.

A former church organist

In a former life (or so it seems now) I was a church organist and, on occasion, played duets with an accomplished violinist. Some might think it an unlikely combination of instruments, but it’s always been one of my favourites: the sweet, singing tone of the solo violin is enveloped by the full, rich sound of the organ. The violinist and I chose works from the late Romantic period and the early 20th century — music that can be particularly fitting for the quiet time in the liturgy when the people come to the altar to receive communion. Moreover, for students, this music can provide a non-intrusive background that is ideal for studying. The repertoire for violin and organ is not large, but recordings are worth seeking out for their sheer beauty. Some are on the Naxos Music Library database, one of two music databases accessible through the Athabasca University Library.

Evening songs…

The composer who has perhaps written most for violin and organ is the German Romantic organist-composer Josef Rheinberger (1839–1901). Sample “Abendlied” (“Evening Song”) from his Six Pieces for Violin and Organ, Opus 150.

Josef Rheinberger , Naxos music library Athabasca University

Josef Rheinberger

Breathtaking harmony

Another German Romantic organist-composer who wrote for the combination is Sigrid Karg-Elert (1877–1933). Unlike most German composers of the time, he was influenced by Debussy, and his harmony can be breathtaking. Sample “Sanctus” from Two Pieces for Violin and Organ, Op. 48B.

East meets west

More recently, organist Chelsea Chen and violinist Lewis Wong have arranged Asian folk songs for their own performances. Sample their “Spring Breeze,” with its haunting feeling of East meeting West.

More from the music library

If these recordings whet your appetite for more music for solo stringed instruments and organ, Naxos has duets for cello and organ, and trios for violin, cello, and organ. While you are in Naxos, search for music for other instruments and voices that might provide background to your liking. Try composers and works associated with the British pastoral school. For example, there is Frederick Delius’ “To be Sung of a Summer Night on the Water;” Percy Grainger’s “Up Country Song;” and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.”

Naxos has an Advanced Search feature to help you zero in on favorite composers, instruments, and periods. It also has an app with which you can make up your own playlist. Search also the other music database on the AU Library website: the Classical Music Library. These two databases provide a vast amount of recorded music that will keep you exploring for a long time.

Guest Blog from AU tutor, Dr. Kevin Whittingham

Dr. Kevin Whittingham tutors history and humanities courses at Athabasca University. His master’s degree is interdisciplinary and his doctorate is in musicology.