commentary to opus 42
Three Marian Frescos for organ op. 42 (1970/1971)
II. Ave Maris Stella beginning
III. Regina Coeli beginning
Performance: December 20, 1970, Freiburg, Münster
Premiere: December 8, 1976, Washington, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Duration: 15 Minutes
N. Simrock Hamburg-London (Boosey & Hawkes)
Starting point are
the three Marian antiphons Salve Regina - Ave Maris Stella - Regina Coeli.
Most of the
time, the principle of melodic construction is a re-formulation of the initial
material within a field of polytonal tension.
The material of the chords is mostly derived from the original melodic structures.
Salve Regina: Following its appearance, an idea gains in profundity as it is lead along the most varied paths in a quasi development. The natural, almost mechanical, flow is repeatedly interrupted by adagio insertions, which provide formal subdivisions. In the coda, the main ideas are summarised once again.
Ave Maris Stella: From a unisono start (with echo effect), a variations form develops, in which the individual sections are joined together by something like bridge passages. The sections are ordered in an arch. A basically contemplative mood prevails.
Coeli: Over diatonic starting material, which dominates the entire movement,
polytonal columns of chords are erected. Ostinato figures maintain the flow. At
the centre of the movement, distinguished also by its own tempo, the principle
idea is presented in contrapuntal treatment.
Larry D. Crummer: The Solo Organ Works by Bertold Hummel, Dissertation 1983
forum, June, 1978
Hummel's "Marian Frescos" are captivating from the first bar, in which the Salve Regina resounds like a fanfare. Hummel's work with the organ and the Gregorian material of the three Marian antiphons of the Roman liturgy is sovereign, allowing quotations to shine out, concealing thematic references in the frequent accompanying parts, presenting a quasi cantus firmus or using it as a powerful introduction to the chant melody - as in Regina Coeli, in which columns of chord construction tower above the beginning pedal solo. Two movements in solemn motion, exploding in chords, frame the more peaceful, quieter Ave Maris Stella - all three movements are full of tension, dynamic energy and expression.
Zeitung Regensburg, 5th November, 1971
In the closing Triptych by Bertold Hummel, the significant word in the title seems to me to be above all "Frescos", namely frescos which realise in sound what the contemporary artist might conceive in the form of frescos for a church interior: large-scale sound impressions in powerful colours between which restrained and graded colours appear. The theme of each fresco recurs time and again, either in original form or modified through adaptation to the surrounding colours - not really as a formally shaped sequence of representative elements, although powerful lines impose themselves on the whole field of each fresco and are guided in this by a certain improvisatory hand. Seen from the organ, these are great improvisations fixed in written form, pieces in which the musical demands made are thoroughly suitable for the instrument, breathing the spirit, structure and content of the three Gregorian melodies.
Post, 12th November, 1976
All three of these Frescos live from contrast, for example between rapid solo figures, thrown in in arpeggio-like form, and dissonant, thrusting chords, which are in turn replaced by almost lyrical elements. They may enclose as thematic material the Gregorian Salve regina, or may work with echo-like effects originating in a melody constructed out of a tritone, or may result from bitonal techniques, that is, from the simultaneous combining of different diatonic keys (see Regina coeli). It is thus a work offering ample opportunity, as French organ compositions do, to show brilliance in shaping and to employ surprising registration effects.
Sacra, March/April, 1981
Hummel's Marian Frescos are already ten years old, but they have lost none of their Gregorian-based freshness. Essential music of the contemporary organ scene.
Allgemeine Zeitung, 5th February, 1987
Joseph Bonnet offered as a continuation from Reger, after a pause for reflection, "Regina Coeli" from "Three Marian Frescos for Organ" by Bertold Hummel (born 1925). This composer sets before us successive waves of towering sounds, with dissonances which seem to dissolve in space. Strange glass-clear bell sounds appear above held notes; torn, boldly wild climaxes, storm-like aggression, lead into an almost surprising calm in the best tradition of major tonality.