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A few years after Cesar Franck’s relatively unassuming, modest Prière was published, Félix-Alexandre-Amédée Guilmant (1837-1911) published his most popular work, his flamboyant First Sonata for organ, Op. 42 (1874). It was subsequently re-worked into a Symphony for Organ and Orchestra. Its frenetic Finale in D minor speeds along in an ABA-coda form, with the A sections almost entirely blanketed in running 16th notes, with the small finger of the right hand in charge of presenting a forceful tune by stretching and phrasing it all together. This momentum suddenly stops so that a solemn chorale can be heard in the B section, consisting of mostly half notes with a pedal flourish at the end of each phrase. The piece culminates in an overpoweringly visceral Maestoso as coda.
— Gregg Wager is a composer and critic. He is author of Symbolism as a Compositional Method in the Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen and High and Low Culture Since 1975. He has a PhD in musicology from the Free University Berlin and a JD from McGeorge School of Law.