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Before she became almost a cult figure that a remarkably large number of accomplished American composers travelled to Paris to study with, Nadia Boulanger composed music in a highly circumspect style while provocatively exploring unexpected twists and turns of conventional tonal harmony. Her 1911 composition Trois Pièces for organ was written to be included in an anthology of organ music by various composers published the following year.

The first piece, “Prélude,” consists of a simple rounded binary form with a starkly simple texture — a single melody in the right hand and mostly parallel-third motion in the left. The conventional 4-bar-phrase structure allows a few poignant surprises when deviated from, most notably with the abrupt key change from the opening F minor to C-sharp minor in the middle section. The “Petit canon” offers richer rhythmic movement, although the canon itself appears conceived more as an echo effect than a contrapuntal devise. The final “Improvisation” ends this cycle of miniatures, drifting between different key areas but held together with ostinatos.

— From program notes by Gregg Wager