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SACD402   Heinrich Christensen Plays the C.B. Fisk Organ



Heinrich Christensen Plays the C.B. Fisk Organ, King's Chapel, Boston

Music by Bach, Bruhns, Laukvik, Madsen, Mozart, Pinkham

  • Notes by Heinrich Christensen, Daniel Pinkham, and Elizabeth Thomson
  • Complete organ specifications
  • 68'50" total playing time

SACD402      $15.95

Purchase from Canticle Distributing

SACD playable as: 

Nikolaus Bruhns (1665-1697)
     1. Praeludium in E

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
     Sonata in C Major, BMV 529
     2. Allegro
     3. Largo
     4. Allegro

Daniel Pinkham (born 1923)
     A Flourish, A Vision and A Commandment (world premiere recording)
     5. A Flourish
     6. A Vision
     7. A Commandment
Jesper Madsen (1958-1999)
     Three Chorale Preludes
     8. Nu sol i øst oprinder mild (Sunrise)
     9. Den klare sol går ned (Sunset)
    10. Sov sødt, barnlille (Lullaby)
Jon Laukvik (born 1952)
    11. Plein Jeu
    12. Fugue
    13. Duo
    14. Récit
    15. Grand Jeu
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
    16. Andante, KV 616
Johann Sebastian Bach
     Toccata and Fugue in D Minor ("Dorian"), BWV 538
    17. Toccata
    18. Fugue

Listen Listen:

Bach: Toccata


From a roar to a whisper, a fine workout for a choice Boston instrument.
  --Donald Rosenberg, The Gramophone, May 2005



Nikolaus Bruhns lived to be only 32 years old but became quite renowned as town organist in Husum, a town situated in sometimes Danish, currently German, Schleswig-Holstein. A student of Buxtehude, Bruhns wrote music that resembles his teacher's but also has very personal characteristics. Bruhns was also an accomplished violinist and is said to have incorporated this instrument when improvising on the organ, picking up the violin and playing it with his hands while he played the organ pedals with his feet. This technique might be the origin of the "Arpeggione" section after the first fugue in the Praeludium in E, a wonderfully exuberant and whimsical piece with a multitude of ideas bouncing off the keys!

Johann Sebastian Bach's Six Sonatas for Organ were completed in 1730. Written in three voices (one each for the right hand, left hand, and pedal), they are referred to as "trio sonatas." They were highly acclaimed in Bach's own day; in 1802 J.N. Forkel wrote in his biography of Bach:

Bach composed the six Sonatas for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, to prepare him to become the organist he later became. One cannot say enough about their beauty. They were written in the composer's most mature age and can be regarded as his main work in this art form.

The Sonata in C Major is the longest of the six and has a distinctly Italian style.

Daniel Pinkham writes:

I composed "A Flourish, a Vision and a Commandment" for this CD, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Peabody Memorial Organ in King's Chapel, Boston. The instrument was built by the C.B. Fisk Company and was the first three-manual mechanical action (tracker) built in the the United States in the 20th century. This eclectic instrument is happy indeed with the music of the baroque era, but has been sought after for its ability to play contemporary repertoire as well.

During my 42 years as Music Director at King's Chapel I learned to adjust to the dry but clear acoustics of the building. Thus the present work was designed to be effective in this acoustic situation. At the same time it is a work designed to demonstrate the great variety and richness of colors that the organ has in such abundance.

The first movement, "A Flourish," is essentially a fanfare for Pedals. It is declamatory and requires a virtuoso performer. By contrast, "A Vision" is singing and introspective. It calls for warm flute registers. The final movement, "A Commandment," is in ABA form. The A section is in Lombard rhythm - short-long, short-long - sometimes called the "Scotch-snap." The B section is an interlude that specifies Flutes 8' and 2'. The A material returns and introduces the full power of the Pedal division. The work ends brilliantly.

The three chorale preludes by Danish composer Jesper Madsen were selected from "21 orgelkoraler," published in 1993. Nu sol i øst orinder mild is based on a simple chorale melody by renowned symphonic composer Carl Nielson. The tune Den klare går ned is attributed to Christian IV's Kapellmeister Johan Schop. Finally, Sov, sødt, barnlille is an arrangement of a lovely hymn tune by Thomas Laub, who was one of the main forces in reforming and purifying Danish hymns in the early 20th century by moving away from the Romantic style that had become the norm.

Norwegian composer Jon Laukvik is Professor of Historical Keyboard Instruments at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart as well as at Norges musikkhøskole in Oslo. His Suite dates from 1983. The composer mixes elements and registrations from French Baroque organ repertoire with some distinctly modern jazz influences.

Mozart's Andante (1791) was written for a so-called flute clock, one of several mechanical musical instruments that were fashionable in the day. Its complex ornamentation is characteristic of music written for these instruments. Since it was not inteneded to be played by a person with a mere two hands, Mozart freely added both double and triple trills evidently thrilled with the abilities of this new toy.

The "Dorian" Toccata by J.S. Bach utilizes two divisions of the organ in a merry game of leapfrog. By contrast, the Fugue that follows is one of Bach's grandest feats of architecture, displaying the full organ inexorably working toward ever more complexity before the monumental final resolution.


Heinrich Christensen

Heinrich Christensen

A native of Denmark, Heinrich Christensen studied at the Royal Conservatory in Arhus with Anders Riber and with Oliver Latry in Paris before he came to the United States in 1998 to study with James David Christie at the Boston Conservatory, where he received an Artist Diploma in Organ Performance in 2000.

He was the Affiliate Organist of historic King's Chapel during the last two years of Dr. Daniel Pinkham's 42-year tenure, and was appointed Music Director upon Dr. Pinkham's retirement in June 2000.

Mr. Christensen was a prizewinner at the International Organ Competition in Odense and Erfurt, and has given recitals in Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Germany, France, South Africa, Japan, and the United States.

An avid proponent of contemporary music, Mr. Christensen has premiered works by Daniel Pinkham, Thomas Oboe Lee, Bruce Saylor, Thomas Allen LeVines, Graham Ramsay, and Elliot Gyger. He has worked extensively with chamber music groups and as an accompanist for choral groups in the Boston area. He has recorded with Philovox and the Seraphim Singers for E.C. Schirmer/ARSIS Audio, and has been heard on WCRB radio in a series of programs sponsored by the Boston Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Mr. Christensen was elected Sub-Dean of the AGO's Boston Chapter in 2004.


C.B. Fisk OrganThe C.B. Fisk Organ, Opus 44, 1964

When Daniel Pinkham was appointed Music Director of King's Chapel in 1958, the existing organ was a large E. M. Skinner instrument that had been installed in 1909. Dr. Pinkhamn described its Great division as "loud, opaque, and quite unsuited for any kind of accompaniment function." The Swell and Choir divisions were in chambers above the ceiling of the church, inaudible to the choir (except through two tiny, and tinny, loudspeakers).

Dr. Pinkham contacted Charles Fisk for help, and during the next two years the Fisk company installed a new Fifteenth and III-rank Sharp in the Great and moved a revoiced Gedeckt from the Swell to the Great. Additional tonal changes were planned but the deteriorating mechanical condition of the organ, now fifty years old, suggested that a replacement was indicated.

The E.M. Skinner organ had been a gift from Frank E. Peabody in memory of his son Everett. After many meetings of the King's Chapel Music Committee, Dr. Joseph Barth, the then Minister, Mr. Fisk, and Dr. Pinkham approached Frank Peabody's daughter, Amelia Peabody, in 1960 for an instrument that would memorialize her brother Everett and her father. Miss Peabody, known for her interest in organs and her deep knowledge about mechanical and tonal matters, had given several in the Boston area. The project interested her and she agreed to give the organ to King's Chapel as a memorial.

Between 1960 and 1964, Dr. Pinkham spent many hours with Mr. Fisk, who explained his decisions about the construction and tonal matters for the new organ. Mr. Fisk's decision to make the Choir division mirror the Brattle Organ, which had come to King's Chapel in 1713 and was the first pipe organ installed in a church in New England, was both his gesture to the musical history of the church and a practical musical decision, giving this divison a discrete place of origin. Mr. Fisk also admired the craftsmanship with which the Skinner pipes had been made. "Look at those beautiful seams, " he said. (Pipes from a number of stops in the Skinner organ were revoiced and used in the Fisk organ; see the accompanying organ specifications.) Mr. Fisk also praised the elegant wood carvings from the case of the Skinner organ (many of which had come from the Bridge Organ of 1756) and he found space for most of them in the case of the present instrument.

Dr. Pinkham says about the result, "The 1964 instrument was the first of the great Fisk instruments. It was the first three-manual mechanical action instrument built in this country in the 20th century. It is still my favorite."

In 1964 Charles Fisk wrote in some detail about the organ. He identified two factors that determined its design: the musical requirements of King's Chapel, and the singular position which King's Chapel occupies with repect to t he history of the organ in America.

The musical requirement is four-fold, consisting of hymn-leading choir accompaniment, recital playing, and performance in ensemble with other instruments. Since the capability for hymn and choir accompaniment comes naturally in any properly designed instrument of more than modest means, the tonal design of an organ is customarily determined by the type of music to be heard in solo and ensemble. The music currently heard at King's Chapel concerts is characterized by outstanding eclecticism and by performance with considerable emphasis on authenticity of means. It is church music of all periods, performed in a style true to the music itself, eschewing the rampant secular adaptations and transcriptions of a few decades ago. To the designers, therefore, these circumstances posed the need for an instrument of broad, classical sweep. encompassing those features held in common by the best organs built between 1400 and 1900, yet still retaining the singular artistic integrity which an individual organ absolutely most possess. [Barbara Owen, The Organs and Music of King's Chapel, 1713-1991. Second edition, 1993, pp.26-27, King's Chapel, Boston.]

Making reference to the significance of King's Chapel in American organ history, Mr. Fisk cited the Brattle Organ, built in England and given to King's Chapel in 1713 by Thomas Brattle, who had acquired it probably in 1707 or 1708; the Richard Bridge Organ, ordered from the London builder of that name and installed in 1756; the Simmons & Willcox Organ, built in America and installed in 1860; the Hook & Hastings Organ of 1884, built by what was then Boston's oldest and most prestigious organ building firm; the Ernest M. Skinner Organ of 1909. He paid special attention to the organ case:

The handsomely decorated case of the Richard Bridge organ has emerged as the meeting point of these two factors, musical and historical. In it is represented the visual elegance (suggesting musical virtue) which every organ should have, the same elegance which in former times graced the gallery of King's Chapel much as it does now. At the same time we have the curious phenomenon that musically the Bridge case of 1756 is eminently adapted to present-day concepts...

By surrounding the pipes with a wooden cabinet one causes the sound of one pipe to interact with another in such a way as to produce bleeding. (Bleeding seems largely a matter of causing all pipes of a single note, which can never be quite perfectly in tune with each other, to synchronize, or, as it were, to agree on a single pitch for all.) The case also focuses the sound once blended, and like a bandshell, projects it toward the listener. [Barbara Owen, The Organs and Music of King's Chapel, 1713-1991. Second edition, 1993, p.27, King's Chapel, Boston.]

The Bridge case was kept and used for the Simmons & Willcox Organ and for the Hook & Hastings Organ. It was discarded when the E.M. Skinner Organ was installed, except for the carved ornaments, which were used in a reproduction of the Bridge case. Most of these ornaments, including the gilded mitres and crown, were incorporated in the current case.

Mr. Fisk goes on to describe the chief modifcation to the Bridge case for his own Opus 44; the insertion of the Choir division just below the Great and above the keydesk. "It is also placed there," he wrote, "as a reminder of the Brattle organ, the small predecessor of the Bridge organ. That it may be in keeping, four of the six stops of the Choir organ have been made similar to the original four voices of the Brattle organ... When the cabinet doors are closed, the Choir organ has a sound which, in all probability, is not unlike those first gentle sounds of an organ playing in an American church [in 1713]." [Barbara Owen, The Organs and Music of King's Chapel, 1713-1991. Second edition, 1993, p.28, King's Chapel, Boston.]

Modifications to the organ since 1964 include the replacement of the II-III mixture in the Choir in 1966 and the Sharp III in the Swell in 1978; the replacement of the Trumpet and Clarion in the Great in 1980 by a new Trumpet and a Cromorne; and a new Hautboy replacing the Shawm in the Swell and the old Shawm subsituted for the Blockflute in the Pedal, in 1987. In 1997 the whole instrument was cleaned and refurbished, and the electronic setter combination action was installed.


Bourdon 16' (wood)*
Open Diapason 8' I-II (façade)
Spire Flute 8'*
Octave 4' (partly in façade)
Chimney Flute 4'
Twelfth 2 2/3'
Fifteenth 2'
Seventeenth 1 3/5'
Mixture IV-VI rks (1 1/3')
Trumpet 8'
Cromorne 8'

Violin Diapason 8'*
Stopt Diapason 8' (wood)*
Dulciana 8'*
Principal 4'*
Rohrpipe 4'
Flageolet 2'
Sesquialtera IIrks
Mixture III-IVrks (1 1/3')
Bassoon 16'
Trmpet 8'
Hautboy 8'
Stopt Diapason 8' (wood)
Flute 4' (open wood)
Fifteenth 2'
Nazard 1 1/3'
Mixture II-IIIrks (1')
Vox Humana 16' (1/4 length)*
Open Bass 16' (wood)*
Echo Bourdon 16' (wood)*
Octave 8'*
Flute 8'(stopped wood)
Twelfth 5 1/3'*
Fifteenth 4'*
Mixture IVrks
Trombone 16'*
Cornopean 8'
Shawm 4'

*Stops that incorporate revoiced pipes from the 1909 E.M. Skinner organ (The Stopt Diapason and Flute in the Choir are old pipes, but it is not known where they originated. The same may be true for the Flute 8 and Mixture IVrks in the Pedal.)

Couplers: Swell to Great (reversible), Swell to Pedal (reversible), Choir to Great, Choir to Pedal, Great to Pedal (reversible)
Adjustable combination pistons: 8 General, 14 Divisional, Cancel
Electronic piston setting with 32 memory levels
Swell Tremulant; Tremblant Doux (general tremulant)
Manual compass: CC - c4, 61 notes; pedal compass: CC - fl, 32 notes
Key action is mechanical (tracker) with the exception of the 16' pedal stops. Stop action and combination action is electrical.
Wind pressure: 2 1/4" throughout


The congregation of King's Chapel was formed as an Anglican congregation in June 1686 in the Town House in Boston, under the Reverend Robert Ratcliffe who had been sent from England with the mission of "planting" the Church of England in the colonies. In 1688 the congregation built a small wooden meeting house where the present church stands. The plot, public land at one of a cemetary, was appropriated by Sir Edmund Andros, the first royal governor of New England and an Anglican. The Puritans had refused to give any land to the unwelcome Anglicans. The growing congregation began the current structure, made of Quincy granite, in 1749 and held its first service there in August 1754. The architect was Peter Harrison of Newport, Rhode Island.

The Brattle Organ, the first permanent organ in a church in New England, had been installed in the wooden meeting house in 1713 and was moved to the gallery of the granite church. It was replaced in 1756 by the Bridge Organ, imported from England.

At the time of the Revolution the minister and Loyalists in the congregation fled to Canada. A small remainder continued to worship in the church with members of Old South Meeting House, a Congregational parish whose church had been taken over by the British.

After the Revolution the Congregationalists moved back to their church and in 1782 the King's Chapel congregation hired a lay reader, James Freeman, to lead services. He introduced unitarian ideas in his preaching and revised the Anglican Book of Common Prayer to reflect those ideas. The congregation accepted Freeman's changes but Anglican bishops in the new nation refused to ordain him. The congregation took it upon itself to ordain him in 1787 as its "Rector, Minister, Priest, Pastor, Public Teacher and Teaching Elder," words still used in lay ordination ceremonies held in King's Chapel.

The congregation continues to use a form of the Anglican liturgy in the 9th edition of The Book of Common Prayer According to the Use in King's Chapel, published in 1986. It is an independent unitarian Christian congregation affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association. Membership in the Society of King's Chapel, which uses a congregational form of governance, is open to anyone who subscribes to its Covenant: "In the love of the truth and in the spirit of Jesus Christ, we unite for the worship of God and the service of man." The congregation has a lively parish life and an excellent music program with a fully professional choir for Sunday and festival services. It hosts weekly Tuesday Noon Hour Recitals and produces the King's Chapel Concert Series, professional concerts on six Sunday evenings. For more information visit www.kings-chapel.org.