Three movements from Stefans Grové’s Afrika hymnus cycle : instruments, obstacles, and solutions
MetadataShow full item record
The Afrika Hymnus cycle, three expansive concert works for solo organ by the eminent South African composer Stefans Grové (1922–2014), is a peerless achievement in the organ repertoire. Although the composer worked as an organist throughout his life, he wrote little for the instrument initially, and it seems that it was only his late-career ‘conversion’ to a style incorporating African elements into his music that sparked an interest in composing for the organ on a large scale. Despite its originality and undisputed quality, the Afrika Hymnus cycle remains neglected by performers, because the demands of these works are such that most may regard them as beyond their abilities. This article sets out to challenge this notion by highlighting a movement from each work in the cycle that should be within the reach of many organists at a technical level – that is, in terms of simply playing the notes. However, even interested performers may subsequently face what they perceive to be the limitations of their instruments, since the works seem to require the type of instrument that may be inaccessible to them. Furthermore, they may also puzzle over some aspects of the scores. For example, one of the movements has subtle but troublesome textural problems in need of resolving, while another provides limited and sometimes inconsistent details about registration. But with the composer’s knowledge of the instrument beyond doubt, there is nothing in the works beyond what is achievable. The aim of this article is thus to provide information that could help performers at a very practical level, and hopefully encourage them to take on the movements in question. For each piece, some background information is given, including discussion of the instrument for which it was conceived. Potential obstacles are identified, followed by suggestions for how to overcome them. Some of these suggestions may seem counterintuitive, even contentious, such as altering registration or redistributing parts of the score (the latter of which may seem to go against the composer’s ideas about idiomatic writing), but there are grounds to argue for their legitimacy. Ultimately, these are solutions and tools of which all competent organists should maintain a working knowledge. For one of the pieces, a full registration scheme is provided, and this may be compared to a recorded performance using that exact registration.