Prelude et Choral fugue   &   Fantaisie
on the Gregorian Chant
Conditor Alme Siderum

for  Organ
(6 & 5 pages of music respectively)


Prelude et Choral Fugue sur le chant gregorien, Conditor alme siderum, offers multiple treatments of an anonymous 7th–Century plainchant melody originally paired with an Advent Vespers text. In the course of Pope Urban VIII's revisions of the Roman Breviary in 1632, many hymns were revised, and Conditor alme siderum was no exception. The plainchant tune has undergone similar adaptations to accomodate an ever changing tide of revisions, translations and tastes; the version cited in these two settings is drawn from numerous 20th–Century sources.

      The prelude is a loosely imitative setting  in  which  the  four  phrases of  the  chant are sounded in augmentation in the soprano over points of imitation in lower voices. The choral opens each successive exposition of the four chant phrases with a declamatory statement of the tune that appears in its original time values in the left hand, accompanied in the right hand by bold chords moving in parallel motion stating the melody in augmentation, all over a sustained tonic pedalpoint. Each of the four declamations is cadenced by points of imitation between voices, followed in turn by a contrastingly light and dancing three-voice fugato treatment of consecutive phrases of chant. A brief and dramatic coda returns to the declamatory opening textures of the Choral, ringing out with boldly imitative ‘Amens.’

      Fantaisie on Conditor Alme Siderum offers a rhapsodic treatment of the traditional Mode IV plainsong associated with the text from which the tune takes its title. Each of the four phrases of chant are introduced by brief unison statements, then followed by running eighth note passagework in the left hand, harmonized in the right hand and sounding above a slow moving pedal cantus firmus presentation of the plainchant in augmented note values.  For the second phrase, the left hand divides into two freely imitative voices. Following a brief episode, the third phrase introduces a sighing motif  in the two voices played by the left  hand,  followed by another episodic extension. The fourth phrase returns to the thinner textures of the opening statement:  the left hand is reduced to a single line, only to divide once more into two voices at the arrival of a series of dramatic harmonic progressions over a concluding pedalpoint. In contrast with the conservatively Ionian tonality of the plainsong's mode, the Fantaisie displays venturesome modulatory explorations of near and distant keys, starting out in a tonic of D major, then presenting a complete pedal statement of the chant in A major.  A final cadence on a C-sharp major chord adds a closing eclat to an already rich tonal palette.

Click on the image below to download
a letter-sized PDF booklet
(Covers, 2 pages of Notes, and 10 pages of music)