Rich in Nuances: a Performance-Oriented Study of Otto Olsson’s Organ Music
Sammanfattning: The dissertation deals with the organ music of Otto Olsson (1879–1964), a leading Swedish organist, church musician, composer, pedagogue, and organ expert in the first half of the 20th century.The aim of the study is to formulate a historical performance practice fro Olsson’s organ music, conceived within a late Romantic performance tradition, which must be regarded as lost. The method adopted is mainly characterized by a dialogue between score indications and evidence of the composer’s performances. Important source material includes autograph manuscripts, the composer’s annotations, and his recorded performances. Olsson’s basic mainstream Romantic idiom does not exclude Liszt-inspired chromaticism, nor austere modal diatonicism. Characteristic features in his output are counterpoint, sonata form, etude, meditation, chorale, and plainsong. All these features are present in the second organ symphony, Credo Symphoniacum, together with an important element of theological symbolism. Most of Olsson’s organ works presuppose a large instrument in the style prevalent i Sweden around 1900, in a vernacular tradition modified by French and German influences. As an organ consultant, Olsson, while strongly supporting Swedish organ builders, had an ambiguous relationship to the emerging Orgelbewegung. Analyses of Olsson’s scores show a complex relationship between indications of dynamics and of registration. Olsson’s general registration practice, as it appears in his annotations, is characterized by a wealth of different stop combinations and by frequent changes, often unsupported by score indications, reflecting and clarifying the musical course of events. Tempo is discussed in relation to score indications, metronome markings, genres, and metre. Olsson’s recordings show an abundant and varied use of agogic fluctuations. Olsson’s organ music normally presupposes legato, but a subtle use of articulation is sometimes in order. Complex issues are the interpretation of slurs and the realization of phrasing. Problems of ornamentation are also addressed. Olsson’s music is rich in nuances and requires a flexible and varied performance, far beyond the letter of score indications. This richness reflects a striving towards the Absolute, in accordance with the goal of church music as formulated by Olsson: to ”lift towards heaven.”
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