Influences – Jonathan Ryan

CD cover Jonathan Ryan ― on Acis

Jonathan Ryan

Stahlhuth 1912 / Jann 2002 Organ
St. Martin’s Church, Dudelange, Luxembourg

“Bomb-proof technique…Further evidence of Ryan’s considerable technical prowess.”
Choir & Organ

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Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue, Op.149
Healey Willan (1880–1968)
1. Introduction
2. Passacaglia
3. Fugue

4. Ride in a High-Speed Train
Ad Wammes (b.1953)
World premiere recording, featured in The Diapason

5. Pastorale
Philip Moore (b.1943)

Commission and world premiere recording

Symphonie-Passion, Op. 23
Marcel Dupré (1886–1971)
6. Le Monde Dans L’Attente Du Saveur
7. Nativité
8. Crucifixion
9. Résurrection

Introduction, Passacaglia, and Fugue, Op. 149, (1916) in E-flat Minor is the result of a challenge to Willan from a friend who stated that only a German mind could write a superb passacaglia. The entire work is indeed steeped in turn-of-the-previous-century German Romanticism, especially from composers with a strong interest in classic forms and counterpoint such Josef Rheinberger (1839–1901) or Max Reger (1873–1916). Scholars have also noted the influence of the organ Willan played at the time by the French Canadian firm Casavant, with its rich, symphonic capabilities and plethora of foundation tone—characteristics also applicable then, albeit in their own ways, to organs in many parts of Germany. This monumental work’s German influence is explored both in interpreration and in registration, bolstered by the Dudelange organ’s extraordinary German Romantic side. Ride in a High Speed Train by Dutch composer Ad Wammes was originally composed in 1993 for a mechanical dance organ in Amsterdam, named “The Busy Drone.” His transcription of this piece for solo organ was completed in 2011, and here receives its premiere commercial recording. Pastorale by renowned English composer, organist, and choirmaster Philip Moore was commissioned for this recording project. Moore has composed works for organ, instrumental ensembles, and over 300 choral titles. Having held positions at Eton College, Canterbury and Guildford Cathedrals, he most prominently held the position of Master of Music at York Minster for 25 years. In the words of the composer, “as the name implies, pastorales are usually gentle in character, with more than a hint of the countryside. This particular work is based on two themes, heard at the start of the piece, which are developed in various ways. The peaceful opening gives little hint of the middle of the work, which is more anguished and intense. The final section, however, subsides into rest and tranquility.” One the greatest virtuoso organists, improvisers, and organ pedagogues of his time, Marcel Dupré’s nearly 30 years as organ professor at the Paris Conservatoire yielded much influence on some of the most important organists of the following generations. He originally created the Symphonie-Passion Op. 23 as an improvisation during a concert at Philadelphia’s Wanamaker Department Store (now Macy’s) in his 1921 American tour. Key to Dupré’s improvisation were four musical themes he received at that concert, several of which were Gregorian chants. In his memoirs, he wrote that he played that evening, “In a state of exaltation I have rarely experienced.” At over 35 minutes duration, it is a powerful, profound journey, with its American orchestral and French symphonic sides, via the Dudelange organ’s extraordinary capabilities, explored in rare combination on this recording.

Lauded as “one of the brightest younger artists in the field today” (The Diapason), Jonathan Ryan’s performances consistently elicit acclaim for his “considerable depth of musicianship, imagination, and passion” (The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians), “great sensitivity within the composer’s spirit” (Frankfurter Neue Presse), “sense of architecture” (The Diapason), and “communicative playing” (Choir & Organ). Mr. Ryan holds the rare distinction of six First Prize awards at major international and national organ competitions. As a concert artist, Mr. Ryan’s solo engagements have taken him to numerous prominent venues and festivals throughout the United States and Europe, including St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Nicolaikirche in Leipzig, the Cathédrale St-André in Bordeaux, international organ festivals in Zürich, Hamburg, Lübeck, Konstanz, the Piccolo Spoleto Festival’s prestigious Spotlight Series (Charleston, SC), the Eccles Organ Festival (Salt Lake City), and the inaugural organ concert series at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. He performed two recitals at the 2014 Boston National Convention of the American Guild of Organists, and recitals, including opening and closing, at three National Conventions of the Organ Historical Society. His performances have also been featured on the nationally syndicated American radio programs Pipedreams and With Heart and Voice. Born into a musical family in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mr. Ryan started playing the organ at age eight. He holds degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Eastman School of Music. Additionally, he is a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists and holds the Choirmaster certificate with the Choirmaster Prize. This is his Acis debut.


“Jonathan Ryan is one of the rising stars of the American organ scene, with no fewer than six national and international first prizes under his belt. Little wonder, with such a bomb-proof technique: Ryan’s ability to play complex multi-voiced passages with a near-perfect legato is especially impressive…Further evidence of Ryan’s considerable technical prowess is evident in Ad Wammes’s transcendental, if typically quirky, Ride in a High Speed Train which…was written for performance by non-human means…
CHRIS BRAGG, Choir & Organ, July/August 2016, 4/5 Stars