Robert Tall - composer - arranger - organist - consultant

Music: Masterpieces


The "Masterpiece" compositions included on this album are played on "Masterpiece Series" organs built by Rodgers Instruments LLC, Hillsboro, Oregon. As pictured on the cover, these instruments are in churches located in Southern California and Southern Nevada. Every instrument has been custom designed and built for each of the six locations.

Track Listing

  • Prelude and Fugue in A Minor – Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Aria con Variazione – George Frederick Handel
    Arranged by Richard Purvis
  • When Thou Art Near – Johann Sebastian Bach
    Arranged by Robert Tall
  • Variations de Concert – Joseph Bonnet
  • Adagio (from Concerto in D Minor) – Antonio Vivaldi
    Arranged by Virgil Fox
  • Piéce Héroique – César Franck
  • Libera Me – Gabriel Fauré
    Arranged by Robert Tall
  • Litanies – Jehan Alain
  • The Soul of the Lake – Sigfrid Karg-Elert
  • Mozart Changes – Zsolt Gárdonyi
  • Religious March, Op.15 – Alexandre Guilmant

About this album

Program Notes
  • by Robert Tall
PRELUDE AND FUGUE IN A MINOR – Johann Sebastian Bach

The "Great" Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 432, was written during his years as court organist to the Duke of Saxe-Weimar (1708-1717). The Toccata-like Prelude bears the marks of Bach's early north German-influenced style, while the Fugue could be considered a later product of Bach's maturity.

The Fugue is in 6/8 time, unlike the Prelude, which is in 4/4 time. The Fugue ends in one of Bach's most Toccata-like virtuosic cadenzas.

ARIA CON VARIAZIONE – George Frederick Handel

Handel wrote sixteen organ concertos, which served mainly as intermission entertainment for the performances of his major works, like his Oratorios. The Aria con Variazione is an arrangement by Richard Purvis of the last movement (Andante) from Handel's Organ Concerto #1, Op. 4 in G Minor. The 4th movement transitions to the key of G Major and is a pleasant dialogue between organ and chamber orchestra.

Richard Purvis gave me a copy of his unpublished arrangement, which was in his own handwriting as a favor for my having driven him to a rehearsal site for one of his southland concerts. What a gift! I published his arrangement in my second of three books, Five Andantes.

WHEN THOU ART NEAR – Johann Sebastian Bach

"Bist du bei mir" (BWV 508) is an aria by the German composer Gottfried Heinrich Stotzel. The piece is often mistakenly attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach due to its inclusion in the 1725 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. The aria was part of a St÷tzel opera written around 1718. The opera score is lost. The aria had been part of the Berlin Singakademie music library and was considered lost, until it was rediscovered in 2000 in the Kiev Conservatory.

Bach included an arrangement based on the aria melody in his second of two notebooks he presented to his second wife, Anna Magdalena Bach. It is thought Bach told Anna Magdalena the music reminds him of, "How I feel when I am in your presence." Later on, Bach enlarged the work for the organ at St. Thomas Kirche in Leipzig. He then commented, the enlarged work reminds him, "How I feel when I am near my Creator."


Joseph Bonnet was born in Bordeaux in 1884. The son of an organist, he studied with his father before entering the Paris Conservatory in 1901. He won a First Prize for organ and improvisation in 1906 and was then appointed organist of Saint Eustache in Paris and of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. Joseph Bonnet toured the world with triumphant success and was warmly greeted in every country he visited, especially the USA and Canada where he died in 1944.

The great French organist and composer Louis Vierne wrote a memoir of Joseph Bonnet in his Souvenirs. "Joseph Bonnet, a performer of not only consummate technique but also taste and restraint. He has written numerous organ pieces of careful workmanship, elegance and, on occasion, of real poetry. His Variations de Concert is a real warhorse for virtuosos and it takes a brilliant horseman to ride it." Following the introduction of the theme, there are four contrasting variations on that theme.

ADAGIO (from Concerto in D Minor) – Antonio Vivaldi

Born in Venice, Italy in 1678, composer and violinist Antonio Vivaldi was a major figure in baroque music and exercised a considerable influence on the development of the concerto. From 1704 to 1740 he was teacher, conductor and composer for the Ospedale della PietÓ, a Venetian conservatory and orphanage for girls whose musical performances were famous. He also traveled widely, producing operas in various European cities. His reputation diminished in later years, and he died destitute in Vienna in 1741.

Vivaldi's music, forgotten for a century after his death, began to arouse interest with the discovery of its influence on J. S. Bach, who arranged a number of Vivaldi's concertos for keyboard. Large quantities of his works have been found since the 1920s, and they are now widely published, performed and recorded.


César Franck (1822-1890), a Belgian composer, organist and music teacher who lived in France, was one of the great figures in Romantic music in the second half of the 19th century. His Piéce Héroique is one of the most popular works of the 19th century organ repertoire. I studied this piece with the late Mormon Tabernacle organist, Dr. Frank Asper, and played it many times on the Great Mormon Tabernacle organ as a guest recitalist during my student years at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Many years later, I revisited Piéce Héroique famed organist, Richard Purvis, whose approach was more programmatic and coloristic. Programmatic meaning in his concerts, he often introduced the piece as "man's struggle between good and evil." One hears almost a conversation between the two forces in driving rhythm in the key of B minor. The middle section, as Purvis describes, is a "prayer from good seeking to win his struggle." Coming out of the prayer with a timpani-like determination to concur, which he does in a "Heroic" ending climaxing with full organ in the key of B major, the brightest key on the instrument.

REQUIEM in d, Opus 48 – Gabriel Fauré


Free me, Lord, from eternal death, on that day of dread, when the heavens and earth shall move, when you shall come to judge the world by fire.

I am made to tremble, and to fear, when destruction shall come, and also your coming wrath. O that day, that day of wrath, of calamity and misery, the great and exceedingly bitter day.

Grant eternal rest to them, Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them.

Gabriel Fauré was born on May 12, 1845 in Pamiers, in the Midi-Pyrénées region of southern France. His musical talent was recognized at an early age. He spent his high school years at the Niedermeyer School in Paris, where he studied organ, piano, and choral music and where his teachers included Camille Saint-SaŰns.

After graduating, he worked as organist and choirmaster at a series of churches of increasing prestige, until 1877, when he took over Saint-SaŰns's post as choirmaster at the Madeleine in Paris. Fauré would remain at the Madeleine for almost 20 years. He also taught composition at the Paris Conservatoire, becoming director in 1905, and his pupils included Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger.

Unfortunately, by the time Fauré was established as a successful composer and a pivotal figure in French musical life, he began to grow deaf, and his compositional output dropped considerably. He died at the age of 79 in Paris on November 24, 1924.

LITANIES – Jehan Alain

Jehan Alain has been called the Grigny of the twentieth century. Fate granted very little time to an artist who died prematurely at the very beginning of the Second World War at the age of twenty-nine. But what richness there is, what maturity in a body of work that includes some 120 compositions written between 1929 and 1939.

Program notes translated from Alain's score describe the intensity of mind behind the recurring theme. "When the Christian soul in its distress no longer finds any new words to implore God for mercy, it endlessly repeats the same invocation with vehement faith. Reason has limits. Only faith can rise above them."

THE SOUL OF THE LAKE, OP. 96, No.1 – Sigfrid Karg-Elert

The Soul of the Lake is one of Seven Pastels opus 96 written in 1921 of musical impressions around a large lake in middle Bavaria, Lake Constance. This collection is dedicated to Arthur Nickson, Karg-Elert's long-standing friend and organist at St Peter's Church, Eastern Hill, Melbourne, Australia.

Karg-Elert regarded opus 96 as 'my very best, most personal, and as regards the content, most valuable work.' (Letter to Nickson, January 13 1923) Nickson described the Seven Pastels as 'tone poems (converting) sensations of physical beauty into the mysteries of sound.' They represent the summit of Karg-Elert's impressionistic style, making considerable demands on the performer both in technique and stop management so as to fulfill the detailed requirements for registers and tonalities. These need the utmost precision and also sensitivity to the spirit of these highly evocative pieces - a challenge to the performer but a delight to the listener.

The opening pages reveal characteristics found throughout Seven Pastels - a kaleidoscope of melodic and harmonic sequences, solo stops alternating with chordal passages for reeds often at their lowest pitch on the manuals, the pedals providing much independent interest. Soon the music becomes more and more tempestuous with clustered pedal notes accompanying an upward manual rush to culminate in full organ. The storm subsides into ever shifting patterns of tone color before the return of a wistful fragment heard earlier and then the opening theme, expanded in declamatory fashion (and marked nobilimente). Solo flutes quietly reflect the triplet figuration much in evidence earlier; the movement then dies away on high celeste chords.

MOZART CHANGES – Zsolt Gárdonyi

Zsolt Gárdonyi is a son of the distinguished Hungarian composer, Zoltán Gárdonyi. The elder Gárdonyi, a former student of Zoltán Kodály and Paul Hindemith, was known as a composer, musicologist, Professor at the Franz Liszt Budapest Conservatory, and is regarded today as one of the outstanding figures of 20th century Protestant church music.

Subsequent to his musical education in his native city, Zsolt Gárdonyi has lived in Germany since 1968. After receiving the Bavarian State Competitive Award for Young Composers 1979, he gained international recognition as a composer and concert organist. He has been Professor of Music Theory at the State Conservatory in Würzburg, Bavaria since 1980.

There are about 400 compositions by Zoltán Gárdonyi and about 120 works by Zsolt Gárdonyi. Mozart Changes is a delightful smooth jazz piece in Mozart style.

MARCH UPON A THEME BY HANDEL, OP. 15, NR. 2–Alexandre Guilmant

"Lift Up Your Heads" from the Messiah, Part Two

Félix-Alexandre Guilmant was born on March 12, 1837 in Boulogne-sur-Mer in the north west of France. His father Jean-Baptiste Guilmant was organist of the Church of Saint Nicolas and gave his son his first organ lessons. He continued advanced studies with Jaak-Nicolaas Lemmens in Brussels, whose influence on his playing technique and composing skills were vastly important. Returning to France, In 1871 Guilmant was appointed organist at Church of Saint-Trinité and in 1896 he became a teacher at the Pairs Conservatory. Having conflicts with the church leaders concerning the organ at Saint Trinité, Guilmant decided to quit in 1900. Thanks to Louis Vierne, he became the 'second organist' of Notre-Dame. He died on March 29, 1911 in his house in Meudon.

Guilmant became very famous in his days. He made concert trips to many countries, including the USA. In 1904 he made his third and last journey to the USA, where he played 40 concerts at the Saint Louis World Exhibition. His compositions number to Opus 94. During his life, most of his compositions were printed, sold out and never reprinted.

The compositions that survived are well known and performed all over the world. One of his most popular organ works is March on "Lift Up Your Hearts" from Handel's Messiah. It is a masterpiece in four sections: Introduction, Fugue, Larghetto and Grand Finale. A complicated piece to perform, it is none-the-less appealing to an audience, because the main theme is always clearly in the foreground and the organ is run through a variety of tonal colors.

The Church of Our Saviour Episcopal, San Gabriel, California

The new organ at The Church of Our Saviour in San Gabriel, California is one of the largest and most technologically advanced pipe/digital combination instruments in the world. The former organ was an all pipe instrument of 31 ranks built and installed in 1967 by the Austin Pipe Organ Company. In July 2005, the church contracted with RTA to rebuild their Austin organ, which was particularly in need of a new console. In turn, Robert Tall & Associates, Inc. contracted with Rosales Pipe Organ Builders, Los Angeles to work with the pipe portion of the new instrument and Rodgers Instruments LLC, Hillsboro, Oregon to build a new custom 4-manual console, which would not only drive the pipes, but would augment the pipe organ by the addition of some digital pipe samples. Twenty-six of the Austin pipe ranks (1,537 individual pipes) have been refurbished and reconfigured on all new chests and equipment to play in two unenclosed divisions, Great I, installed in the west chamber and the Positiv, installed in the east chamber. There are 202 digital ranks, which combined with the 26 windblown pipe ranks comprise an impressive instrument totaling 228 ranks.

Camarillo United Methodist Church, Camarillo, California
  • Dr. James R. Decker-Mahin, Senior Minister
  • Dr. Lynn Decker-Mahin, Director of Music Ministries
  • Raelynn Praetorius, Organist
  • Download stop specs (PDF)

In 2005, Camarillo United Methodist Church contracted with Robert Tall & Associates, Inc., San Dimas, California to install a new custom Rodgers 3-manual 958 Trillium Masterpiece Series organ. It was to interface with their existing 22-rank Schantz pipe organ with the intent to create an instrument of larger tonal capability, that would also address the needs of today's modern worship. A custom stoplist was created to select digital samples from Rodgers tonal library that would be compatible with the pipes with the musical needs and tastes of the church musicians in mind. The result is a splendid "marriage" of the 22-pipe ranks with 108 equivalent digital ranks.

The installation was complete in July 2006. Dr. Gary Cobb, church organist at that time and Dr. Robert Tall shared in a packed house Dedication Concert Program on September 30, 2006. The church is grateful for the leadership of Reverend Jim Decker-Mahin, Senior Pastor, Dr. Lynn Decker-Mahin, Minister of Music and Mr. Paul Graham, Organ Committee Chairman.

First Presbyterian Church, Bakersfield, California

First Presbyterian Church has been active in Bakersfield for more than 100 years. A portion of the land on which the building rests, was given by the widow of Colonel Thomas Baker, after whom the city was named.

In the early years, when settlers were making their way across the desert of California, Baker's ranch was a welcome oasis and became a hospitable way station on the caravan route for weary travelers. The word went back along the route to the east, "When you get to the Great Valley of California, plan to stop in at Baker's field and rest a spell."

  • 1889 - First organized meeting of Presbyterian Church
  • 1913 - Dedication of First Presbyterian Church building on 17th & H Streets
  • 1952 - Earthquake requires the demolition of building
  • 1955 - Cornerstone was laid in present tower of the sanctuary
  • 1998 - Acquired the neighboring block of property
  • 2003 - Construction of Activity Center and Administration Building. The Organ Search Committees - 1984 • 2007

It is interesting to note that the committee in 1984 visited the then recent installation of the 1967 33- rank Austin pipe organ at The Church of Our Saviour Episcopal in San Gabriel. In 2005, that instrument was augmented with a new Rodgers 4-manual console and digital pipe samples.

St. John Chrysostom Episcopal, Rancho Santa Margarita, California

A small congregation of 55 first met as a church in the community hall of Western Federal Savings and Loan in Mission Viejo in May 1986. Soon the founding individuals and families, supported by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, had raised enough funds to purchase six prime acres amid the 5,000 acres of Plano Trabuco, nestled in the lap of the Santa Ana mountains. The first phase of permanent construction of a school was completed in 1990. While the church met in the gymnasium of St. John's School, staff and volunteers launched a capital campaign in 1998, culminating in the consecration of St. John's Church and the school's high-tech Enrichment Center in August 2003.

Architectural plans included space designed for a fine pipe organ. In 2005, an organ search committee, headed by Dr. Ron Koons was formed; Gary Toops was invited to be their consultant. In June 2006, a contract was signed with Robert Tall & Associates, Inc., San Dimas, California, area representatives for Rodgers Instruments, LLC, Hillsboro, Oregon. Rodgers is the world's largest and most prestigious builder of digital and pipe/digital combination organs with over 4,000 combination instruments installed worldwide. Rodgers is a member of the renowned Roland group, the world's largest builder of digital musical instruments.

St. John's organ is a pipe/digital combination instrument interfacing four windblown pipe ranks with a custom 3-manual Rodgers Trillium Masterpiece digital organ. In consultation with the committee and Rodger's engineers, Dr. Robert Tall created a Signature Series custom specification exclusively to meet the musical needs for worship at St. John's Church. A copy of that specification is included in the program booklet.

There are 4-ranks of actual windblown pipes totaling 244 individual pipes combined with 108 digital stops, which are recorded samples from some of the world's most celebrated pipe organs. The combination of both technologies results in a seamless instrument of nearly limitless tonal color allowing the organist to perform all organ literature authentically.

Holy Family Catholic Community, Glendale, California

Holy Family Catholic Community was established in 1907. This year, 2007, marks the 100th Anniversary of the church and there are plans for a big Centennial Celebration. Under the guidance of Reverend Joseph Shea, Pastor and his staff, Holy Family is currently undergoing an extensive remodeling with the intent to restore the church to the way it was 80 years ago.

Two new Rodgers organs were installed in 2006 and dedicated January 2007 by concert organist, Frederick Swann, as a part of the anniversary celebration. A large 4-Manual 1038 custom Rodgers Trillium Masterpiece Series organ is installed in the choir loft and a large 3-Manual Rodgers Trillium is installed in the altar area. Although both organs play from independent speakers systems located near each console, both organs "talk" to each other and each can be played from either console. The speaker system for the choir loft console is disguised behind a handsome custom pipe fašade (pictured below). There is an Antiphonal organ in the west sanctuary, which plays from both consoles, as well.

Dr. Christian Marcoe, Parish Organist and Director of Music, spearheaded the organ fundraising project to raise money for a matching fund gift by parishioner, Mrs. Ruth Charles in the name of her late husband, Mr. Richard Charles. Mr. and Mrs. Charles have long enjoyed the title, "Mr. and Mrs. Music of Glendale" and are important leaders in the Glendale community.

St. Joseph, Husband of Mary Roman Catholic Church, Las Vegas, Nevada

Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary, Roman Catholic Church was started by a small group of parishioners who gathered together to worship at a local mortuary chapel in 1989. Within two years, the diocese purchased property at the corner of W. Sahara and Tenaya and by 1991, a sufficient number of parishioners had enrolled to undertake the first Parish building program. Through the generosity of these parishioners, funds were raised for construction of the multi-purpose building that included a temporary church hall and kitchen facility.

By 1994, with over 3,000 registered families attending the church, it became evident that the time had come to build a permanent church. Official ground breaking ceremonies were held on Good Friday, April 16, 1995 and building construction began in August 1995. Fortunately, weather conditions were favorable for construction and no delays were experienced. On August 14, 1996, the parish of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, dedicated their magnificent new 1400 seat edifice.

In October 2007, a new custom 4-manual Rodgers Trillium Masterpiece was installed. Robert Tall & Associates, Inc. worked directly with Father Bob Stoeckig in completing all contractual matters. Dan Miller, Rodgers Product Manager and Dr. Robert Tall created a custom stoplist and console layout specifically designed for the needs and musical tastes of the church and the church musicians, under the leadership of Barbara Finn, Director of Music and Liturgy.

The organ has seven divisions; Great, Swell, Choir, Solo, Pedal, Antiphonal and Trumpeteria. The Main Organ is installed in the front center of the church. There is a Choir monitor system linked to the Main Organ that is installed above and behind the Choir. Both the Antiphonal and Trumpeteria play from the rear of the church. The audio system is spread through 24 independent 100-Watt channels, totaling an impressive 2400-Watts of power. It is powerful without being loud. In its quiet moments, it is reverently celestial.

Album Information

  • Robert Tall, Organist
  • RT CD 104
  • Distributed by Robert Tall & Associates, Inc.
    2310 North Hermosa Drive
    Palm Springs, CA 92262
    Phone 818-497-3100
    Robert Tall & Associates, Inc.
  • Producer: David Demers
  • Recording Engineer: Stephen Park
  • Mastering: Stephen Park
  • Cover Layout: Bella Printing, Glendale, CA
  • Cover Pictures: David Demers & Jerry Engelhardt

Album Details

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