Italian concert organist and composer Grimoaldo Macchia is not just a remarkable performer, but also an exquisite arranger. Each setting of Greensleeves (What Child Is This?) is different and enthralling. This composition includes eleven variations on this familiar Christmas carol. Each movement is separate and could be offered as a part of a service or all of the variations could be played in a recital setting. The work is medium-advanced in difficulty and calls for the tonal resources of a medium to large sized instrument. The Pedal Solo movement and the Progressive Rock movement are of particular interest. Entertaining and festive!
This collection kicks off with a declamatory and dramatic arrangement titled “Entrée.” One thing that sticks out about this piece are its odd time signatures, as it alternates between 3/8, 4/4, and 6/8. Nevertheless, the player has freedom over the exact timing of the notes, in order to best serve the bold nature of the work. Interesting chromatic harmonies add to the creativeness of this arrangement of the well-known Christmas carol.
Macchia slows it down with this next variation, “Mistic Adagios.” The arrangement starts out soft and subdued, creating a meditative mood by opening with long sustained chords and a flowing melody played in a registration dark in tone. Similar to the “Entrée,” Macchia obscures the presence of a strong, predictable downbeat with the use of odd time signatures, going from 5/4 to 6/8 and then 4/8 in one section. Dissonant yet not unpleasant harmonies add to its dreamy and mystic aura, hence the arrangement’s title.
This festive arrangement features bold motifs, appropriate for that of a “Royal Fanfare.” Interesting choices of harmony spread occasionally throughout the piece add a modern element to this fanfare. Macchia uses combinations of time signatures such as 9/8 and 3/8 to prolong and emphasize the end of phrases. The Greensleeves melody is more readily apparent in this arrangement, and Macchia uses it in a triumphant setting with its unique and nuanced rhythms.
This short and fun arrangement is to be played vivaciously and lightly with manuals only. The work uses lots of staccato and interlocking parts. It features a passage where the right hand and left hand dance around each other in the same register as they traverse a variation on the melody with some chromatic flair.
“Festive March” opens up with a majestic and solemn intro played at double forte with an impactful rhythmic motif as it gradually ascends. It then moves on to a straightforward and easily recognizable interpretation of the Greensleeves melody and probably the most similar variation in the collection to the original melody. The work then returns to a reprise of the majestic intro, with a triumphant modulation and thick block chords to end the piece.
As expected, “Pedal Solo” is largely for pedals only, but it does end with a brief section for both hands and pedal. This leg workout is filled with quick sixteenth note runs as well as sextuplets. The pedal solo ends with independent parts in the right and left feet, with one foot laying down the Greensleeves melody while the other adds quick flourishes in between notes. The registration suggestion crafts a timbre rich in overtones that provides a full sound.
As one of the more technical arrangements of the collection, “Little Toccatas” consists of repetitive chord work with a consistent rhythmic pattern in the right and left hands while the pedal takes on the melody. The piece once again makes use of compound time signatures 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8 and concludes with a cadenza leading to long sustained notes with closed harmonies.
Trio – Choral
Don’t let the 32nd notes in this arrangement scare you, as the tempo is to be played slowly. In “Trio – Choral,” the right hand and pedal take on the slow-paced melody and bassline respectively while the left hand is responsible for the flourishes in the middle voice.
“Fuga,” as its title suggests, is a fugue on the Greensleeves melody. Macchia sticks with the traditional elements of a fugue in this arrangement, with harmonies and ornaments common of the time period. No 3/8 bars will be found in this piece! There are still moments of virtuosity with 32nd note and 12-tuplet runs accentuating big majestic block chords.
This joyful and energetic arrangement aptly named “Progressive Rock” is one of the notable variations in the collection. The first half features interlocking parts between the right and left hand played with a triplet feel as the pedal lays down forceful punctuation marks. The second half switches it up with fast staccato runs in the right hand, bouncing chords in the left hand, and bold octaves in the pedal to create a toccato-like feel. 9-tuplet runs lead to strong prominent chords that end the arrangement at triple forte.
Sortié – Carillon
The collection ends with this thorough piece titled, “Sortié – Carillon.” It features ostinatos in the right hand and masterfully takes it time to develop the Greensleeves melody. The ostinato in the beginning is based on a syncopated rhythmic pattern in 12/8 with broken chords and then transitions to rolling arpeggios as it approaches the second half. The second to last section adds rolling arpeggios to the left hand as well, and the pedal takes on the melody at triple forte. The final section is filled with triumphant chords and even includes rolling arpeggios in the pedal in the last few measures, building energy for a fitting end to this exciting collection.