Afrika Hymnus I, the first large-scale work for solo organ by the eminent South
African composer Stefans Grové, has proved to be one of his most outstanding and
successful works, with three commercially-available recordings by prominent
organists and frequent performances both in South Africa and abroad. Yet the work
has received relatively little academic attention, with existing discussions mostly
being aimed at identifying indigenous African elements that might be found in the
work. The present study provides a more in-depth examination of the work’s content,
by investigating it according to the phenomena of musical style, with the objective of
contributing towards a better understanding of Grové’s distinctive style. To this end,
each movement is discussed separately, with a focus on the following topics:
structure, melodic content, vertical aspects, rhythm, texture, and registration (the last
aspect being unique to organ music). The discussion yields prominent stylistic traits,
such as the use of short motifs and their derivatives, specific intervals being accorded
great significance, the use of non-diatonic scale formations, recurring chord
structures, a reliance on an underlying additive rhythmic framework, a rich diversity
of textures ranging from simple to multi-layered and inventive, and a distinctive and
evocative application of registration. A brief discussion of the solo organ works that
predate Afrika Hymnus I shows that evidence of some of these features can already be
found in those works. The study also shows how Afrika Hymnus I achieves cohesion,
both within the complex multipart structures of the outer movements and as a whole.
The discussion includes rich descriptions of the prominent musical features,
complemented by numerous music examples.
Dissertation (MMus)--University of Pretoria, 2014.