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The Bells of Hinckley is the concluding movement of the fourth suite of Vierne's Pieces de Fantaisie. Unlike the "pure" music of Vierne's organ symphonies, these suites are intended to be more descriptive works, and Vierne gives many of them titles suggestive of a specific place or image (Hymn to the Sun, Gargoyles and Chimeras, and so forth). The finale of the third suite is the famous Carillon de Westminster, inspired by the ubiquitous mi-re-do-so carillon motive. Although the Westminster is arguably Vierne's most regularly performed piece, due in part to its modest technical demands, this piece is the superior work.
Vierne's inspiration here is the carillon in the British town of Hinckley, which lies between Leicester and Coventry and is, incidentally, not far from Bosworth (as in "Battle of"). Vierne must have heard the carillon during one of his performance tours of the UK in the 1920s. The work bears some structural similarities to the Westminster, beginning with the carillon as a quiet statement in the pedals, over an ostinato in the manuals, and gradually developing into a brilliantly pealing hymn to joy. However, this piece is more harmonically adventurous and simply more interesting than the Westminster. The carillon moves generally upward through the voices as the work proceeds, returning to the bass for the last statement. Meanwhile, the accompanying material shifts from strictly diatonic to strongly chromatic and back again. The work concludes with a brilliant blaze of rapid descending scales and some Viernian pesante chords.
Though this is an organ work, I have scored it with classical organ patches playing subordinate roles. Yamaha and Roland "continental organs" appear in the wandering chromatic lines in the middle, and again for the concluding ostinato, but much of the rest of it is scored with strings, winds, and choirs. Hopefully this underscores the rather ethereal nature of much of the piece.
This piece is quintessential Vierne, one of the best works in his Fantasy Pieces, and I hope you enjoy it.
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