PipeChat Digest #2698 - Saturday, February 9, 2002
 
Marvin Mills, St. Agnes, New York - 2/6/02
  by "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net>
 

(back) Subject: Marvin Mills, St. Agnes, New York - 2/6/02 From: "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net> Date: Sat, 9 Feb 2002 00:45:22 -0500   Dear Lists and Friends,   Marvin Mills, Associate Minister of Music at National City Christian = Church, is a very old friend, and a musician whom I admire a great deal. He was = for many years Organist at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, where he presided over the church's large Rieger Organ. This last Wednesday, = February 6, he played in New York, as part of St. Agnes Church's series of "Rush = Hour Concerts," held usually on the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30. = Andrew Mills (no relation!), Organist and Choirmaster at St. Agnes, is the mastermind of this series, and it has gone from strength to strength, growing in support and interest. (I have to use first names now, or you = won' t know to which Mills I refer!) Marvin's concert was sponsored by the Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation. Yes, THAT Bob Hope, and don't ask = me how Andrew made this happen, because I don't know, and I don't think he is telling. There is a connection to the church of some sort, and we can only be thankful for it. There is now also an impressive list of Friends of Music at St. Agnes. This and Andrew's imagination have made possible some wonderful programming, which I will try to post on these lists sometime before each concert. Marvin's program consisted of four major works, and three of them were totally new to me, and I have been around a bit! I = truly loved each of these unfamiliar works, by composers Florence Price, Aaron David Miller, and Jesus Guridi, and what a service has been done here, in bringing these compositions to our attention, and to the attention of = other audiences for which Marvin will play them so brilliantly. The program:   Florence Price (1887-1957)- Suite (1940) Is there not a tendency, in hearing music of a composer new to one, to attempt to match the style to someone known? Florence Price studied at New England Conservatory, earning an Artist's Diploma in Organ. She also = studied composition with George Whitefield Chadwick. I myself was hearing bits of Horatio Parker, for what that might be worth. I think it worth quoting = from the program notes, particularly during this Black History Month, but = anytime really, that "her Symphony in E Minor won first prize in the Wanamaker = Music Composition Contest of 1932 and was premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in June 1933. Price was the first African-American woman to have an orchestral work performed by a major American orchestra." 1. Fantasy - A bold, fresh, and wonderful opening, not shocking harmonically, but not of the 19th century either. 2. Fughetta - Lovely contrapuntal twists and turns. 3. Air - There is here, and elsewhere in this work, a meandering sort of chromaticism, a harmonic language that borders just a bit on that of Sowerby. 4. Toccata -(Toccato in the score, and we don't know if she meant it, or = if it is a typo!) Not at all in the usual French manner. Wonderful = intertwining chordal patterns, scherzo-like. Also, a scherzo-like midsection, beginning on a lighter fluty registration. Published by ClarNan Editions, 235 Baxter Lane, Fayetteville, AR 72701, Edition number = CN 19.   Aaron David Miller (b. 1972) Triptych for Lent and Easter (2000). We have all seen this young man smiling up at us from his page in The American Organist magazine, and I have looked forward to an opportunity of hearing him play. My resolve is strengthened from hearing Aaron David Miller, the composer, and possessor of a most interesting musical mind. Any one of the three pieces below is worth your time, and your church won't mind hearing them one bit. 1. Chorale Prelude on "Munich" - tremendously inventive - delightful opening little Arabesques on 8&2 sorts of sounds, joined by the tune straightforward on Principal tone. A splendid chorale prelude! 2. Ritornello on "Herzliebster Jesu" - something of a Bach ritornello aria in modern dress - charming. Cromorne melody. 3. Fantasy on "Morgenlied" - Bold & imaginative, with lovely & lyrical minor sections, and one fuller B section. Hints of the tune are always available. Published by Augsburg.   J. S. Bach - Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor (582) - What a stroke of genius to program this transcendent monument from the 18th century in the midst of music of the 20th! Neither diminished the other - quite the contrary - and we all settled down with an old friend before going back to one more new friend. This piece was my "road to Damascus" piece. I was at Oberlin, not in the Conservatory, but taking piano lessons at the Con nonetheless, and I wandered into Finney Chapel one afternoon, and the Passacaglia was being played by Kent Hill, a student a year or two ahead = of me, and I was just knocked over. I had never heard this piece, and the = organ was steaming along at full bore, and I was done for. Thank you Marvin for helping me relive that, and playing it so wonderfully well. You do it differently than I do, which has to do with my feeling about great moments of tension and release, which I have to express by pulling back ever so slightly and then resuming tempo. I can point out one characteristic place which is at the 38th bar from the end of the Fugue. It's at the f minor statement of the subject, and in the second beat, prepared somewhat in the first, I need to broaden out just a bit ascending to the high c before reverting to tempo. It is something I feel very strongly, but I know not everyone sees it that way. I was not prevented from thoroughly enjoying = the performance. It was great. Whose wild and wonderful cadenza was that? I forgot to ask.   J=E9sus Guridi (1886-1981) - Triptico del buen Pastor (1953) This was all a revelation to me. Such wonderful program music. Gurudi is from Spain, studied at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, and then with Joseph Jongen in Belgium. He is the composer of several successful operas. In the work before us, there are (of course) three sections: 1. El rebano (with a squiggle over the N that would throw the Internet = into a panic). (The Flock) Obviously a pastorale sort of movement, with a shepherd's song, and an organic approximation of sheep bells. 2. La oveja perdida (The Lost Sheep). There is a great storm (no mistaking it), and when the weather clears, we hear the bleating of the flock - somehow, we really do, and the effect is very moving. 3. El buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd) This is a thrilling, almost chilling movement, gently beginning and building and building, with a long, soaring melody intended to depict the shepherd's steadfast nature, interrupted by great fanfares and then building to an enormous cadence. The long melody somehow reminds me of the spirit of the great choral prelude near the end = of Sei Gegrusset, but certainly not the music itself. Published by Union Musical Espa=F1ola, Editores, Madrid.   Cheers to all, and thanks again to Marvin, Andrew, and St. Agnes Church = for bringing this to us.   Malcolm Wechsler www.mander-organs.com (where you can find pictures, stoplist, and history = of the St. Agnes Organ.)