PipeChat Digest #2841 - Tuesday, May 7, 2002
Felix Frolics on Staten Island - 4-21-02
  by "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net>
Re: messiaen
  by "Bob and Jane Hanudel" <hanudel@schoollink.net>
Re:Organist goes spastic
  by "Dennis Goward" <dlgoward@qwest.net>

(back) Subject: Felix Frolics on Staten Island - 4-21-02 From: "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net> Date: Mon, 6 May 2002 23:06:42 -0400   Dear Lists and Friends,   I think there was a full moon that day! (More about that later.) Felix Hell was about to play his second recital at St. Terese Church on Staten Island (Sunday, April 21st, 2002), and there was, as I walked in, a quite noticeable buzz in the room, a sound of anticipation. His recital a year ago had been a great hit, and I know he personally made a great impression during his time in the parish. There was clearly this time an unusual electricity in the air. I had remarked in writing about last year's recital that the audience here does seem somehow to be particularly keen about the Organ and its music. Hans Hell mentioned to me before this year's recital that the church's pastor at morning Mass had spoken of Louis Vierne, one of his favorite composers for the Organ. Coming from the top, I am sure this has encouraged people's interest. Anyway, as last year, this quite large audience sat at full attention through a long and uncompromising program, and could not have been more clear about their enjoyment. This year, there was a very good projection TV up front, so the action in the gallery could be clearly seen. The system had a bit of a mind of its own! As the Pastor was telling a bit about Felix's globe-trotting itinerary, the legend appeared on the screen: "Set Date and Time Zone!"   The Program:   Bach - Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor I have heard Felix play this quite a few times, and each time, it seems fresh and new. Somehow, on this occasion in this place, possibly egged on by the almost rock star adulation of the audience as Felix made his way from the east end of the church to the west, via the long walk down the nave aisle, I think he gave them a G Minor they will not soon forget. It was clean and articulate, exuding a kind of controlled excitement and virtuosity. The Fugue was a bit gasp-worthy, so quick was it, but under complete control, as it was, it was never frantic, and in fact, I thought the tempo completely apt for the acoustical environment - and the audience clearly loved it.   Bach - Schmuecke dich - Felix found a voluptuous cantus registration with a warm matching accompaniment, and I think the sheer beauty of this long, contemplative chorale prelude was not lost on this obviously sensitized and experienced audience.   I think the confluence of the stars, the moon, and other heavenly bodies need to be just right for the Bach Trio Sonatas to be crowd pleasers. Perhaps they relate to the big Bach works (such as the first piece on tonight's program) the way a work for string quartet relates to works for full orchestra. The music is spare, unadorned, pure, without the distractions of ensemble sounds and changes of sonorities. I think the Trio Sonatas are fabulous works, and clearly, this audience thought so too. Felix played the E Flat Major, No. 1. The registrations were well chosen, bright and interesting, and I do believe it helps at least an audience unfamiliar with these works to be able to watch the process of the music being made at the console. They were all completely riveted to the first two movements, Allegro Moderato and Adagio. At this point, the full moon took over, and my, the Allegro was indeed Vivace and-a-half. Imaginary conversation: Q: "Felix, why do you play that so fast?" A: "Because I can." But, in reality, I believe he played it on that organ and in that acoustic at the speed he felt it, and he has the power and control to do it flawlessly and with excitement - and, that full moon again, he really was having fun with ornamentation. Not a tacky twiddle in the bunch, but lots of daring embellishments, all of which worked. How many audiences have you heard cheering after a Trio Sonata? Well, this one did, two bows worth!   Mendelssohn Second Sonata - I am a bit discomfited by Felix's approach to the first movement, the Grave. I do believe the pace one sets for the wonderful opening needs to be maintained when the texture thins to two voices at the 5th bar. I believe you have to tough it out, working out how to maintain the tension of the Grave tempo with the thinner texture, and it can be done. The second movement, Mendelssohn melodic writing at its best, was truly beautiful, and the Allegro movement in three had all the pomp and dignity it wanted. The Fugue, I thought a bit fast. A quick start at the first statements of subject and answer, leads to minor chaos as the Fugue progressively thickens, as fugues tend to do. I think the lunar pull caused just a tiny bit of a scramble here and there, but it came out o.k. in the end.   Can you keep a secret? In the opening scale of the D Major Prelude and Fugue, there was a bit of improvisation, dare I say a wrong note, but one which I assure you was un-noticed by those who do not know the work, so non-toxic was it. I believe it was the penultimate note, the C# that got flatted. It was a credible rewrite! On screen, I could just see Hans Hell off to the side of the balcony doing a kind of a Gallic shrug. Thus began a really strong performance of this virtuosic piece. The Fugue was not shy in tempo, and Felix's trick of hitting a Pedal piston for a really big sound and then playing that last Pedal solo at the end at a much accelerated tempo had the audience cheering and rising to its feet even before the piece had quite finished. Kind of hokey, but fun, something for the audience to remember - and there was, after all, that full moon.   After a short intermission, the Boellmann Suite Gothique, and there is a crowd pleaser for sure. During the Priere a Notre-Dame, Felix, somehow inspired, used the chimes for one full statement of the melody, and I have to say that it was really electrifying! When and where I went to school in the 60s, the use of such things was unthinkable, but then, at that time, even the use of the tremulant, even in the cantus of an ornamented chorale prelude, was also unthinkable! The chimes are clear, in tune with the organ, and somehow this was a very powerful moment. And, I have to tell you, whatever you might think aesthetically, the whole effort was made yet more worthwhile when, after the concert, I heard an elderly lady saying to Felix: "Thank you for using the chimes. I gave those in memory of my late husband." I already thought it was a wonderful inspiration to use them in that piece, but it became even more wonderful after that.   After the last exciting bits of the Boellmann Toccata finished, Felix played the beautiful and soothing Adagio from Consolations, by Franz Liszt. This was piano music transcribed for organ.   Felix kind of owns the Guilmant First Sonata (D Minor) as he does the Liszt B-A-C-H. He plays these sweeping symphonic works with great panache, as he does also the Ad Nos. During the opening movement, we got a bit of a light show. This was a long concert (although it did not feel that way), and precisely at 4:42, the sexton began clicking on the lights for the 5 p.m. Mass. (The concert had begun at 3.) The pastor made a bee line for the sacristy, and set things right, and Felix played on. The last movement, he gave a rather big Pedal line, so those wonderful Pedal "rumblings," for lack of a better way to describe them, really got everyone sitting up and looking up at the screen to see them being made!   While the audience was cheering and clapping, the 5 p.m. Mass congregation was pushing its way into the church in great numbers. I was glad of this, because these people who did not come to the concert looked up at the screen somewhat bemused, and were edified, all the more when Felix began the encore he has been using of late - the Final to the Vierne First Symphony. He often inserts somewhere a trick tune in the pedals. This time, in deference to the fact that he was playing a work by the pastor's favorite composer, he played it as written. We all then slipped out of the church as quickly and quietly as we could, heading for the church hall, where a nice reception awaited.   Kudos and thanks to St. Terese Parish, its Pastor, and Organist Ed Morand for keeping an organ concert series going. It is no small task, but they must feel encouraged by the great interest shown by members of the parish and the community. It is most impressive.   I shall be in Atlanta this week as 18 semifinalists compete in the North American Semifinals of the Calgary International Organ Competition. Felix has won a place in this round, and his 50 minute slot is at 1:35 on Saturday. Four will be chosen by the judges to go on to the finals in Calgary, Alberta. Eight players have already been chosen from other competitions, four in the Asian round in Hong Kong, and four from the European round in London. The decision in Atlanta will be announced on Saturday evening. I know Felix will have the prayers and best wishes of at least one parish on Staten Island!   Cheers,   Malcolm Wechsler www.mander-organs.com        
(back) Subject: Re: messiaen From: "Bob and Jane Hanudel" <hanudel@schoollink.net> Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 00:13:04 -0400   Wow! What a posting! Thank you for all you shared. Loved your = thoughts on cathedrals.........near the end.......Some extraordinary thoughts here................... Thanks Jane Hanudel         ----- Original Message ----- From: <cmys13085@blueyonder.co.uk> To: "PipeChat" <pipechat@pipechat.org> Sent: Monday, May 06, 2002 12:17 PM Subject: RE: messiaen     Hello,   Messaien is one composer I find difficult (not to mention demanding), but = I always feel that, in spite of my "problem" with his music, I always sense that it is outstanding, whatever it is that Messaien was trying to say! Domitila makes the valid point that music cannot be restricted to a particular place at a particular time and using a particular instrument. I have certainly heard Messaien played here in the UK which made the hair stand on end.   It is interesting to attempt improvisation in the "style" of such as Messaien, Tournemire or Langlais. Tournemire I find fascinating. His music doesn't always "work", and yet, = the rich store of ideas inspired a whole generation and must have caused many nightmares for Maurice Durufle as he struggled to write down recorded improvisations by Tournemire.   As a composer, Messaien is not for me! I leave it to others who may fully understand the music in such a way as I am incapable. The Asian rhythms = may be fascinating, as well as the recurring "motifs", but I personally feel that much that Messaien wrote may have been a little "contrived". Then I remind myself that some organists have gone to extraordinary lengths in = the mastering of Messaien's music; especially someone such as Dame Gilian = Weir.   However, my "instinct" guides me firmly towards Tournemire,Dupre and = Durufle as THE French Composers.   However, I do not find the idea of French "mysticsm" a compelling one, any more than I find the "mysticism" of Holst's "Planet Suite" a particularly appropriate description.   Mystics, by definition, are incomprehensible, but the incomprehensible cannot be defined as mystical without qualification.....it may just be = plum crazy!   I have an idea in fact! I shall, from this day on, wear a black cape at = all times with an attractive red-lining. I shall seat myself at the organ and play, at all times, with my eyes closed and my head thrown back. I will = play huge "mystical" (ie: incomprehensible) chords whilst, at the same time, permitting snatches of recognisable plainsong to overwhelm the devout. I shall shun any personal contact and write to my friends requesting that = they never contact me, and within a couple of years I can guarantee that I will have many students, a trinity of disciples and a few wise sages who, quite rightly, would simply say, "That bloke is as mad as a Hatter!"   Am I being frivolous or unfair?   That's my problem.....I do not know the answer. I find much in the French repertoire which simply "poses" as great music. Nevertheless, in its wild spontaneous "madness", there is much which can move the listener and = thrill to the core. However, I refrain from tagging much of that music as "mystical" or even "great".   In the music of Bach I find the greatest mysticism of all. I look for = "form" and find myself uplifted by melody. I look for "melody" and find myself immersed in contrapuntal ingenuity. I search for "entries" and hear them not, until I look at the page and find them going backwards or upside = down. I wonder at the spontaneous dash of a Bach Toccata, only to find that it = is also mathematically perfect. I search for "the Power and the Glory" in the St.Matthew Passion, only to find myself choked by the gentle pathos of the quieter sections.   Every time I hear Bach, I learn something new or hear something different. Even badly played Bach somehow seems to transcend the performer.   My point is simple.....composers (even improvisers) have certain "tricks = of the trade" up their sleeves, and in French impressionism, there is more illusion than content in many instances.   I hope I am not pouring cold water on French impressionism, but that is exactly what it is.....an "impression"..........perhaps a brief moment in time, the transitory feeling or the fleeting glimpse. It is exactly what the medieval builders and religious leaders achieved with the great cathedrals.....the sensory-confusion caused by incomplete vistas, "mysterious" echoes, strange lights, grotesque carvings, complex ritual = and, above all, the etherial quality of plainsong.The whole package imples the "mystical presence". It is, in real terms, pure theatre , not even = matched by the "gravity" of the court-room or the silence of the library......we = are all victims of the lie.   REAL mysticim or merely incomprehensible? Well, perhaps the "Big Bang" (nil circumference and infinite mass), or = maybe MANY Big Bangs over time which, by mathematical definition cannot exist. Perhaps a Universe which, after expanding, contracts and starts = again.....no beginning and no end....a steady state in fact, interrupted by big events.   Perhaps, "Love thine enemy?" (Post Sept.11th?)   This is the greatest mystery of all, and the greatest mysteries deserve = only a single response.....silent contemplation of the incomprehensible.   I'll shut up now and work on my cape.   Regards,   Colin Mitchell UK   =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D Domitila Ballesteros wrote:-     Sorry, my english is poor. But I'd like to say to tell some words about this. Charles Rosen, in The Romantic Generation says (sorry again, because my book is in portuguese, and I'm trying to translate to english...........   Well, he speaks about the Chopin's studies. He says: "It is not the purpose for which the work was written that determines his style, (...) what requests attention is less the composer's immediate purpose than the tradition in the which and on which he is acting.   "Pipe Up and Be Heard!" 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(back) Subject: Re:Organist goes spastic From: "Dennis Goward" <dlgoward@qwest.net> Date: Mon, 6 May 2002 23:15:11 -0700     > I didn't cry, but felt very empty.   Glenda,   I know something of what you're feeling. When my service at St Paul's = came suddenly to an end, I was heartbroken. I went through times of wanting to give up to times of re-dedication, the whole gamut of emotions. I took comfort from Psalms 45 and 46.   It didn't take long, and I was back on the bench at another church that appreciated what I did, and have never failed to show that.   There's a time of mourning, but it will be followed by joy.   D