PipeChat Digest #2855 - Wednesday, May 15, 2002
Atlanta 2: Martin, Henderson, Sevsek
  by "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net>

(back) Subject: Atlanta 2: Martin, Henderson, Sevsek From: "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net> Date: Wed, 15 May 2002 03:12:07 -0400   Dear Lists and Friends,   Back at Spivey Hall for the first concert on day two of the Calgary Competition, and already, Atlanta's famous traffic problems made themselves known. I was visiting the Mander crew at Peachtree Road UMC, where we have an instrument being installed, but left there in plenty of time to get out to Morrow - I thought. About two miles from the exit, everything on I-75 came to not quite a complete stop, but certainly a very slow crawl. I still had about 30 minutes to go two miles, but I watched that being whittled away, until I was at minus 20 minutes! The problem turned out to be the thing we hear about on the radio all the time - a "jackknifed tractor trailer." It was lying on its side in the brush at the side of the road, and having finally reached the scene, I got free of the traffic and headed to Spivey. Imagine my surprise when, at about 25 minutes after start time, I was hearing the first piece on the program, not too far along. It was the Bruhns Praeludium in E Minor, in the first of its four performances this week. Was this perhaps a required piece for AGO competitions? I listened from outside the door, and went in at the applause, to learn that the judges had been caught up in the same traffic mess (although they were a bit ahead of me), so the recital had been delayed. This fourth recital of the week was played by MICHELLE RAE MARTIN, Age 25, from Saskatchewan, now a Doctoral Candidate at Eastman, studying with David Higgs.   I quite enjoyed the Bruhns outside the door, and the Sweelinck Ballo del granduca had a proper ducal dignity. Michelle's chosen Bach gave us the second (of three) performances of the Fantasia & Fugue in G Minor. Her approach was Rhapsodic, Romantic, and Athletic all at the same time. Registrations were on the thick side, even in secondary sections, but not at all unpleasantly so. The Fugue began at a nice, gentle pace, and at some point along the way, some inaccuracies began to creep in, and I felt that perhaps a bit of panic was setting in. This is possibly the ultimate crucible, with an enormous amount at stake. You are playing for well-known judges, and possibly even worse, you are playing for the other competitors. It has to be said, however, that as far as I could tell, there was no unpleasant competitive feeling anywhere here. Rather, the players were clearly supporting one another, and that feeling continued right through the fateful announcements on Saturday night. What a great group of people. I digress. Michelle quickly recovered her composure, the lack of which was only very slightly noticeable, and I suspect there were some who did not catch it at all.   For her choice of a Romantic work, she chose the Franck B Minor Chorale. I thought the approach to expressiveness was perhaps a bit over the top. Phrases were milked of all they had to offer and a bit more. I thought her registrations needed a bit more care, not quite taking advantage of what was available. With all that, it was a credible performance of this rich work.   The last part of the program consisted of Three Pieces for Organ by Aaron Travers (b. 1974). I think this is home to Michelle - she was completely at ease, and gave these really fine pieces stunning performances. They are based on Poems by Stephen Crane, but we were given no information about the texts. The layout of the programs did not allow for even the smallest of program notes. 1. Con fuoco - A quite brutal piece, well and truly done. 2. Lento assai - Adagio teneramente - This was at first very chorale like, followed by a gentle, deep, Pedal solo, soon joined by a plaintive, evocative solo line above, thickening gradually in texture, and then back to the chorale to a big climax, but then ending gently on strings. 3. Allegro marcato - Rather pointillistic to start, then a somewhat Messiaen-like bird call section. We settled into a big Toccata including a wild Pedal flourish to the end.   I think this is great music, and could not have any better advocate than Michelle Martin. I am not sure who Aaron Travers is - he has not made it to either Arnold or John Henderson. John will have him in his stupendous tome before too very long, I am sure. This recital was a good beginning, if a bit delayed, to our first afternoon concert. Well done, Michelle.   ANDREW HENDERSON - Age 25 - began his program with the only de Grigny heard durinq the competition, a Dialogue from Livre d'Orgue (Agnus Dei, 2nd movement). I love this stuff, here played with a solid and steady accompaniment with deliciously fluid ornamentation in the melody.   We next heard the first Trio Sonata of the competition, Bach No. 2 in C Minor, very gentle in pace and registration, except the last movement, which moved along smartly indeed. In the course of the six concerts (18 recitals!), we heard Bach Trio Sonatas numbers 2, 3, and 4 (twice).   For something completely different, we heard now the first of three performances of the Reger <Wie schoen leucht't uns der Morgenstern>. All registration was deftly handled. One might have thought there was a Rollschweller hidden somewhere. This was a wonderful performance, full of drama.   Last on the program was a wonderfully rhapsodic performance of the great Durufle Prelude & Fugue on the Name of ALAIN. If I prove not to be immortal after all, I want this at my funeral, with Andrew on the bench.   Andrew is from Thorold, Ontario, graduated from Cambridge University, during which time he was Organ Scholar at Clare College under Tim Brown. He then earned a Master's at Yale, and now, while completing a Doctorate at Juilliard, he is part of the large and distinguished family of musicians at St. Ignatius Loyola in NY. (I have granted myself the right to plug a favorite institution with an oh-so-nice Organ!)   TOMAZ SEVSEK is from Slovenia, and is a graduate of the Musikhochschule Freiburg, Germany. On a scholarship from the Slovenian Ministry of Culture, he is now enrolled at Eastman, studying with David Higgs. He began with a rather different and, I thought, quite lovely performance of the St. Anne Prelude & Fugue, beginning somewhat unusually, and dare I say, refreshingly, gently, on just 8, 4, and 2. No reeds. He paid much attention to detail in a performance full of life. A gentle reed was added to the Pedal along the way. For the Fugue, Tomaz added a Mixture and 16, and a bigger reed in the Pedal. For the second section, we were back to 8,4,2 (is there a gentle 1'? - only on the Positif. It sounded like it might have been there). The third section remained the same. For the last, glorious section, we were back to Mixture and 16, with a big Pedal reed. This whole performance was terrifically lyrical all the way, always careful of detail, but not fussy in any way! I found its restraint very pleasing.   From the Messiaen L'Ascension: <Allelias sereins> and <Transports de joie> - These were stunningly musical performances, spirited and sure!   Here followed a most interesting and atmospheric work by a composer certainly unknown to me, Keiki Qkasaka (b. 1940). (He is listed in Henderson, but obviously, John was not able to find information of substance - yet.) The piece, called Miyabi (Eleganz), begins with a note on perhaps a 1' on a very high note at the top of the Pedalboard. I don't think Mr. Ruffatti was here yet at this point, so no thoughts of a cypher disturbed his equilibrium. In any case, around that ongoing high-pitched sound, wonderfully diaphanous textures began to occur. Then big clusters of sound. Wild fluty figures became interspersed with clusters. The many serene moments in this work can remind one of a walk in a Japanese Garden. All was lovingly played.   Tomaz closed his program with the Liszt B-A-C-H, giving it a truly powerful performance. This was a splendid recital, and ended our second exciting three hour concert.   Cheers,   Malcolm Wechsler www.mander-organs.com