PipeChat Digest #2857 - Thursday, May 16, 2002
 
Atlanta 3: Olsen, Cho, Schwandt
  by "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net>
first rehearsal in new church (X-posted)
  by <quilisma@socal.rr.com>
 

(back) Subject: Atlanta 3: Olsen, Cho, Schwandt From: "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net> Date: Thu, 16 May 2002 00:06:42 -0400   Dear Lists and Friends,   It was Thursday, May 9th. I have already written about the 12:30 - 3:30 concert this day. The next concert is at 6:30 p.m., and the realities of Atlanta traffic at rush hour dictate that if one is staying down town, as was I, one must not go back to the hotel and hope to be able to get out to Morrow (before TO-MORROW) in time, despite the three hour space between. I was downtown to be near Peachtree Road UMC where the Monster Mander is going in, and also to be with my friends Hans and Felix Hell for friendly breakfasts in the morning and cheerful late night Guinness.   The evening concert this day was begun by TIMOTHY OLSEN, a native of Minnesota, but now living in the U.S.A.(!) He is 27 years old, and a graduate of Moorhead College, and holds a Master's Degree from Eastman. He is currently a Doctoral student at Eastman, studying with David Higgs. He began, from memory, with our second performance of the Bruhns E Minor Praeludium, and it was a somewhat heavy-handed approach to it, with lots of organ. I found it a bit rigid, but not everyone looks for the kinds of flexibility that please me.   The psychology of the memory slip is a complex thing. When I was at Oberlin, I and the 44 other organ majors knew there was no escape from the discipline of memory playing. While Fenner Douglass was noted largely for his advocacy of particular sorts of organbuilding and organ playing, he was withal a very fine and attentive technical teacher. The other faculty members had their own systems for teaching effective memorizing, and in general, there were few embarrassments in the many student recitals. I was lucky in that regard, but have not played from memory in public since. But then, to the delight of the multitudes, I don't really pretend to be a concert organist. To be as exposed as one is at a competition like this little Calgary Stampede for organists carries a special sort of Angst. Now, it is not just the audience for which you are playing, but it also what is at stake - fame and fortune, and a great career boost, and one does not enter into this without thinking one has a chance. And, if one's memory fails, then there is the thought that the chance of winning a place at the finals is probably gone, which may or may not be true, in fact. Well, in the next piece, the Franck Prelude Fugue and Variation, Tim's memory began to forsake him, and my heart sank on his behalf, and I wondered what approach to a rescue he would take. Would he be able to keep clear headed, to think through where he was harmonically, to find his way to one of the starting places one is taught to have ready in case of just this sort of emergency? Well, he did all of the above, which is a tribute to his musicianship, and when the piece ended, he got a warm round of applause.   Next came the Bach Prelude & Fugue in D Major, and I hoped that sheer tactile memory, not, of course, reliable in an of itself, might help to carry him through this in the event of a problem. It was not to be, and problems did occur, but he did a really superhuman job of keeping going, so the train wrecks were not obvious and jarring. I think he deserves a special achievement award for carrying it through.   Redemption, in any case, was at hand in three pieces from the Quaker Reader of Ned Rorem, music with which Tim is clearly comfortable, and which he brought to us with great conviction and clarity. He played: "A Secret Power," "The World of Silence," (which isn't), and the beautiful "There Is A Spirit that Delights To Do No Evil." These are lovely pieces that need to be heard, and they were most excellently played.   Tim had music on the rack for the Allegro of the Widor Sixth, and played this with great virtuosity, unhampered by any worry about memory, making for an exciting end to the first recital of the three for the evening.   Our middle recital of the evening was played by JIN-SUN CHO, Age 31, who is from Korea, and has a Bachelor's Degree from Yonsei University there. She holds a Master's and also a Graduate Performance Diploma from the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, studying with Donald Sutherland, who was also her teacher at Catholic University of America from which institution she holds a DMA.   She began with the Bach-Vivaldi Concerto in D Minor. The second section (chordal) was quite loud, unusually. I thought the ornamentation a bit on the heavy side. I could not quite work out where it was going. I had a feeling that Jin-Sun might have been limited in her practice time on this organ, as I think much more could have happened with registrations throughout.   We next heard the Mendelssohn 4th Sonata, which was quite nicely done. It was somewhat placid in the beginning, but she really worked up a head of steam in the final movement.   For the Allegro from the Widor Sixth, she lost any timidity and gave a quite strong performance.   The recital ended with two fine works of David Conte (b. 1955), Pastorale and Toccata. Mr. Conte was a Boulanger student, and is teaching Composition at the San Francisco Conservatory. His music was in good hands on this occasion.   The last recital of the evening's concert was by JOHN DANIEL SCHWANDT, Age 30, who has a Bachelor's from St. Olaf, a Master's Degree and Performer's Certificate from Indiana U., from which place he now has a Doctorate in Organ Performance and Literature. He is now teaching at I.U.   He began with the only appearance in the competition of the Bach F Major Toccata and Fugue. His was good confident playing, but with little give or flexibility, making particularly the Fugue seem somewhat relentless.   It was pleasant to hear some Mendelssohn other than the Sonatas, wonderful as they are. We heard here the Prelude & Fugue in G Major which began on lovely flutes 8',4',2', with a fuller sound for the Fugue This music seemed to inspire more flexibility than did the Bach. One could, I suppose, make a case for more give in playing music of the Romantic Mendelssohn than in Bach, firmly rooted in the Baroque.   Then came some music of Calvin Hampton I have not heard this before. From Three Pieces: Prayer, very sweetly done. Alleluias, big confident playing, building, building and building to a great crashing ending.   From the Second Symphony of Dupre, Opus 26, we heard Toccata. Mr. Schwandt's keyboard power was equal to this task, brilliantly fulfilled.   At this point, Mr. Schwandt became the only performer to speak to the audience - there was one other performer who spoke four words. He spoke for two reasons. He first delivered a very lovely speech, expressing on behalf of himself and everyone else, appreciation for the many people who have made this competition run smoothly, and have shown many kindnesses to the players, allowing them to concentrate only on their performances. His other reason for needing to speak was to say that he was adding an improvisation to his published program, and that one theme had been written for him a couple of hours earlier by Simon Preston, and that the other was the well-known hymn tune Leoni, most often set to "The God of Abraham Praise." I have to say that Simon Preston's theme was, to me, a horribly disjunct and unmusical thing, not a particularly lovely subject for improvisation. In any case, John found interesting organ sounds which would not have fit his repertoire, or anyone else's for that matter. It all ended with a very complicated fugue, leading to a huge jazzy toccata, using a registration which found the soul of a Theatre Organ hiding somewhere inside that case. This was totally brilliant all the way, and great fun to hear. A nice way to end the evening.   Before shutting down for the night, I must point out an infelicity in my last posting. It was a typo in the name of the composer Keiki Okasaka. I take notes always using a Palm Pilot, which some will know sets type by the use of a system of Graffiti written with a stylus. Mine is a wireless Palm, and when I finish my notes, I can e-mail them quickly to my desktop where they await soul searching, amending, correcting, and proofing. I finished the last posting at about 2:30 in the morning, having been in New York earlier for an astonishing concert at St. Ignatius Loyola. I worked with the Palm on my notes while on the train, but in the wee hours, my proofing was not what I like it to be. In Palm Graffiti, an O and a Q are quite similar in key stroke. So poor Keiki Okasaka became a kind of Japanese/Welsh amalgam, Keiki Qkasaka. If you tried to look this composer up anywhere, you failed.   Cheers,   Malcolm Wechsler www.mander-organs.com            
(back) Subject: first rehearsal in new church (X-posted) From: <quilisma@socal.rr.com> Date: Wed, 15 May 2002 23:29:34 -0700   WOW!   Three seconds reverb at LEAST, and that's with all the padded pews installed, so it's not going to come down MUCH, even when the church is full.   The old Allen sounds WONDERFUL (well, toaster-wonderful) ... the big organ chamber REALLY helps.   It'll take the choir awhile to adjust ... they're used to having to SHOUT to be heard in a dead room. But they LOVED it.   I've been at St. Matthew's for five years, and I've never really HEARD the choir until tonight.   Some of the building committee was downstairs listening ... they were ecstatic.   Cheers,   Bud