PipeChat Digest #4792 - Tuesday, September 28, 2004
 
Hurricane Felix!
  by <MBenzMike@aol.com>
charging for info
  by "First Christian Church of Casey, IL" <kzrev@rr1.net>
Re: Hurricane Felix!
  by <ProOrgo53@aol.com>
 

(back) Subject: Hurricane Felix! From: <MBenzMike@aol.com> Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2004 00:32:05 EDT   Hello Everyone,   My name is Michael Noble and I am the Chair of the Music and Worship commitee at St. Mark Lutheran church in Hanover, PA. I'm not a = professional musician, but I play the organ and the piano privately for my own = enjoyment. I've been an organ buff since childhood and I look forward to listening = and learning from you, and from time to time, making a contribution myself. = Last Sunday I attended a recital presented by Felix Hell. For my first posting = I thought that I would attempt a review of the performance.   Last Sunday afternoon I was attempting to navigate the traffic on I = 695 on my way to Our Lady of the Angels Church in Catonsville, Maryland. For = the fifth consecutive year Felix Hell was presenting a recital to open their concert series, and for the fifth consecutive year I was part of the = always enthusiastic and appreciative audience that attends this event. While I am by no means a professional critic, I would like to share with you my observations and experiences of that event.   First a word about the venue. Our Lady of the Angels Church is one of my personal favorite locations for an organ recital. It is, quite simply, = a beautiful structure. Its dome adds to the spaciousness of the interior and the different marbles that were used in construction dazzle the eye as = well as to provide wonderful acoustics for the forty-eight rank Casavant op. = 808 that was installed in 1969. The console was renovated in 1996. This wonderful instrument has served this congregation for thirty-five years.   As I took my seat in the beautiful nave I reviewed the program.After these many years why do I still smile and shake my head in disbelief when = I read a Felix Hell concert program? Having just experienced the unpleasant remnants of wind damage and flooding that hurricane Ivan produced as he moved through our area, my first thought was that now I was about to experience hurricane Felix! The major difference being that the = significant energy being generated here is all positive.   Felix opened his program with Johann Sebastian Bach's Prelude and = Fugue in b minor BWV 544. Generally Felix plays at least one of Bach's compositions at his recitals unless his program is focused on a particular theme or composer. In the past I have enjoyed his performances of BWV 532, 540, 542, and so many others. I was not aware that he added this piece to his repertoire and questioned his wisdom to select this work as an opening pieces of a concert. In any event, I was eager to hear it performed. = Command and control coupled with his always great technique impressed me = throughout the performance. The complex and monumental prelude with its rhythmic = drive and energy was well articulated in this performance. Likewise was the = fugue with its walking pattern always marched to a comfortable tempo. At the conclusion of this piece I could tell from the applause of the audience = that Felix's performance had made a positive impact on them and set the tone = for the rest of the recital.   For his second piece Felix once again selected a composition by Bach. This time it was the Trio Sonata No. 2 in c minor, BWV 526 (Vivace, Largo, Allegro). The six Trio Sonatas rank among the most challenging works for = any organist. Bah composed these pieces didactically and used them as a = teaching aide to help his son, Wilhelm Friedemman, perfect his technique. These pieces are structured to provide many technical difficulties for the performer, particularly in regard to total independence of the hands and feet. The end result is an uncomplicated, beautiful melody, or as an organist friend of mine calls them "ear ticklers" for the listener, and a walk through a minefield for the performer. The structure of these pieces = is so transparent that the slightest error can lead to disaster.   Having heard Felix perform the Trio Sonatas Nos. 1 & 5 several times = I knew that he possessed the ability to negotiate the minefield. Again Felix showed us his control, command, and impeccable technique. The sonata was played at a demanding pace that did not sacrifice clarity in the outer movements. The Vivace danced, the Largo was haunting, and the Allegro = seemed to generate as much excitement for the performer as it did for the = audience. The only explosion here was the appreciative applause of the audience rewarding a technically brilliant and totally convincing performance of = this difficult work.   Felix selected the Organ Sonata No. 5 in D Major, op. 65 (Andante, Andante con moto, Allegro maestoso) by Felix Mendelssohn- Bartholdy, the composer who was responsible for the "rediscovery" of Bach, for his third piece.   Mendelessohn composed his organ sonatas in a very short period of = time, between mid 1844 and early 1845. Many scholars regard them to contain some of the finest of his many musical ideas for the organ. Technically = demanding in their own way, many organists find them to be a real pleasure to play, and, like the organ works of Bach, the Mendelsssohn organ sonatas = constitute an important component of the organists repertoire.   I never really paid much attention to this sonata. I was no doubt influenced by the many negative comments about it being the most boringof the six. However, during a short conversation with Felix before the = recital he put it into a different perspective. "It's probably the most ignored sonata, and I thought that I should put it back into organ concert programs." I thought this was an affirming statement to the composer and = his composition.   The first movement, Andente, in an "artificial" chorale, coming = across as a very solemn hymn. The second movement, another slow movement, Andente con moto, contrasts with the first movement with its plethora of motion = and flexibility that is found in the bass line. My first impression was, "Hey! This is a waltz!" The final movement, Allegro maestoso, displays the = organ's capabilities for exuberant brilliance.   Hopefully this neglected piece will gain a new appreciation as Felix includes it in some of his future programs. Today's performance --breathtaking!   It was at this part in the program that the audience felt the full force of hurricane Felix! The Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-C-H by Max Reger was Felix's fourth selection.   With the death of Brahms in 1897, many Central Europeans hoped that = his successor, the banner-bearer for the next generation of German composers would be the then twenty-four-year-old Max Reger. While rooted in the = style and counterpoint of Bach, Reger revealed the differences between the = baroque and classical traditions as well as the new music of Wagner. In 1900 he decided to pay homage to Bach by writing the Fantasy and Fugue uber = B-A-C-H for organ, using the personal theme that Bach had introduced in his Art of Fugue.   From the first note to the final bombastic chord the audience knew = who was the master of this monster! In the countless number of organ recitals that I have attended over many years, the first time that I experienced = this giant being performed was this summer in Philadelphia, when Felix played = it as part of his program at the Irvine Auditorium. The second time was a recording of a performance that Felix presented in Buffalo at this year's OHS convention. I believe that it was this performance that created quite = a bit of discussion on this list. And today for the third time, but on a = much smaller instrument. The performance - Stunning! Emotionally overwhelming! Magnificent! Confidence, control, command, and creativity with a bit of courage (how many artists have this giant in their repertoire?) combined = to hold the audience in complete awe and respect not only of this musical monster, but also its musicalmaster. Bravo, Felix!   Even after an intermission Felix anticipated that his audience would still be in a state of shock processing his performance of the Reger. He = was right and wisely selected the Prelude, Fugue, and Ciacona in C Major, = BuxWV 137 by Dietrich Buxtehude to calm our emotions and soothe our ears.   Felix transported us back in time almost two hundred years to show us the sheer joy of the masters of the North German School. The joy of experimenting with the at that time new instrument known as "Stylus Fantasticus." Here we find the names of Bruhns, Tunder, Reincke, Luebeck = (of whom Felix has his complete works in his repertoire) and the main representative of this school, Dietrich Buxtehude, the greatest Northern European composer of the late seventeenth century. It is interesting to = note that in 1705, a young J. S. Bach, then only twenty years of age, traveled two hundred miles from his home in Amstadt to Luebeck to experience the music of Buxtehude.   The Prelude, Fugue and Ciacona is a relatively short piece in three sections; the first a free prelude, the second, fugal, and the last Buxtehude created from a ground bass. There are no breaks between the sections. This piece is similar to the Bach Trio Sonatas, for the listener = a musical delight, for the performer, a potential minefield. Overconfidence will bring disaster. Here excellent pedal technique (as to my best knowledge, Felix plays this piece with all toes) as well as excellent fingering technique is a must! Anything less and the joy and life = contained in this piece will not transfer to the listener. It as obvious that Felix was enjoying himself as he deftly performed this musical delight for us. A most relaxing way to transition from the Reger.   Two of Bach's major works, a Mendelssohn organ sonata, the Reger B-A-C-H, the bright Buxtehude, all carefully crafted and brilliantly performed. In most cases the performer would have had the feeling of deep accomplishment knowing that he had performed an exceptional program for = his audience. However, this was a Felix Hell recital and he had one more composition to perform - The Ad Nos ad salutarem undam by Franz Liszt As I said before, there was a whole lot of energy being generated that = afternoon! Many have written about Felix's Ad Nos. Some say that he owns the piece = and there is a certain truth in that statement. He has recorded the piece on = the Schoenstein Organ in Lincoln, Nebraska, He has performed the piece twice = on the huge Schantz at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey, as well as on the giant Austin at the Irvine Auditorium in Philadelphia, and the mighty Kotzschmar in Portland, Oregon, and a sentimental performance as part of his Graduation recital at Curtis to = honor his organ teacher, Dr. John Weaver.   I have heard Felix perform this epic work on many of the above mentioned organs. My concern was how well would it adept to a much smaller organ? Felix once again demonstrated his talent for creating tonal color when he registered this piece. Every section received his careful and thoughtful attention. The Casavant responded without hesitation to its master's commands creating a spectacular and emotionally fulfilling = musical experience for a genuinely moved audience.   The program ended on a quiet note, a transcription of The Air from Bach's Orchestral Suite in D Major, BWV 1068. It was an appropriate ending for a tour de force recital.   Once again I found myself standing among people that were enthusiastically applauding a nineteen-year-old teen who had just taken = them with him on a great musical adventure. As Felix smiled and acknowledged = his audience one more time I, too, silently congratulated him and thanked him for a great recital. He performed a gigantic program with control and = poise, his musical interpretation was introspective and mature, his technique was impeccable, and his playing was brilliant. Thanks you Felix for including = me in this special journey.   So what's next for this now nineteen-year-old Curtis graduate who is beginning to further develop his skills and intellect as a graduate = student at Peabody? How is his exceptional talent going to continue to impact the organ community? Only in good time will we know. All that I can do is to issue a hurricane warning for New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. Hurricane Felix is on the way.   Michael Noble  
(back) Subject: charging for info From: "First Christian Church of Casey, IL" <kzrev@rr1.net> Date: Mon, 27 Sep 2004 23:52:12 -0500   I think more illwill than goodwill is built by charging for a simple stoplist. OTOH, a reasonable charge for an entire file or extensive requests seems reasonable.   But is there not an ethical question involved here, too, in the details? That is, if Church A is involved in extensive correspondence and contract negotiations with Builder B, is it really appropriate for the builder to release that information to the general public? Perhaps there comes a = point where it is such old material as to be a moot point, but surely we would think very little of other providers of services who did such releases!   Whomever was looking for appropriate pieces for the small home church organ--was it Glenda?--how about some of Nigel Ogden's delightful pieces--"Scherzo for a White Rabbit" comes to mind. Dennis Steckley Lover of Cats, Pipe Organs & 1940-65 Sewing Machines    
(back) Subject: Re: Hurricane Felix! From: <ProOrgo53@aol.com> Date: Tue, 28 Sep 2004 01:01:34 EDT   Thank you, Michael (Noble), for your enthusiastic, tremendously = supportive, and informative review of Felix Hell's concert of last Sunday in Maryland. =     Having had the opportunity to hear two (not-too-distant) programs by = Maestro Felix over the past two years, your well written exposition transported = me, once again, to experience one of God's great musical gifts to our = generation. Soli Deo Gloria!   And 'bravo' to you, as well!   Sincerely,   Dale G. Rider, M. Sacred Mus., CAGO Independence, MO, USA