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Well, In My Opinion...
Saturday, 22 May 2010
Now THAT'S an Organ Recital
Now Playing: Beethoven: Symphony #3 the "Eroica"
Topic: concert reviews
    For those of you who have read my series So,What's Wrong with the Organ Anyway you know that I have considered Paul Jacobs to be one of the very few organists on this planet capable of generating the same kind of excitement that Gustavo Dudamel, Nigel Kennedy, Marc-André Hamelin or Natalie Dessay engender.  I must say his recital at Verizon Hall in Philadelphia's Kimmel Centre on Saturday (8/V/2010) did not fail to exceed one's expectations.  Mr. Jacobs, who is the head of the Organ Department at the Juilliard School of Music, played an intriguing and very compelling programme of Mendelssohn, J. S.Bach, Boulanger (not the one you think), Franck, Oquin, and Reger which, at the end, left the audience completely exhilarated, if not exhausted. 
    Let me start off with a comment about the organ in Verizon Hall.  This instrument is a testament to the concept that for an instrument (of any kind) to fully achieve it's tonal potential it must be played.  So many organs in concert halls suffer from the condition of tonal decrepitude as a result of simply sitting there and quite literally rotting (leather dry rot) from inactivity.  We hear stories of unplayable Stradivarius and Guarneri string instruments, or Broadwood and Erard pianofortes needing complete rebuilding because they were left sitting in museums unplayed; so it is with concert hall organs.  It is to the Kimmel Centre's credit that they have actively promoted and kept their instrument in use via their recital series.  As a result, the organ has become a warmer, better balanced instrument with the constant tweaking of its voicing, tuning and playing since its installation five years ago. 
    Mr. Jacobs obviously appreciates this fact as illustrated by the rich full foundation opening of the Mendelssohn Sonata #1 in f  Op. 65#1.  One of the outstanding features of Mendelssohn's organ sonatas is that they are really quite orchestral in nature.  Mr. Jacobs gave the first movement the full orchestral treatment by not merely adhering to the dynamic contrasts as called out the score; but, with each successive contrasting section you could almost sense the composer's naturally orchestral mind being applied through his exploitation of the organ's resources.  Mr. Jacobs made sure that no two sections were exactly the same; there was a constant evolution of registration leading to the next section.  His rapid, seamless registration changes facilitated this linear path so smoothly, it all felt as natural as his breathing for each phrase.  The secret to any great performance is how the artist understands the phrase.  It's the shaping and clear articulation of each phrase and its relationship to every other clearly articulated phrase which drives the piece forward.  Mr. Jacobs' rhythmic precision plainly demonstrated this fact.  The lyrical second movement, with its numerous solo passages gave Mr. Jacobs the opportunity to think even more like a conductor by showing off a number of the organ's colourful imitative stops which he did with gentle sensitivity.  The third movement is a kind of a strange dialogue contrasting very assertive block chordal, forte passages taken from the choral Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu Dir with very quiet, initially subdued flute choruses which gradually grow in dynamics but not character until Mr Jacobs brings on all the strings and flutes with glorious orchestral lush forte to "face up" as it were to the reeds and principal chorus sound-blocks only to give the gentler voice the last word, bringing the organ down to a hushed half cadence which led directly into one of the most surprising, yet, brilliantly conceived last movements to this sonata I've ever heard.  The usual approach to this is to make a rather (sometimes excessive) dynamic change by breaking into its arpeggiated opening with a forte principal chorus and then crescendoing from there.  However, Mr. Jacobs glided into the fourth movement with a delicate sparkling flute chorus (8',4',2' for organists).  The effect was not only startling to anyone who knows the piece, but, brilliantly Mendelssohnian to anyone listening.  When Mendelssohn, who was an accomplished (as in virtually everything else he did) organist, wrote these six sonatas he wanted to demonstrate to the English (now that they were finally building organs with pedalboards) what they had been missing (and what the Germans had been enjoying) for more than a century and half.  He therefore incorporated two pedal cadenzas which must have created quite a sensation among the British at the time.  Mr. Jacobs played them with all the flourish they deserved to bring the sonata to a rousing finish.
    The current trend of giving oral programme notes has been both a boon and a bane — usually the latter.  It was the late great Virgil Fox who (unbeknownst to most of the non-organ concert world) started the tradition shortly after the Second World War.  And although it has since become an accepted general practise among many concert musicians, most are dreadful at it because they don't have the socially interactive skills to be interesting.  Fortunately for us Mr. Jacobs knows how to engage his audience.  His description of the three little duetti of Bach that he played (in e, G, and a, BWV 802, 804, 805 respectively) gave one a greater appreciation for these little keyboard miniatures.  Though not specifically organ works per se (no pedal required) Mr. Jacobs' ingenious, contrasting and decidedly non-Baroque registrations and use of the swell shades (horrors!) brought out the intricacy of these deceptively simple little pieces.  Mr. Jacobs, understanding that Bach (like all great music) is never far from the dance made all three of these miniatures — well — dance.
    Nadia Boulanger who was probably the greatest composition and theory teacher of the twentieth century (I won't go into the who's who list of students, thank you) was, ironically, as Mr. Jacobs pointed out in his programme notes, quite insecure of her own talents as a composer (a trait that seems to be intrinsically French); instead, preferring to promote the work of her younger sister Lili, whom she considered to be the greater talent.  Notwithstanding, gratitude is given here to Mr. Jacobs for bringing to us a lovely Prelude in f  which was also quite orchestral in nature and exceedingly beautiful.  Using a constant flowing left hand, which at first just seemed to be a series of broken chords, one came to realise that this was more than just a lush harmonic accompaniment beneath a number of solo passages. Rather this "accompaniment" was a constant, insistent contrapuntal pushing of the piece to a gloriously sumptuous climax, as one would imagine from a large string orchestra; only to be brought back to a whisper of a final coda.
    Several years ago a score to the Six Piéces for organ by César Franck which had apparently been owned by one of Franck's pupil's came to light.  The interesting aspect to this is that metronomic markings were written in what has been determined to be Franck's own hand show that the traditionally broad French approach to playing his faster tempi to be wrong:  that Franck liked his fast tempi fast.  I bring this up because tradition is often a very hard thing from which to break away.  Fox did it years ago and Mr. Jacobs did it here with great flourish.  The Final in Bb, Op. 21 starts off with an extensive pedal solo (atypical for Franck for reasons into which I need not go), which, if not played at a goodly clip, sounds clumsy and turgid as will the rest of the piece. Mr. Jacobs's crisp tempo gave the piece all the virtuoso panache it requires, and more.  You see, this piece is not Franck's finest moment as a composer. I would liken it to a film in which a normally fine director is just simply going through the motions of directing; yet, he has the acumen to bring in actors who, simply by the impress of their talent and their way of working with the script, make the movie more than it is.  Mr. Jacobs is that kind of talent.  Going beyond Franck's own rather prosaic registration he arrived at probably the most imaginative, yet infallibly logical combinations of stops and went right to the essential orchestral core of the piece.  The quintessential example being the coda with its long accelerando starting very slowing in the pedal then gradually speeding up to the final climax: the type of thing that any decent conductor would know how to do with an orchestra, but very, very few organists understand; which is why Mr. Jacobs stands out from the herd.
    Wayne Oquin (  hails originally from Texas but now teaches at Juilliard with his colleague Mr. Jacobs.  Reverie which received its Philadelphia premier, is, as Mr. Jacobs pointed out, a new venture for Dr. Oquin, who although is an accomplished pianist, is not an organist.  I tried to get into the spirit of the piece; but, it's angular harmonic language and rather shapeless solo melodic lines kept interfering with the dreaminess I believe I was supposed to experience.  I know Mr. Jacobs is very fond of this piece and has played it extensively, and gave it a loving performance; but, it didn't seem to go anywhere.  Even dreams take you along some kind path, strange though they may be.  It wasn't nightmarish, just uninteresting.
    It's not hard to understand why Max Reger's music isn't more widely appreciated by the general public since he is mostly known as on of those "organ composers."  Not unlike Leo Sowerby a generation or so later Reger's organ music sounds much different from his orchestral or chambre music.  I surmise that the primary reason for this characteristic is that dissonances and textures can't be tempered on the organ as they can be with the orchestra or instrumental ensemble, or even the piano, to a lesser extent.  If one compares his Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart, Op.132  for orchestra to his Choral Fantasy on "How Brightly Shines the Morning Star," Op.40 #1, one of his more accessible organ works, you would be hard pressed to believe it was the same composer.  And though Reger was no fool and fully understood this seeming dichotomy that didn't change his approach to his organ writing.  In fact, one can tell just by listening to it (if you're a fan such as I) he must have relished the challenges he presented to the listener to his organ works.  The scores are black with notes with all manner of complex and cross rhythms, and intensely contrapuntal. The Second Sonata in d, Op.60 follows the same basic structure as his choral fantasies.  The first movement is titled "Improvisation."  It makes huge demands on the listener. Reger takes a few ideas  and transforms them, turns them upside down, inside out, backwards, they come and go in rapid succession.  There's no time for sequences and traditional development. There's too much say.  If the listener is overwhelmed... well, that's their problem. It's not easy music and Reger doesn't have the patience to baby sit.  Fortunately, the "Invocation" gives a brief respite, but only temporarily; it's really just a bridge to the "Introduction and Fugue."  Mr. Jacobs announced that he was going to substitute another fugue that Reger wrote in lieu of the published one.  He referred to it as a double fugue.  Now there are two types of double fugues: one states both subjects simultaneously as in Bach's  Passacaglia and Fugue in c, BWV 582, and this one in which you have one subject that is stated then developed, then a second subject is introduced as a second fugue and is developed, and then the two fugues are combined.  The first subject was one of the most twisted and strange fugue subjects I've ever heard; the second, by contrast was a stately somewhat chromatic affair.  Mr. Jacobs obviously loves this kind of challenge and his passion for this kind of music and his performance of this uncompromisingly demanding music was simply mind-blowing.  The secret is Reger, like Bach, is really not far from the dance; it may be a wild frenetic, insane dance but dance just the same.  And Mr. Jacobs literally danced across the pedalboard.  His command of the console with his rapid colour and dynamic changes, his uncanny phrasing, and his innate dramatic sense brought this extraordinary piece to its monumental final cadence, bringing the audience to its feet.
    For an encore Mr. Jacobs gave to us and his 92 year old grandmother, her favourite (and one of mine) piece as an encore: a rousing rendition of a transcription of the Sinfonia to Cantata 29 "We Thank Thee, God, We Thank Thee," BWV 29 ( I'm guessing: but, it sounded like the Robert Hebble version).
    It's organ recitals like this that give me hope for the organ world.  Mr. Jacobs is not only a monumentally talented and thoughtful musician, he is also a dynamic performer.  He understands those things which which are needed to excite and captivate an audience, like the visual aspect of performance.  The two screens he had made available gave the audience what they want to see, in particular the pedal work.  He understands that the visceral, no matter how superfluous it seems to the experienced concertgoer, is what draws the novice in — especially when one observes the deftness with which he manipulated the console in order to achieve what was ultimately a superlative musical end.  And finally, in another testament to his virtuosity, Mr. Jacobs played his entire programme, including the encore, from memory.  With organ recitals in particular this has become a rarity; and it's unfortunate that more organists aren't more like Mr. Jacobs and grasp psychological significance this has on the audience, especially in a concert hall setting.  Without the crutch of the score in front of him Mr. Jacobs could concentrate on giving this most mechanical and impersonal of instruments a vitality and dynamism that all to few of us get to experience.  My only disappointment was that the concert was not as well attended as a recital would have been by another kind of instrumentalist.  And that's too bad; because, Paul Jacobs is the kind of organist who can make converts to the instrument.  

Posted by ralph.fisher at 11:49 PM EDT
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Friday, 12 March 2010
Quartet and Pianist Lack Focus in Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert.
Topic: concert reviews

Simone Dinnerstein has made quite a splash in the classical music world in recent years with her pleasantly romantic, but (contrary to the hyperbole around it) not particularly revelatory recording of the Goldberg Variations, and her somewhat unorthodox career path.  Philadelphia got the chance to experience her chamber music skills.  Last Sunday afternoon (7 March) the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society presented the Chiara String Quartet with Ms. Dinnerstein as guest pianist in a programme of Haydn's String Quartet Op. 74 #1 in C (Hob. III:74), a Triptych for string quartet from 2002 by New York composer Robert Sirota, dedicated in memoriam to the victims of the September 11th  2001 terrorist airplane attack, and the Dvorák Piano Quintet in A Op. 81, with Ms. Dinnerstein, in the Van Pelt Auditorium at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.   


From the onset the quartet dug right into the Haydn with determined energy notwithstanding Rebecca Fischer's (first violin) initial intonation ambiguities in the upper register.  That quickly passed; but, what lingered was more troubling:  first, Ms. Fischer, had a singularly brittle sound.  Some of it came from the instrument; part of it, I suspect had to do with the singular acoustics of the auditorium, which, needless to say, had a peculiarly smothering, almost claustrophobic effect on the listener.  Second, those mitigations not withstanding, Ms. Fischer's playing lacked refinement or subtlety compared to the rest of the ensemble; that becomes problematic for an Haydn quartet in which the first fiddle is essentially the leader. However, quartet playing is a team effort; and, although the ensemble as a whole was sufficiently together, there was a feeling that the piece had not been thoroughly thought through.  All the notes were there and there was great enthusiasm by all four, but, there was no direction.  One could not detect any phrasing, no sense of the total arch of the music.  As a result, all of that enthusiasm simply vitiated into the musical equivalent of running in place.  Just getting the notes and dynamics right isn't enough.

Anytime a composer has to explain or describe what his music is about, you've got a problem.  It's the musical equivalent to the usually pretentious "Artist's Statement" you find in most modern art galleries.  However, like one of the plastic arts a piece of music should be able to stand on its own merits without description.  For the most part I think Dr. Sirota's piece works, notwithstanding his descriptive notes in the programme.  The strength of the first movement is that it is more metaphorical than literal. The reoccurrence, constant transformation and piling up of certain motifs actually draws in the listener to the vortex of the chaos.  The one literal effect of the dying car horn at the end, even if you had no "programme" describing it was just very eerie in its own right; and, therefore, very compelling.  The two remaining movements felt organically as one in which the dissonance and jagged thematic material gradually evolves into a kind of acquiescence.  It was quite evident that there is a personal connexion between this ensemble and this piece. The intensity of playing was palpable.


Unfortunately, such was not the case with the Dvorák.  The most charitable way I can describe this performance would be... clueless.  Again this was not for want of enthusiasm or technique.  This performance showed virtually no understanding of the shape of the piece, dynamic subtlety, or phrase shape.  Not unlike the Haydn earlier there was a lot of energetic playing but no sense of direction.  How does this phrase relate to this one and where to all of these ideas lead?  One got no sensation that any of this had been considered.  For example, about half way through the first movement there's a little question and answer section in which the piano says one theme and the strings answer with another.  There was absolutely no shaping of the phrase by Ms. Dinnerstein which would have led to a reciprocal reply by the strings.  Dynamics where either fortissimo or piano and little in between.  With the fortes they saved nothing. Crescendos went essentially from loud to louder so that by the time they reached the coda there was nothing more to give with the result being disappointingly anti-climactic.  


Another example of this complete disregard for subtlety and elegance was the very opening to the delicate and sublime Dumka.  The triplet in that opening them is much more than a mere ornament; it's an integral part of the melody.  Moreover, the statement of that simple, elegantly plaintive theme sets the mood for the whole movement.  Ms. Dinnerstein evidently felt the need to get through that triplet as soon as possible, practically banging out the tune with absolutely no shaping of that phrase.  Now I've heard a lot of hype about Ms. Dinnerstein and how she has become quite the darling of music critics.  If her insensitive, unimaginative playing of the Dvorák Piano Quintet is any indication of her style I'm afraid that I'll have to pass on all of that praise.  I saw nothing perceptive, elegant, or thoughtful about her performance.  I wouldn't go so far as to call it crass, but it certainly wasn't terribly discriminating.  Between Ms. Dinnerstein's bombast, Ms. Fischer's borderline ugly sounding instrument, and the entire group's total disregard of phrase and dynamic subtlety (such as folk dances that didn't dance) we were left with a lot of overwrought playing that went nowhere.  A saving grace would occur when one of the other members of the quartet would solo.  Julie Yoon (second violin) had a warm, sweet tone that made one wish hers was first; similarly Gregory Beaver would make his 'cello sing very elegantly, if all too infrequently.  The Piano Quintet gave Dvorák the opportunity to feature his instrument, and violist Jonah Sirota (son of the composer above) carried the day with each solo he gave showing great sensitivity to the line each time.  

Unfortunately, the total was considerably less than the sum of the parts.  In addition to the shortcomings mentioned, a major factor was balance, or rather the lack thereof.  I know that having the lid up to a grand piano looks "cool an' all;" and when your playing music of relatively light textures, such as Mozart or Haydn that's fine; but when performing a romantic, full-bodied piece like the Dvorák a Steinway concert grand can easily overpower the strings.  And that's what happened here.  There where moments when you could barely hear the strings because the piano was so overwhelming.  In fact only sporadically was the piano subdued enough to be in proper balance.  If they had simply put the lid up partially at least there would have been a better balance between the piano and the strings.  Didn't they have anybody sit out in the hall and listen?  That might have helped.  As for the rest?  This quartet seriously needs to think about how to study and discern the architecture of a score and find a cohesively blended sound.  And Ms. Fischer seriously needs to think of how she can extract a beautiful sound from that instrument or get a new one.



Posted by ralph.fisher at 12:25 AM EST
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Sunday, 2 August 2009
Smoot Smites Verizon Organ (concert review)
Mood:  irritated
Topic: concert reviews

The Kimmel Centre, to their credit, has been very diligent about promoting the grand organ in Verizon Hall by having a series of solo recitals by ostensibly "name" concert organists.  Unfortunately, almost all (possibly excepting two) are musicians of whom virtually no one outside the organ world knows.  These are people who "concert" careers consist primarily of giving dedicatory recitals at churches and AGO conventions.  And this is for good reason: most so-called concert organists are a s dull as dishwater.

Thursday night (30/VII/09) proved to be such a case in point.  Suburban (she's from Devon) Philadelphia-raised organist Ann Elise Smoot gave her Kimmel Centre Presents debut at the organ in Verizon Hall with what looked to be an interesting programme of French & German Baroque, French Romantic, French & Swiss  20th Century music. In an attempt to display the Kimmel Centre organ's versatility Ms. Smoot began the programme with the first movement from Charles Marie Widor's (1844-1937) Symphony #5 ( the one that has as its last movement the famous "Toccata"), so as to show off the Romantic/Symphonic capabilities of the instrument, followed by André Raison's (1650-1719) "Offerte du 5éme ton" from his "Premier Livre d'orgue" demonstrating the organ's equal aplomb for French Baroque music.  Ms. Smoot, following the now de rigueur practise of speaking to the audience before playing, gave  some rather pedantic programme notes, which unfortunately, forebode of the playing to come.  The Widor was very correct and uninspired.  From the beginning, even though the dynamics were right there was no drive; the result of a very bland (I won't go into details) registration and lack of phrasing.  A major part of this stemmed from lack of steady flow through what is a Theme and Variations. Organists seem to have particular difficulty maintaining an even flow, continuity, with this musical form, and Ms. Smoot proved to be no exception. It would have helped if she had memorised her programme so that we wouldn't have had to endure her holding down a chord at the end of a variation whilst she turned the page. Moreover, one wonders how familiar she was with the instrument and how much time she actually spent with it.  Not once during the entire recital did she reach over and change a stop by hand.

The Raison, was a mildly amusing diversion which did show off that peculiarly French organ sound the "cornet."  Part of the unique timbre to this combination is the "tierce" which sounds traditionally two octaves and a third above the fundamental pitch.  Ravel uses it in Bolero and Saint-Saëns (himself an organist) uses it in the 5th ("Egyptian") Piano Concerto.   Although occasionally effective as a solo line, it is a singularly ugly sound in ensemble; a good enough reason not to programme this music in recital. Another reason being that most of this stuff is really nothing more than service music for the church.  

As if one Raison piece wasn't enough Ms. Smoot had to give us two.  This one would have served all the necessary requirements for her purposes of programming a French Baroque piece with the additional benefit of being mercifully short.  This little "Passacaglia" (according to E. Power Biggs in his Treasury of Early Organ Music) Ms. Smoot informed the audience, is considered by some to be the thematic source for the much larger scale "Passacaglia & Fugue in c" BWV 582 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750) which followed.   

It is usually through the performances of Bach that we find out how really dull and unimaginative most organists are.  And Ms. Smoot did not fail to keep those expectations stereotypically low.  The Passacaglia is a work of great breadth with 21 variations on what is supposed to be an extended version of the little Raison piece which preceded it.  Such a piece needs an artist who understands and has the imagination to see and realise the arch of it.  Ms. Smoot had no idea. None. Starting off with a full Baroque sound (minus the reeds) she virtually had no where to go. Instead of starting soft and then gradually getting loud, she started loud and then got louder and stayed loud throughout most of the Passacaglia with only a very brief respite somewhere in the middle. After an extended period of monotonous forte she finally concludes the Passacaglia fortissimo, which by that time had become totally ineffectual. The Fugue (which by the way, Ms. Smoot, is a double fugue) immediately follows. Now one would think, maybe, just maybe, we'd get some sort of respite; pull back to a point from which you can build. Not a chance.  Ms Smoot's idea of variety is, instead of giving us fortissimo she'll give us forte. Just like the beginning it was pretty much one registration all the way through until the last page (yes, she played from music for this too); in which she brought the piece to a conclusion with most of the organ.  By that time I had become so inured to this overall mono dynamic performance I was just glad it was over.  Another problem of reading a recital, if your page tuner is slow it's going to  screw you up, which occurred more than once in this piece.

All of that notwithstanding, the thing that drove me crazy is:  this organist (like 9999999999.99% of most organists) needs to learn 1) the legato line and 2) how to identify and articulate the phrase.  Ms Smoot is obviously of a certain school of Baroque articulation (which I need not go into here) that dictates that you must play every four notes the same way all the time, regardless of the shape or arch of the phrase.  Pedal articulation is merely a series of thumps with no regard to any melodic idea that might possibly occur.  Somewhere along the line Ms Smoot got the idea this way of playing works for everything.  It's an immensely annoying way of playing. 

The "Skandinavisch" from the 16th Sonata by Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) was pleasurable diversion and a considerable relief from the previous cacophony. The contrasts between the major and minor sections were clear enough but, again lacked imagination.  On the organ strict adherence to a composer's registration can often be counterproductive to the realisation of the intent.  A little creativity can go a long way, Ms. Smoot.

I did thoroughly enjoy the Mendelssohn (1809-1847) "Allegro, Choral and Fugue" in D.  Here Ms. Smoot finally began to hit her stride; her weird Baroque articulation notwithstanding.

Finally we got to the 20th Century with a "Partita on 'Nun Freut Euch' by the contemporary Swiss organist and occasional composer Lionel Rogg (b. 1936).  It's a pleasant piece in which he applies a Neo-Hindemithian, Neo-Baroque language to this Lutheran choral. Of particularly astute craftsmanship were the Canon and Passacaglia.  The Toccata was a virtuoso tour de force which finally gave us the feel of a serious solo recital.  The last two works were by the prolific composer and brilliant organist Jean Langlais (1907-1991).  Here Ms. Smoot again excerpts from a larger work by playing the Meditation from Langlais's early "Suite Médiévale."  The movement is basically an improvisation on the chants "Ubi Caritas"and "Jesu Dulcis Memoria." If there ever was a need for legato playing it's French music.  Ms Smoot completely, almost cold bloodedly refused to give this delicate piece the phrasing needed to make it sing.  Granted M. Langlais didn't fill the page with slurs, but that does not preclude the performer from finding and intelligently articulating the phrases in the piece.  "Fete" was just that, a wild and crazy ride through the glories of the organ.  Ms. Smoot gave it a good shot, ending with the full organ. 

I'm glad she played an encore, albeit unjustified.  Notwithstanding, she played a gentle little thing from the second set of "Six Pieces for the Organ' by Frank Bridge (1879-1941), highly influential teacher and close friend of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976).  Finally we got a chance to hear some of the lush orchestral stops, especially flute stops, that this organ has.  Ms. Smoot gave a very sensitive and compelling performance of this lovely miniature for the organ. Undoubtedly the best played piece of the recital.

The Bridge notwithstanding, this recital was, unfortunately, very typical of organ recitals today.  First, organists think they can get away with  not memorising their programmes.  Since most of their recitals are given in churches where the audience can't see the organist, they think they can slip by and nobody will notice.  Unfortunately, these organists don't understand why it is so important to memorise your programme. Because when a performer is suddenly thrust before an audience on a legitimate concert stage like Verizon Hall and he or she still insists on playing from the printed page, it's hard to get a sense of confidence from a performer when, no matter how note accurate she is, she looks like she's sightreading the recital.  How many audiences would put up with going to a play and seeing the actors on stage with scripts in their hands reading their lines? More on this later.

Posted by ralph.fisher at 1:22 AM EDT
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