Monday, April 20, 2015

Adam Brakel gives major concert in Washington DC on Austin organ; works by Bossi and Willan dominate.

Sunday, organist Adam Brakel gave an organ recital on the new Austin instrument at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC. 
Brakel introduced each half of the program with a commentary. 
The program started with the Etude Symphonique in G Minor, Op. 78, by Marco Enrcio Bossi (1961-1925), a 5 minute post romantic virtuoso piece with a majestic Picardy conclusion.
A lighter piece, “Le rappel des oiseux” (“The recall of birds”) by Jean-Philippe Rameau follows.
Then Brakel presented his own organ transcriptions of variations by Dick Hyman on Shenandoah. The original music was by Gary Geld.  I saw a stage performance of the musical at Northpark in Dallas in the spring of 1979, shortly after moving there.
Brakel followed with the familiar and somewhat lighthearted Trio Sonata in G, BMV 530, by J.S. Bach. This had been a favorite of Virgil Fox.
Then he concluded the first half with the main work of the program, the Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue in E-flat Minor (1916, in the same key as the Prokofiev Op. 111) by Canadian composer Healey Willan (1880-1968), a massive (20 minutes) piece resembling Liszt but with a bit of Scriabin-like harmonies thrown in.  The dissonant harmonic effects are weird – maybe the Mystic Chord gets used.  The Passacaglia slows back down in a major key before introducing the Fugue.   Somehow the ambiguous but then suddenly triumphant ending puts me back into the world of “The Divine Poem”. It may be that, as with piano, virtuoso pieces in signatures that use all the black keys are easier to play.

The second half started with the Variations and Fugue on “God Save the Queen” (or “My Country Tis of Thee”) by Max Reger.

The rest of the program was much lighter. He played two pieces by Nicholas de Grigny (1672-1703), “Dialogue sur les grandes jeux” (“Dialogue on the major games” – probably boules) and “Recit de tierce en taille” (“Third tale in size”). 

He then played scherzo by Louis Vierne (“Impromptu”), Percy Whitlock (from “5 Short Pieces”) and “Etincelles” (“Sparks”) by Moritz Moszkowski, transcribed by Horowitz, Volos and Brakel himself. He played two of the Six Etudes by Jeanne Demessieux, “Notes Repetees” and “Octaves”.  His encore was “Amazing Grace”.

A reception followed, with CD’s on sale.  I’ll discuss those soon.

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