Sunday, August 25, 2013

Liszt piano Consolation on a new organ; Reger; Strauss; Schumann

Today, at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, more sounds had been added to the new Austin Organ.

Lawrence P. Schreiber started with an “Adagio in D-flat” by Franz Liszt, which was actually an organ transcription of the third of a series of Consolations for Piano which I recall learning when in high school.  This was a favorite of my parents during my senior year in high school.  The piece goes into some rather dramatic chromatic adventures.

The service also offered the “Holy Is thy Lord”, a quiet, mostly a cappella movement from the German Mass in F (1826) by Franz Schubert.

For an offertory, Dr. Schreiber played the “Herr Jesu Christ” by Max Reger, and for a postlude, the “Jesu, Lead Thou On”, also by Reger.  Now the congregation remains seated during the postlude.  When it coes to Reger, I like to mention another work, the “Sinfonietta” in A, more like a middle-Mahler symphony with a crunching scherzo.

After the service, I went up and played a little more on the organ console, and tried to play from memory the triumphant closing passage from the film “A Canterbury Tale” (Movies, May 15, 2011).  The concluding four minutes combine “Onward Christian Soldiers” with a tune that sounds derived from “Immortal Invisible”, and then turns to bells and a “Moonlight Sonata” derived theme in close-in notes, finally to crash down on to four huge D-flat major chords.  I think there is a passage like this near the end of one of Hevergal Brian’s symphonies. Sir Arnold Bax had closed his Fifth Symphony in enharmonic C# Minor (Chandos) with a triumphant setting on a heavily chromaticized version of the Sibelius “Finlandia” with a little bit of "The Old Rugged Cross", and even a motive from the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony thrown in.   I always wondered what the soccer ball in the final closing of the film’s epilogue (shown coming to the audience as the final chords crash down).  Play these last four minutes on YouTube here. This would make a wonderful concert piece.  I wonder if Prince William knows this music;  it could have fit into the Royal Wedding. 
I found a Nimbus CD with a 1980s performance by Vlado Perlemuter of Robert Schumann’s “Kreisleriana”, Op. 16, running 31 minutes (longer than I recall).  There are ten tracks, with the second movement taking three.  The final movement dies away into playful nothingness.  On Dec. 11, 2010, I covered a performance of this work by Timo Andres, who was inspired by this piece to conceive his own parallel suite “It Takes a Long Time to Become a Good Composer”.

The CD also contains the mammoth Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 (for solo piano, still), which are actually a mixture of etudes and variations, with a triumphant final march. I had discussed another performance of this work here Jan. 20, 2011.

I also found a Marco Polo CD of the “Symphony #0” (remember Bruckner?) so to speak, of Richard Strauss (1881), from Records International, with the Hong Kong Philharmonic conducted by Kenneth Schemrmerhorn.  It sounds rather like Mendelssohn, and isn’t too subtle about its “sturm un drang”.  The 14-minute finale (f a 36 minute work) is in all major, which dissipates tension too quickly.  Strauss’s F Minor Symphony builds to its final climax much more effectively (see June 19, 2011).   The CD also has the “Interludio”, and then “Kampf und Sieg” which sounds a bit like the Mendelssohn “War March of the Priests”.   Why does the final chord die away?  

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