Sunday, September 15, 2013

Inaugural Recital in Celebration of the New Austin Organ at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, held today

Today, Sunday September 15, 2013, the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC held its Inaugural Recital in Celebration of the New Austin Organ, with Lawrence P. Schreiber (Lon) as organist.

The console was moved into the center of the chancel.  The organ comprises a Chancel Organ (largest pipes) and a Gallery Organ in the back of the sanctuary (with additional special trumpets).
The concert opened with a “Fanfare and March” from the “Lancaster Suite” (2010) by Malcolm Archer. The piece demonstrated the antiphonal contrast between the “tuba major” and the “great trumpet”.

Next followed a piece called “NEF” by Henry Mulet, which contrasts the Chancel and Gallery sets of ranks, to give the feeling of being in a French cathedral.
Then some music by J.S. Bach followed. There were two chorale preludes (“Liebster Jesu”, BWV 731; and “Let Heaven and Earth Rejoice”, BWV 129). What followed was the centerpiece of the concert: the massive (15 minutes) Prelude and Fugue in B Minor, BWV 544.  Despite the date of composition (1727), the fugue achieves some shocking dissonance in the counterpoint toward the end, suggestive of fugal material in middle period Mahler (especially the Fifth Symphony Finale).  Both movements end with a triumphant Picardy Third of B Major.
The organist provided four “requests fulfilled”.  First he played “Twilight at Fiesole” (from “Harmonies of Florence”, Op. 27) by Seth Bingham, and then a “Meditation” by Maurice Durufle, published posthumously in 2001.  There followed the “Nimrod” variation in Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations”.  
 The variation is in E Major, but it anticipates the G Major triumphant at the end. The best of this set was the familiar “ A Solemn Melody” by Walford Davies. 
The concert closed with the Choral #1 in E Major by Cesar Franck (from a set of three).  The piece builds three themes out of little motives, and accumulates to a tremendous and chromatic triumph at the end.  The piece dates to 1890, the last year of the composer’s life, and the affirmation at the end sounds more convincing than it does in the Symphony.  The final pages anticipate the music of Arnold Bax. 

The organ project was the beneficiary of at least two huge contributions over $300000 a piece, and seven more over $25000.

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