Saturday, April 25, 2015

Two CD's by organist Adam Brakel supplement his concerts

Since the organ concert Sunday in Washington of Adam Brakel was an “it’s free”, I supported him by purchasing both CD’s, and they have some interesting stuff. They are on the Raven label. 
The first CD is just called “Romantic and Virtuosic”, at Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, FL.  
The cover and liner notes stress a rather muscular young man (like a catcher in baseball), one scene on a beach, as a classical, even church musician.
The CD starts with the 10-minute Variations on the Star-Spangled Banner, Op. 23.  Now our national anthem is not the most musically interesting hymn of all time.  But variations, and varying the harmonies especially in the last line, do help. 
There follows and Adagio by Herbert Boswell Nanney, and then a Concert Etude by Joseph Bonnett.

Then we come to the next big work, the Fantasie and Fugue in D Minor, Op. 135B. by Max Reger, which does come across as rather dour.
Brakel plays the Cantilena by Andrew Fletcher (although it is Percy Fletcher who is known for some other rather spirited organ works like the Festival Toccata).
Then Brakel comes to the highlight of the disc, the Concert Etude called “St. Francis Walking on the Waves”, a big triumphant tone poem in E Major (the companion is “St. Francis Talking to the Birds”).  These are originally piano works, transcribed by Lionel Rogg.  I studied the “Waves” piece as a senior in high school and it is not the hardest Liszt to play, given the payoff.  But this work does best on piano. An orchestral transcription also exists, conducted by James Conlon in Paris on Erato.
The CD concludes with the complete Six Etudes by Jeanne Demessieux (1921-1968), somewhat impressionistic and Ravel-like.  She had poor health, but her contributions to organ literature are important and could have amounted to much more.
The second CD is called “In Times of Crisis” and is performed on the Rudolf von Beckerath Organ at the Sr. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh.
The liner notes, by Vincent Rone, explain how economic and political crises in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries encouraged instrumental music to advance toward the modern cyclic and expressive forms we know today, leading to romanticism.
The CD starts with Three Tone Pieces by Niels Gade, Op. 22, in F, C, and A Minor, all rather triumphant.
Brakel then offers the first movement of the Widor Organ Symphony #5, and then tree passacaglias.
The first is Dietrich Buxtehude, D Minor, BuxWV 161, followed by the hefty and famous Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor by J. S. Bach, BWV 582. Then there is Vincent Rone’s own Passacaglia in F Minor.
Brakel then offers the familiar Praeludium in G by Nicholas Brauns, and then a short piece by Nicholas de Greigny (covered in previous post). The CD concludes with two pieces from "Sunday Music"  by Czech composer Petr Eben, “Moto Ostinato” and “Finale”.  There is a kind of impressionistic dissonance beneath all the drama (and a quiet passage that evokes David Lynch). The end is appropriately triumphant.

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