Monday, June 30, 2014

You say goodbye, I say hello

We said farewell to our pipe organ yesterday.

If you're not in the loop, what's happening is that the pipe organ at Faith United Methodist Church in Champaign, Illinois, USA, where I am organist, is getting a new console and extensive work is being done to essentially correct a problem with the electronic relay system that has been an issue since the organ was installed in 1984 and has been growing steadily worse. Digitizing the console will fix the problems (among which are the distressing random appearances of notes that won't play across several ranks of pipes) and add some new features (like 100 memory levels! woohoo!).

This means, however, that our organ is going to be out of commission for the entire month of July and probably most or all of August.

No problem, says our mild mannered organist, dashing into the nearest phone booth (if he can still find one--maybe the cell phone dealer down the street will do). He emerges just moments later as....a pianist!


I know. It's a real shocker. The author of Pianonoise: the blog (the breakfast cereal is still in negotations, and the movie is in contract disputes) is actually a pianist. I don't blame you for forgetting about that since I've spent the last month almost exclusively at the organ, trying to spend as much time with it as possible while I still could. But, truth be told, I'm a little relieved, because now I have an excuse to give the piano some attention. All of it, actually.

Yesterday, we sent the organ out with a blazing finale. I played the D major Fugue of Bach (Bwv 532) which has a very exciting pedal part which no one was able to see with the console tucked away in the corner away from the congregation (hint hint, guys, you can still pitch in for the dolly that will let us move the new console out onto the floor). But it was thrilling nonetheless. While I was procuring the score for the fugue I came across this recording of the work on the piano. It also includes the prelude, which I played on Palm Sunday 2013, as well as the fugue which follows, which I meant to get around to last year but was just a little too busy preparing a piano recital at the same time (which was a year ago tomorrow, and featured the works of civil war-era touring virtuoso Louis Moreau Gottschalk. You can check out the current pianonoise radio program to hear the music at (right hand side below the "new on the blog" box) and read blogs about the experience in the menu on the left, all on the homepage of this week.)

Another year has come--this time no June recital, so I've gotten around to the fugue. Here are my recordings of both of those works:


Now, I am not a large fan of transcription, although, for occasional fun and frolic, I have indulged in a few of them on pianonoise. Mostly, though, I prefer to play works written for the organ on the organ, works written for the piano (or the harpsichord) on the piano, and works written for the banjo I leave well enough alone.

But it can also be interesting to hear someone reinterpret a work in a different medium, particularly if they do it well. Here is a link to the International Score Library Project page which features a recording by pianist Martha Goldstein. It is interesting to here all of the Romantic grandeur from her performance: the octave bass to give the piece more gravity (and after all, an organist would probably be using stops in different octaves anyway). the lavish rubato, leaning on certain notes to give them expressive properties, and then dashing away in a shower of sound. One thing I find particularly interesting is the very opening, when the pianist, probably realizing that the opening flourish is played with the organist's feet, assumes that that would mean it would have to be played slowly! Of course, in the recording above, I actually use my feet and that doesn't slow me down a bit. There are other spots after that when the pianist seems to be trying to evoke a particular feeling of grandeur to compensate for the piano not actually being (her idea of ?) an organ. It is, at times, the complete opposite approach to the one I took--but then, I didn't have to worry about communicating grandeur so much on an actual pipe organ! Well, you listen:,_BWV_532_(Bach,_Johann_Sebastian)

Scroll down the page under "recordings" until you get to the one on the piano.

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