Friday, September 11, 2009

Daniel Pyle performs organ music by Bach and Alain - Friday, Sept 18

Clayton State University music faculty member Daniel Pyle gives the first of the 2009/10 season's recitals at Spivey Hall, performing organ works by German baroque master Johann Sebastian Bach and modern French composer Jehan Alain (1911-1940). Admission is free (no tickets are required) for this concert, presented by the Department of Visual and Performing Arts on Friday, September 18, 2009, at 7:30 PM.

Alain's organ teachers included Marcel Dupre, and Paul Dukas was among those who taught him composition. His style reflects the influence of the major French composers of his time (Debussy and Messiaen) while also incorporating Asian and jazz influences into some of his works. (not always the most scholarly or accurate of sources, but generally informative) tells us:

Always interested in mechanics, Alain was a skilled motorcyclist and became a dispatch rider in the 8th motorized armor division of the French Army. On June 20, 1940, he was assigned to reconnoitre the German advance on the eastern side of Saumur, and encountered a group of German soldiers at Le Petit-Puy. Coming around a curve, and hearing the approaching tread of the Germans, he abandoned his motorcycle and engaged the enemy with his carbine, killing sixteen of them before being killed himself. He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre for his bravery, and according to [musicologist] Nicolas Slonimsky, was buried, by the Germans, with full military honors.

(I personally know of no living organists who are also courageous patriots on motorcycles, but the world of organists is large and highly diverse -- thus I should not be surprised if some do exist! Hmm...I wonder what organist-in-residence Richard Morris would look like on a Harley-Davidson...)

The Alain works Professor Pyle will perform are Litanies; Aria; Variations on a Theme by Clement Jannequin; and, with his wife, flautist Catherine Bull, Three Movements for Flute and Organ.

His program also includes a generous offering of works by Bach: the Toccata and Fugue in F major, BWV 540; Variations on "Sei gegruesset, Jesu guetig," BWV 768; the Passacaglia in C minor, BWV 582, and the Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548 (nicknamed "The Wedge" owing to a particular quality of one of its themes).

Spivey Hall's organ is a magnificent Fratelli Ruffatti pipe organ, custom made for us in Padua, Italy. With its three manuals, and 4,413 pipes organized into 77 ranks, it contains a wealth of expressive possibilities for performing a wide range of repertoire, as demonstrated by a host of distinguished international organists who have appeared here its dedication concerts in 1992. Simply put, it's an exceptionally fine concert organ.

Because of the very special tonal qualities of the pipes created for an organ, each instrument is unique. No two are quite alike. Thus performances of the same Bach piece played by the same organist on two different organs (even those with similar pipes) will each have its own distinct sound. Music-lovers attuned to the special characters of pipes take great pleasure in hearing familiar works through the aural spectrum of different pipe organs' unique tonal personalities.

Moreover, in performing any work, the organist makes critical choices in realizing what's written in the score by deciding which pipes to deploy at any given moment of the piece. Some composers, chiefly modern and contemporary composers, are quite explicit about their expectations; but in any performance, the taste and imagination of the organist is revealed not just in articulation and phrasing, but also in his highly personal selection of pipe combinations, thereby creating the color and texture of the sound that conveys so much meaning to the listener.

Bach, of course, was known throughout Germany for his expertise in evaluating organs, and would often be called upon to give new instruments a thorough work-out and assessment. With his deep knowledge of the instrument, Bach wrote virtuosically for the organ, not just in the conception of his works, but in their performance. Alain, inspired by and trained in the great traditions of the French school, will also provide Professor Pyle ample opportunities to explore and exploit the tonal characteristics of Spivey Hall's Albert Schweitzer Memorial Organ.

If it weren't for Emilie Spivey's love of the organ, there wouldn't be a Spivey Hall. An organist at Atlanta's North Avenue Presbyterian Church, as well as at The Temple, she was also a friend of the legendary American concert organist, Virgil Fox. Thus it's quite fitting that the first recital of Spivey Hall's 19th concert season features the organ.

A glorious sound pours forth from our organ, especially with Spivey Hall's superb acoustics, and in major climaxes, the listening experience never fails impress when the sound physically surrounds you, palpable even through your feet on the floor...!

Early next month, we will also begin welcoming our visiting guest artists, starting with the internationally- celebrated American soprano, Christine Brewer (a star of the world's foremost opera, concert and recital stages), with pianist Craig Rutenberg (from the Met Opera's music staff) on Saturday, October 10th. Subscriptions are still available by calling the Box Office at (678) 466-4200. Single tickets may be purchased by phone (no service charge!) or by ordering through our website, (a per-ticket fee, paid to our online ticketing service provider, applies to website sales).

More soon about the artists and programs in store for us this season -- and some thoughts still echoing in my head from extensive travels this summer to hear music and musicians.