Jump to content
Mander Organs
Colin Harvey

Cameron Carpenter

Recommended Posts

Hello Chaps

 

Cameron Carpenter has become quite a controversial figure, polarising opinions.

 

To be honest, I haven't been that positive about him: while I admire his prodigious technical ability and musical talent, I'm uncomfortable with the homoerotic image he's adopted and concerned that such showmanship without any apparent regard to the centuries of organ culture may encourage a lack of respect to old, historic organs and old organ music. Sometimes I've felt his showing off has been at the expense of the musical depth he could be capable of and I'm naturally suspicious of anyone or anything that has people fawning all over him.

 

However, while finding out more about the claim that Cameron designs his own organ shoes (related to another topic), I came across this - Cameron's transcription of the final movement of Mahler 5:

 

http://www.cameroncarpenter.com/pdf/Mahler5LastMovement.pdf

 

This work by Cameron and his own comments about it have made me see him in a different light. I also learnt he studied at the Juilliard School with Gerre Hancock and Paul Jacobs as well. What do other people think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a posting somewhere on this Board - I can't remember under which topic but I think it was a few months back - where the member concerned said they had met Cameron Carpenter who had been in this country looking for venues for a recital tour in (I think) the west and west Midlands area. They said he was a really nice, quiet person and totally unlike the impression one gets from the various web-links that we have been given for him.

 

Love him or hate him, he is a force to be reckoned with in the organ world and, like others one could name over the years from that side of the Altantic and who have been similarly criticised, he has a technique that is enviable. What he does with that technique may be more open to debate.

 

Malcolm Kemp

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was me who commented (second hand) on his personality. I hesitate to judge a person by the first impression they give, after all if you'd never seen Carlo Curley before or knew anything about him what would be your reaction if you went to one of his recitals? Both Curley and Carpenter are musicians of the first order. maybe for some tastes need cooling down a bit but never write them off. Indeed Carpenter studied at Juilliard, he knows what he's doing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think I had better tread carefully here as lots of sensitivities could be offended.

 

First, I am not sure that reference to Mr Carpenter's 'homoerotic image' adds anything terribly helpful. Certainly, he adopts a flamboyant image, which is something rather different. When I was young and idealistic, that sort of thing used to enrage me 'at the expense of the purity of the music' etc. etc, but as I soften with age, I have to accept that he gets bigger audiences than I do, so must be doing something right. No, I am not worried about the flamboyance in itself and I hope we would agree that any gender reference beyond this is neither here nor there.

 

Next, there is no doubt that he has a technique that is utterly dazzling. Period, as our American cousins would say.

 

I do accept, however, that the flamboyance and the dazzling technique seem to hold primacy in his performances at the expense of any great, original or profound musical insight. Of his performances I have seen, those of the weightiest works leave me unmoved (to put it no more strongly than that).

 

However, for music that is simply virtuosic for its own sake, he is in a league of his own. For years I had been trying to find a really good performance of the Demessieux Octave Etude, and his performance on YouTube is astonishing. This is not great music, but a performance that can carry this piece off has an eloquence and, in a way, an artistry of its own that is not to be denied. It is not the same experience as, say, listening to a mature performer play one of the Eighteen chorale preludes ; we should compare not one with the other. I am not sure that Cameron Carpenter would expect us to.

 

His Mahler transcription shows him to be a fastidious and practical musician for all the flashiness he delivers in concert. For such a young student, he really knows how to make the organ work as a musical instrument. The story goes that he made the transcription from a combination of his eidetic recall of the score and his perfect pitch. I looked at the transcription and thought that I could play it and, more important, would want to play it. I also admire the fact that he has made the transcription freely available on the internet, in his words, to test whether it is musically viable; others might have only (self) published for profit.

 

Regular readers of this board will know that I really enjoy pop music ; it gives me as much pleasure as classical music albeit in a different way. That is what I feel about Cameron Carpenter. Given the choice between hearing his Indiana Jones medley or listening to a dull performance of Bach, that does neither the performer, the organ, or the composer any favours, I know which I would choose.

 

Now, what I would really like to hear is CC performing by himself, in an empty church, playing one of the Eighteen when he does not have a camera trained on him, and when he thinks no - one is listening. Perhaps in 15 years time. That would be very interesting.

 

Not sure if any of this helps, but there it is.

 

Regards,

M

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Excellent post, M.

 

Yes, agreed.

 

If I'm in the mood to witness sheer virtuosity, then I might well go onto YouTube to watch Cameron Carpenter. He is a totally brilliant technician.

 

If I want musicianship which will really "move" me, then I'll go elsewhere.

 

But don't knock him too much! Many of us totally rubbish him, but I wonder how much that is to do with envy of a pretty formidable technique.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Roffensis

Could this be any relative of the great and legendary Karen Carpenter?

 

I wondered if there may be any connection, particularly with In Paradisum quoted in the hit single "Goodbye To Love". It seems such a coincidence. I like to think she was impressed by an organ.

 

 

R

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with much of what has been said here. He impresses me while leaving me cold at the same time. I don't want to be impressed, rather moved, and I have seen no evidence that he could do that for me.

 

Watch his performance of Vierne's toccata; it is quite ridiculous, and despite all that technical ability he seemingly cannot play legato in the pedals!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree with much of what has been said here. He impresses me while leaving me cold at the same time. I don't want to be impressed, rather moved, and I have seen no evidence that he could do that for me.

 

Me too - personally though I would rather the music spoke for itself - I find all the theatricals too much of a distraction - some of it even brings to mind much of the likes of the nude organist on Monty Python! No wonder we are looked on as being a rather strange breed - and just look at some of the 'write ups' in the AGO mag. - recitals round about Halloween where the players dress up as witches etc - 'can't imagine DGW or Dr Bate doing that! OK Cameron Carpenter has a superb and solid technique - in the same way as Virgil Fox etc. but the rest is surely for effect - somewhere along the line 'publicity' is kicking in. What is more I would suggest that there are many others with similar talent who are less well known because they do not indulge themselves quite as much. I may be totally wrong and I would not wish to diminish in any way CC's (Carpenter that is - not anyone else alive or not with those initials!) work which seems to be totally sincere and in it's way aimed firmly in a musical direction.

 

Mind you - that multi fangled machine at Trinity Church NYC must be a temptation for anyone to take liberties - that with all the lighting effects and the slick operation that seems to publicise music there.

 

Oooer - I think I am turning into a grumpy old man!!

 

AJJ :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
recitals round about Halloween where the players dress up as witches etc

I doubt that's anything unusual in America though. Hallowe'en is big over there. DHM will remember an occasion up in the Appalachian Mountains where his choir was prevented from processing out at the end of a concert by the sudden appearance of a mummy herding them all back to the altar rail. It turned out to be the priest. The concert was followed by a party full of assorted witches, trees, tigers, cats etc. I think we were probably the only "normal" people there. Great fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, call me boring if you must, but for myself, I want for nothing more flamboyant than David Briggs and his stunning performance at the re-opening of the organ of Gloucester Cathedral (for which I turned pages). His technique is at least as good - and, in my view, somewhat cleaner than that of Cameron Carpenter.

 

A few weeks ago, a friend prevailed upon me to watch a DVD recording of Cameron Carpenter playing the toaster at Trinity Church, Wall Street. To be honest, I did not enjoy it. I found the constant changing of stops in one or two quieter movements irritating. The (very) fast pieces seemed to be treated as nothing more than vehicles to show off his flamboyant technique. I have to say that I found nothing to attract me to this style of playing.

 

In contrast, DJB's performance of the Deuxième Choral, by Franck, or the Prélude et Fugue, Op. 36 No. 2 (A-flat major) - or his superb improvisations based on Holst's Planets suite were in another class altogether. Utterly musical and totally accurate - even when, during the Franck, the new piston system decided to advance itself through several channels and DJB carried on playing from memory with one hand and two feet, whilst leafing calmly back to the first page of the score, to see what channel was supposed to be in use for that piece. Needless to say, there were no wrong notes, no smudges - and no white trousers and t-shirt. *

 

 

 

 

* I cannot imagine why Cameron Carpenter should choose to dress like an albino stick insect when giving an organ recital.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ditto Tomas Trotter, Simon Preston, Thomas Murray etc.

 

AJJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Cynic

I have to agree that the mere look of CC (as shown in the New York Video) puts me off, but no doubt many more people have said the same about me - I look about as appealing as Kenneth Clarke, even when scrubbed up and presented in my best Sunday suit!

 

I think we should all shut up on the subject of both CC and CC (Messrs Curley and Carpenter) and go away and practice! I have never seen a more prodigious talent, speaking in terms of technique and as for the musical expression, I agree with MM, that may or may not come with time. There is something in our instincts that tells us when we see something so incredible that we should find something else to moan about. Can you play like that, no...and neither can I. I haven't got the stamina to practice for as many hours as this (very) young man obviously does. Well, good luck to him.

 

He is in the right country for a stunning technique (and a spectacular standard of preparation) to make him a star. Of course we find this uncomfortable, we're British for God's sake and we have heroes like Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards.

 

I can think of something else for us to talk about and will start a rival topic immediately.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have to agree that the mere look of CC (as shown in the New York Video) puts me off, but no doubt many more people have said the same about me - I look about as appealing as Kenneth Clarke, even when scrubbed up and presented in my best Sunday suit!

 

I think we should all shut up on the subject of both CC and CC (Messrs Curley and Carpenter) and go away and practice! I have never seen a more prodigious talent, speaking in terms of technique and as for the musical expression, I agree with MM, that may or may not come with time. There is something in our instincts that tells us when we see something so incredible that we should find something else to moan about. Can you play like that, no...and neither can I. I haven't got the stamina to practice for as many hours as this (very) young man obviously does. Well, good luck to him.

 

He is in the right country for a stunning technique (and a spectacular standard of preparation) to make him a star. Of course we find this uncomfortable, we're British for God's sake and we have heroes like Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards.

 

I can think of something else for us to talk about and will start a rival topic immediately.

You just beat me to it by a couple of minutes, Paul. Well said! We are talking about the entertainment industry here. I was far more put off by Nigel Kennedy's bizarre outfit playing Elgar at the Proms, accentuating points by stamping the floor with his size ten boots. Mind you, I also recall a prodigious young and tall French organist who played at the RFH in white tie and tails. During an energetic piece he looked like something out of a Marx Brothers film. Conventional dress doesn't always work better.

JC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Can you play like that, no...and neither can I. I haven't got the stamina to practice for as many hours as this (very) young man obviously does. Well, good luck to him.

Well I imagine we would all second this. However, as you yourself have said elsewhere, the music comes first and I think it is merely this point that most of us are making.

 

Am I jealous of his technique? Yes, of course I am! Do I enjoy listening to his playing? Not a lot, though I think that may be partly due to the limited sound quality of the youtube clips and the fact that (if I'm not mistaken) that they are all played on the Wall Street toaster.

 

He is very much in the Virgil Fox tradition so I guess it boils down to the degree of vulgarity* one is prepared to accept. I personally have no interest in hearing the opening of BWV 565 played with both hands and feet in all available octaves and his rewriting of the end of the Middelschulte seems both uncalled for and ineffectual (though he has an interestingly different take on the piece from Fox). However, he is young and age may perhaps bring wisdom.

 

* Call it entertainment if you like. The older I get the more I am convinced that the two words are inextricably linked - and I am by no means thinking exclusively of music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
However, he is young and age may perhaps bring wisdom.

"Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding."

Proverbs 4:7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... I think we should all shut up on the subject of both CC and CC (Messrs Curley and Carpenter) and go away and practice! I have never seen a more prodigious talent, speaking in terms of technique and as for the musical expression, I agree with MM, that may or may not come with time. There is something in our instincts that tells us when we see something so incredible that we should find something else to moan about. ...

 

Sorry, but I agree with Vox. Whilst I would very much like to play as well as David Briggs, Olivier Latry and one or two others, there is nothing in Cameron Carpenter's style of playing (notwithstanding his prodigious technique) which I find attractive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sorry, but I agree with Vox. Whilst I would very much like to play as well as David Briggs, Olivier Latry and one or two others, there is nothing in Cameron Carpenter's style of playing (notwithstanding his prodigious technique) which I find attractive.

 

I fully concur with this - certain people we may admire their technique, but others we admire for their technique AND their supreme musicianship - Roth, Latry, Trotter et al.

 

As a general point, we ought to be allowed to express opinions on performances without anything more venal or personal being read into them, provided the comments are not libellous, slanderous or just plain unkind.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have just checked the Royal Albert Hall web site to see if there is an organ recital this October, and Cameron Carpenter is booked to perform there on Tuesday October 21st.

 

Dave Mills

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have just checked the Royal Albert Hall web site to see if there is an organ recital this October, and Cameron Carpenter is booked to perform there on Tuesday October 21st.

 

Dave Mills

 

The RAH are now also taking bookings for an organ concert by John Scott on the following evening, Wednesday, October 22nd.

 

I had been wondering whether to go to the Cameron Carpenter concert to find out for myself what he's like but, as I don't live in London, I don't want to go on 2 consecutive nights so John Scott is the one I'll go for.

 

Dave Mills

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have just checked the Royal Albert Hall web site to see if there is an organ recital this October, and Cameron Carpenter is booked to perform there on Tuesday October 21st.

 

Dave Mills

I've just looked up the programme for the "Organ Show":

 

Chopin, arr. C. Carpenter - 'Revolutionary' Etude (Op. 10, No. 4 in C Minor)

 

Demessieux - Octaves

 

Joe Hisaishi - The promise of the world / The merry-go-round of life from Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle

 

Liszt - Mephisto Waltz No. 1

 

John Williams - From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I. Harry’s Wondrous World

II. Invisibility Cloak

III. Hedwig’s Theme

 

J. S. Bach, arr. & ed. C. Carpenter - Evolutionary' Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

 

Ellington - Solitude (after Sheep May Safely Graze), coupled with Grainger and J. S. Bach

 

Cameron Carpenter - Love Song No. 1

 

Cameron Carpenter - from New York City Sessions (2005)

technoëtude+Nightclub Scene

 

Cameron Carpenter - Improvised Sonata based on great British television themes

I. on ITV's Agatha Christie’s Poirot (theme by Christopher Gunning)

II. on Cosgrove Hall's Wind in the Willows (theme by Keith Hopwood)

III. on ITV's Inspector Morse (theme by Barrington Pheloung) and BBC1's EastEnders (theme by David Lowe)

 

Not sure what to say about all that really....! :blink::huh::o

 

But I was astonished to see that the very next day John Scott is giving the following programme, also at the RAH:

 

Mendelssohn, arr. W.T. Best - Overture to ‘St Paul’

 

G.F. Handel - Concerto in F Op. 4 No.5

i) Larghetto

ii) Allegro

iii) Alla Siciliana

iv) Presto

 

J.S.Bach - Prelude and Fugue in A minor, WV 543

 

Wesley - Larghetto in F# minor

 

Dupré - Prelude and Fugue in B major

 

Saint-Saëns, arr by E.H. Lemare - Danse Macabre

 

Willian - Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue

 

Ad Wammes - Miroir

 

Howells - Psalm-Prelude Set 2 no. 1

 

Vierne – Naïades and Carillon de Westminster from Pièces de fantaisie

 

I notice that both are promoted by the RAH - they must evidently not expect one to suck up the other's audience.

 

...think I know which I would go to :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I heard John Scott play the W T Best arrangement of the overture to St Paul last month in Winchester Cathedral and it was superb. Really beefy stuff. My copy arrived from Allegro Music last week and it is clearly a piece that needs a lot of learning. Lots of those funny black things called semiquavers!

 

Malcolm Kemp

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been interested to read the various postings about Cameron Carpenter. I had not even heard his name till earlier this year and my initial reaction was to dismiss him and his playing as an American gimmick.

 

A few weeks ago, however, I met him and heard him play in person. I had no hesitation in booking him to play at my church next year. I can confirm too, that on a personal level, I found him to be an utterly charming and unassuming man.

 

He certainly has the most amazing technique that I have seen in fifty years; but more important than this, his musicianship is equal to any of his colleagues. His feeling for colour is second to none and he seems to have almost a mission to "bring the organ to the people". Of course his style of playing does not appeal to the purists, but I think the Organ World needs someone like him at the moment. Too often organists are content to stay in their ivory towers, playing boring programmes to tiny audiences. One thing about Mr Carpenter, he is not boring!

 

For me, watching and hearing him play in person was a completely different experience from merely tuning in to YOUtube.

 

Those who seem to have written him off as just another US show-off, should come along to the Albert Hall on October 21st and hear him in person, before making their final judgement. (Tickets are 25% off, if purchased before Friday...) It takes a lot to persuade me to go to London these days, but I would not miss his UK début-concert for anything.

 

Geoffrey Morgan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...