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Nathan Laube


Barry Oakley
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I have just returned from the Victoria Hall, Hanley, having listened to the sheer brilliance of young Nathan Laube. Amongst the most memorable of all organ recitals I have attended for more years than I care to recount, this young man's performance is right up there with them. His hour-plus recital was entirely played from memory and he played the Victoria Hall Willis as though he had known it all his life. He was utterly at home, showing all the skills of a master; his manual and pedal dexterity were sublime to say nothing of his wonderful registration. I don't believe he currently has any further recitals in the UK as he departs for Toulon early next week. But when he returns to these shores, as surely he must, don't miss this delightful man's brilliance.

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Laube's homepage mentions following UK recitals in the near future:

- May 28th: Bridlington, Priory Church of St. Mary

- May 31st: Lyme Regis, St Michael the Archangel Church

- June 2nd: London, Southwark Cathedral

Or one could travel to France or to the States to hear him...

 

M

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I have just returned from the Victoria Hall, Hanley, having listened to the sheer brilliance of young Nathan Laube. Amongst the most memorable of all organ recitals I have attended for more years than I care to recount, this young man's performance is right up there with them. His hour-plus recital was entirely played from memory and he played the Victoria Hall Willis as though he had known it all his life. He was utterly at home, showing all the skills of a master; his manual and pedal dexterity were sublime to say nothing of his wonderful registration. I don't believe he currently has any further recitals in the UK as he departs for Toulon early next week. But when he returns to these shores, as surely he must, don't miss this delightful man's brilliance.

 

 

====================

 

 

What did he play?

 

MM

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What did he play?

 

MM

 

April 16th, 2011, 12:00PM

Victoria Hall

 

Victoria Hall Organ Promenade Concert

 

Strauss II: Overture to "Die Fledermaus" (trans. Laube)

Bach: Passacaglia, BWV 582

Mendelssohn: Variations Serieuses, Op. 54 (trans. Laube)

Liszt: Les Préludes, Poème Symphonique No. 3, S. 97 (trans. Laube)

 

1922 Henry Willis, 1988 Hill, Norman & Beard, 1998 David Wells

4 manuals, 73 stops

 

(Source: www.nathanlaube.com)

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Truly a unique performance, played without scores, a true virtuoso, but I have to say I found it all a bit overwhelming. The first and last pieces were really too long for both to be in the same programme, one or the other would have been fine - I was just longing for something quiet and relaxed. I enjoyed his Bach though.

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Truly a unique performance, played without scores, a true virtuoso, but I have to say I found it all a bit overwhelming. The first and last pieces were really too long for both to be in the same programme, one or the other would have been fine - I was just longing for something quiet and relaxed. I enjoyed his Bach though.

 

======================

 

It's a curious thing, but so many young, virtuoso organists set out to impress with displays of blatant virtuosity, (as did Virgil Fox all his life), but it's equally curious how it seldom remains with the members of the audience for very long afterwards.

 

It's also curious how Virgil Fox is best remembered for performing two things; the "Perpetuem Mobile" by Middelschulte (because it is rather difficult), and Bach's "Come sweet death" played on the Wanamaker organ at what is now Macy's department store. In the latter, he found a depth which was untypical of his life-work, and even in the old recordings, it is remarkable.

 

It's a also a curious thing, how it is often something small and exquisite which most impresses and lingers. I can still recall the shivers down the spine when Francis Jackson played Vierne's "Berceuse," requiring very little technique at all, and the grin of absolute delight when he played, (at York), that wonderful Scherzo (the E major one, not the G minor one), by Gigout. The virtuosity was in the sheer musicianship and perfect poise. Make no mistake, that is a VERY tricky piece to play cmusically AND accurately at the same time.

 

As for those who make up a recital consisting almost entirely of transcriptions, I just wonder if they are not frustrated conductors rather than organists, but that's just a personal view.....each to their own, I suppose. I'm afraid I just wouldn't waste my time going to hear it when I can sit at home and hear something close to the real thing on a CD.

 

MM

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Truly a unique performance, played without scores, a true virtuoso, but I have to say I found it all a bit overwhelming. The first and last pieces were really too long for both to be in the same programme, one or the other would have been fine - I was just longing for something quiet and relaxed. I enjoyed his Bach though.

 

Whatever turns you on (or off), Jim or whatever your tolerance (or intolerance) threshold is, I don't retract anything I wrote. The young man is clearly extraodinarily talented and has enormous flair.

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I agree with you on that Barry, talented and enormous flair and one has to admire him, particularly at such a (to me) tender age, just that the programme was too heavy for me. One could compare him in some ways to that other player with flair, Cameron Carpenter, and I will even admit to having his CDs. I didn't attend his recital at Bridgewater Hall last year, but I understand that a lot of people left at the interval, possible that it was just too much of a good thing.

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I commented on Nathan at Truro on this Board last summer, and the comments were divided in a similar way.

We retain good memories of a great night 9 months later - but as usual this weekend, too busy to go!

Good to know that the instrument's in good shape too.

Ian CK

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======================

 

 

. . .As for those who make up a recital consisting almost entirely of transcriptions, I just wonder if they are not frustrated conductors rather than organists, but that's just a personal view.....each to their own, I suppose. I'm afraid I just wouldn't waste my time going to hear it when I can sit at home and hear something close to the real thing on a CD.

 

MM

 

That's an interesting comment, but we must not forget what W T Best did in Liverpool during his day in bringing good music to the less affluent citizens of the city who could not even afford the price of a modest seat at a symphony concert. He brought it to them for just a few pennies a seat. I realise times have changed and the real thing can now be inexpensively downloaded or bought in CD form. But I maintain the art of transcribing is a skill worth preserving.

 

B

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I commented on Nathan at Truro on this Board last summer, and the comments were divided in a similar way.

We retain good memories of a great night 9 months later - but as usual this weekend, too busy to go!

Good to know that the instrument's in good shape too.

Ian CK

 

 

I agree with you on that Barry, talented and enormous flair and one has to admire him, particularly at such a (to me) tender age, just that the programme was too heavy for me. One could compare him in some ways to that other player with flair, Cameron Carpenter, and I will even admit to having his CDs. I didn't attend his recital at Bridgewater Hall last year, but I understand that a lot of people left at the interval, possible that it was just too much of a good thing.

 

========================

 

 

I just wonder if American certain teaching doesn't now border on the "hot house mentality."

 

By this, I mean certain institutions and tutorship regimes placing technique at the top of the agenda. I've seen more and more of this in recent years, as if music is really a sport by another name, and competitive edge is everything.

 

Having been to America and having spent a relatively long time there, I was eager to absorb as much of the American organ-culture as I could, even though this was not the principal reason for being there. Make no mistake, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of impressive organs, some fabulous organists and some truly remarkable scholars at work.

Indeed, across the board, the standards set in music education are very high, and good technque was always close to the top of the agenda.

 

But I wonder if the immaculate and stylish musicianship of someone like E Power Biggs would be recognised to-day in America as he once was in his own lifetime. Indeed, would the talent of Edwin Lemare be fully recognised now, unless he could play three trasncriptions of Liszt 'Transcendental meditations," using just the pedals.

 

In recenty years, I marvelled at Paul Jacobs playing the Reger re-workings of the two-part inventions by Bach, with the feet playing the lower part, the left hand playing an additional part by Reger, and the right playing what the right hand normally plays. Impressive it certainly was from a techincal point of view, but what was the musical point, I asked myself?

 

Then I heard the same performer playing a frantically fast version of Reger's epic B-A-C-H, which just seemed so unmusical to my ears, brilliant though the technique was.

 

When it comes to Cameron Carpenter, it is quite easy to run out of technical superlatives. Quite simply, nothing has ever come close to his phenomenal technique in the history of organ playing, but is this really why people flock to listen to him, rather than the more commendable pursuit of listening to beautiful music beautifully played?

 

I think I would be quite happy to sacrifice technique to musicianship, and if I had the choice to buy tickets for Cameron Carpenter, Paul Jacobs or Fred Hohman, I would choose the last named anyday, simply because Fred Hohman is first and foremost a deeply instinctive musician. He can move where others merely impress or thrill.

 

I wonder if the American dream lingers on in the arts?

 

"Ask for a peanut and you get nothing; ask for the world, and you get your peanut."

 

Music must surely be about a lot more than technique, and one of my personal delights was hearing a 14 year-old organist playing a slow Bach Chorale Prelude. It wasn't showy, but slow, simple and elegant. Nevertheless, it was a truly great performance which proved to be incredibly moving.

 

Finally, didn't my recent post on Hungary demonstrate not only the very fine technique of so many young organists, but also a level of musicianship which lifted them out of the ordinary?

 

MM

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One could compare him in some ways to that other player with flair, Cameron Carpenter, and I will even admit to having his CDs.

Like Jim, I have heard Nathan Laube live, however, I do not believe that his comparison is valid. I repeat again what I said when Nathan was discussed on here last September under the topic 'Playing from Memory', "I was immediately drawn by his ability to make and communicate music on the organ. I have no time for showmanship and lack of musical depth which is found in certain virtuosi today, and Mr Laube's playing sets him apart from these prestidigital performers."

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I think Michael Rhodes deserves great credit for all the work he puts in at Victoria Hall. Not only does he keep the fine organ in good order by intelligently ensuring that funds are spent on the upkeep of the instrument sometimes at the expense of tuning but he also gets top quality performers for the recitals. I saw Oliver Brett play a recital last year and he was the most impressive young organist I have heard live since I saw a young Huw Williams at Hereford Cathedral many years ago.

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Like Jim, I have heard Nathan Laube live, however, I do not believe that his comparison is valid. I repeat again what I said when Nathan was discussed on here last September under the topic 'Playing from Memory', "I was immediately drawn by his ability to make and communicate music on the organ. I have no time for showmanship and lack of musical depth which is found in certain virtuosi today, and Mr Laube's playing sets him apart from these prestidigital performers."

 

 

=======================

 

I suspect that it is the prestidigenous exponents who set themselves apart, but I'm not sure that this even begins to describe Cameron Carpenter.

 

Of his genius I have not the slightest doubt, but like those ladies who went to hear Liszt and Paganini, I would probably want to take along a bottle of smelling salts.

 

I find it profoundly worrying that anyone would want to do what he does, and in the manner of its doing, yet there is real creativity at work; wayward or not.

 

I can't help but liken what he does to that delightful and rather apt comment made about Anthony Wedgwood-Benn.

 

"Absolute genius enlivened by flashes of lunacy"

 

As they say in the films, "Be afraid....be very afraid."

 

I'm not sure that my heart would withstand one of his concerts, and I sympathise with those who left half way through. They were probably clutching medication on the way to the bathroom.

 

MM

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Like Jim, I have heard Nathan Laube live, however, I do not believe that his comparison is valid. I repeat again what I said when Nathan was discussed on here last September under the topic 'Playing from Memory', "I was immediately drawn by his ability to make and communicate music on the organ. I have no time for showmanship and lack of musical depth which is found in certain virtuosi today, and Mr Laube's playing sets him apart from these prestidigital performers."

 

 

======================

 

 

 

It all got a bit heated last year; especially when I dared to criticise Mr Laube's performance of the Reubke Sonata.

 

However, for those who DO like orchestral transcriptions, the following is very interesting and rather good:-

 

 

Overture to Die Fledermaus (transcribed by Nathan Laube)- Johann Strauss II

 

 

To my ears, this performance has all the fluency of Edwin Lemare, and a great deal of musical merit: not that it would make me want to go and listen to transcriptions played by anyone.

 

As for the Reubke, I think it has been removed from YouTube. I hope that isn't my doing! ;)

 

I hope I wasn't too harsh about it, but if it's any consolation, I don't think there is a single example of a convincing performance of the Reubke on You Tube, and in my own lifetime thus far, I think I've heard only TWO performances which really got to me; the last being in the mid-1970's.

 

MM

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Roger Fisher and who else?

 

 

===================

 

 

 

I'm not sure that I can remember, but it may well have been the late Dr Melville Cook when I was about 16.

 

It was my first hearing of this work, and I was very fortunate that it was a good performance.

 

MM

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For me it would have to be the late Brian Runnett of Norwch Cathedral.

 

 

======================

 

 

Sadly, I never heard Brian Runnett play live, but I can well believe your observation re: Reubke.

 

BR had an extraordinary affinity with the German Romantic repertoire, and one of my most cherished records is of him playing Reger, among others things, from Norwich.

 

MM

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======================

I don't think there is a single example of a convincing performance of the Reubke on You Tube, and in my own lifetime thus far, I think I've heard only TWO performances which really got to me; the last being in the mid-1970's.

As far as I'm concerned, it's Simon Preston's second (1985) recording from Westminster Abbey.

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For me there's two from Roger Fisher, the first in 1970 and the second in 2004 - and if you've not heard it I can recommend John Hosking on a CD from Truro, in my view a very underrated recitalist, he's given a couple of magnificent performances of the piece (unrecorded) at Chester.

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For me it would have to be the late Brian Runnett of Norwch Cathedral.

Agree................. a tragic loss to the music world at such an early age................now resides only in the memory of an increasingly ageing few. Such is the stuff of life.

 

I would nominate SP`s rendition in the `60`s as a possible contender.

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======================

 

 

Sadly, I never heard Brian Runnett play live, but I can well believe your observation re: Reubke.

 

BR had an extraordinary affinity with the German Romantic repertoire, and one of my most cherished records is of him playing Reger, among others things, from Norwich.

 

MM

 

Was fortunate enough to hear him play on the still extant but defunct 4 manual instrument in Holy Trinity Southport in the early `60`s. Quite remarkable.

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