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Recital at Memorial Church, Stanford


sprondel
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On Friday last, I attended my first organ recital here in California. We moved here on January 1, and I was glad to learn that there was one scheduled February 1, with exquisite repertoire: all of Bach’s trio sonatas, played by Stanford university organist Huw Morgan on the large Fisk in Memorial Church.

 

Apart from that bold program, it was Huw Morgan’s plan that no registration would sound twice, so that the audience – some 200 people – was able to hear the Fisk-Nanney organ with 18 different combinations. Though I cannot recall each one of them, and did not have a stoplist sheet at hand, what I can say is: they were all fascinating.

 

E. g. the G major sonata: Vivace on three wonderfully warm and distinct 8' diapasons; Lento with a sweetly-singing short-length reed; Allegro with diapasons 8-4-2, a vivid Sesquialtera and equally clear pedal. The last piece of the evening, the finale of the C major sonata, will stick in my memory for a long time: two full diapason choruses over 16' pedal with 8'-reed. No chamber music any more, but what wonderful organ music!

 

The organ case sits between the two cases of the Murray-Harris organ, high up, its central tower almost touching the ceiling. It is a characteristic Charles Nazarian design: well centered, quoting historical elements while fancifully updating them, dissolving the block of the case in many interesting, well-balanced parts. The organ, famous for its double-temperament mechanism (some well-temp plus 1/5 comma meantone), was planned by Charles Fisk, Harald Vogel, Manuel Rosales and Herbert Nanney, and completed in 1985, two years after Charles Fisk’s death. There is an abundance of bold, warm, singing colour, but no complete pedal organ, only a Bourdon 32-16 and a Posaune 32-16-8; probably out of space considerations, the rest sounds either in the Great or in the Pedal (or is coupled to the latter), with the 16' Principal borrowed*. As concerns the trio sonatas, this worked convincingly. I will be back for some more, so I will listen and keep you posted.

 

Huw Morgan played very well. Tempi on the quick side, but always with wonderfully singing phrasing and clear articulation. In his virtuoso attitude and musicality, he reminded me of his teacher, Nicolas Kynaston. The warm presence of the tone in the space of Memorial Church brought these qualities to full bloom, and they were not diminished by a very few glitches when the recital ran late (I believe all of Paganini’s 24 in one night would be an appropriate comparison).

 

What music, and on what an organ!

 

I’ll definitely be back. E. g. for Nigel’s recital on April 10. Looking forward to it!

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

* If you look at some central-German designs from Bach’s time, a pedal like that is not at all unusual; e. g. here.

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