Organist Nathan Laube Reveals Precocious Instincts, Mature Musicianship
By Michael Huebner
Five stars out of five
Nathan Laube, Organist
Independent Presbyterian Church
November Organ Recital Series
Series concludes Nov. 23 with Lynne Davis
Nathan Laube, a 19-year-old organist with the musical instincts of an old master, disclosed Sunday why he has been called a "rising star." But if his wide-ranging recital at Independent Presbyterian Church is any indication, he is speeding past that worn-out label.
A fourth year student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, Laube is a probing musician, impetuous at times but always in full command. Opening with two contrasting movements from Charles Widor organ symphonies, he displayed unerring confidence, first with technical brilliance in an Allegro movement, then with the supple grace of gently wafting flute melodies in an Andante. A final low note had pews vibrating and air blowing audibly through a 32-foot pipe, a reminder that the pipe organ is indeed an organic monster that only skilled artists can control.
A Mozart Fantasy (K. 594), though simply registered with mostly flute stops, was delightfully and intelligently rendered.
Despite worldwide celebrations of Olivier Messiaen's 100th birthday, this year's IPC series contains only one piece by this 20th century organ music icon. Laube painted a movement from Messiaen's "La Nativité du seigneur" with the all the colors of the stained glass window on which the piece was inspired. Intense and radiant, this performance paid appropriate homage to this great composer.
Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in E major, BWV 566, blended power and transparency, the fugue resembling a consort of recorders in crisp counterpoint. Joseph Jongen's stylistic potpourri in "Sonata Eroïca," Op. 94, was Laube's best chance to show off, and he did so with intelligence and restraint. The frilly, warbling scales of the encore, a "Noël" by Louis-Claude Daquin, nicely foreshadowed the holiday season.
Although Laube's dense textures and urgent tempos can sometimes cloud the music's intent, as they did in parts of the Widor and Bach, his intensity and intelligence will take him far. Expect to hear great things from him.