Nathan J. Laube Portrait

Exciting Artist Performs in Flint, Michigan

By Dennis E. Ferrara


Creative variety in programming is an art unto itself and this certainly describes the organ recital by Nathan Laube on Sunday, 22 February, 3:30 pm, on the 4/89 rank Adams instrument located in the warm and vibrant acoustics of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.


Select movements from the ten organ symphonies of Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) are becoming more popular with organists and audiences alike. Nathan Laube opened the recital with the first movement or Allegro movement from Symphonie pour Grand Orgue, Op. 42, No. 6 (1887). Needless to say, the interpretation was exciting to both hear and watch. Colorful registrations combined with superb manual and pedal technique added much to the excitement of this recital opener.


After the opening applause, the artist talked combining humor as well as information and established a warm rapport throughout his entire recital with this audience. The beautiful and plaintive Andante sostenuto from Symphonie gothique pour Grand Orgue, Op. 70 (1895) demonstrated Laube’s art in registration. He used a Flute ouvert which was reminiscent of a Flute harmonique. The lush strings and various tonal colors through the organ’s seven divisions added much to his extremely sensitive interpretation.


The Präludium in E minor of Nicolaus Bruhms (1665-1697) followed. Sometimes known as the “Great” to distinguish it from its sister Praludium in E minor and is modeled after Buxtehude. The “great” is in five section form: brilliant toccata-like prelude, 4/4 fugue, middle section, ¾ (3/2 or 4/4 (12/8) fugue and concluding toccata; once again, the artist’s interpretation was exemplary.


The Sonata eroïca pour Grand Orgue, Op. 94 of Belgian composer, Joseph Jongen, was dedicated to Joseph Bonnet; originally, this composition was simply called Variations; Bonnet changed the work to its present title. Composed for the Grand Orgue built by Josef Stevens for the Grand Salle de Concerts within the Palasis de Beaux Arts in 1930; moreover, this sonata is played as a single movement. Laube’s thrilling registrations contrasting the full organ with the subtle, plaintive themes of the brief second movement added much to grandeur of this extremely colorful 1930 composition.


The second half of the recital opened with the Prelude (Toccata) and Fugue in E major, BWV 566 (J.S. Bach). Originally written in 1708 and comprises four sections and its form resembles the preludes and fugues of Buxtehude. The first section alternates manual or pedal cadenzas with dense suspended chords; the second section is a charming fughetta with much repetition following the circle of fifths; the third section is a brief flourish for manuals ending with a briefer pedal cadenza punctuated with 9 voice chords; and finally, the fourth section is in ¾ time and it has a second fuga with a rhythmic subject resembling the thema of the first fughetta. Laube’s tempi were clean, concise, and his masterful manual and pedal technique were in evidence throughout this composition.


L’Ascension is a composition for orchestra, composed by Oliver Messiaen (1908-1992)in 1932-1933). He described it as “Four mediations for orchestra.” However, in 1933-1934, the composer made a version for solo organ. The first, second and fourth movements are arrangements of the orchestral pieces which includes the “Alleluias sereine d’une âme qui desire le Ciel”; nevertheless, Messiaen composed a new third movement, “Transports de joie d’une âme devant la glorie du Christ qui est la sienne.” The young artist’s subtle nuance and phrasing added much to the audience’s enjoyment of these two movements. In the first movement, the organist brought out the composer’s concept of birdsongs; furthermore, Laube’s innovative use of color brought out his conception of the relationship between time and the music. Here one heard the “soul of the organ.” The second movement was a blazing toccata-like final. One certainly heard the “lungs of the organ.”


The Art of the Organ Trans cript ion was represented by Laube’s own brilliant organ transcription of the Overture to William Tell of Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868). Laube’s transcription is a more orchestral and difficult transcription than the organ transcription version by Edwin H. Lemare (1865-1934). Played with much panache and bravura, this was the perfect “audience crowd pleaser” for musician, aficionado and music novice alike. The various sections of the overture showed Laube’s innate sense in orchestral registration; moreover, this is an art which certainly goes back over 150 years to organ recitals of yesteryear.


The encore was the Noël Étranger No. 9 of Louis- Claude Daquin (1694-1772). A bright, charming, brief noel of Daquin’s clever style taken from noveau livre de Noels pour l’orgue et le clavecin was a fitting ending to this superb recital.


“Expressive virtuosity” best describes the art of this young touring organist. His playing is simply not limited to fast and flashy manual and pedal technique and playing with over 100 metronome settings without feeling as several young touring artists today tend to do; rather, Laube’s style of playing utilizes the best of manual and technique and combines feeling, subtly, expression, nuance and phrasing to make brilliant technique a secondly role to the primary requirement in making a composition truly “musical” in the overall artistic concept of musical interpretation.


Dennis E. Ferrara


Associate Professor Communications/Film

Mott College Flint, Michigan

Flint Chapter of the American Guild of Organists


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