Organ Dedication Concert Review
The Evangelist - St. John's Episcopal Church, Tampa, Florida
By Simon Morley
Most people will by now have heard our restored organ in all its glory. On Sunday, March 14th, we welcomed Nathan Laube to St John's to play the Dedicatory Recital, and what a show it was! I had asked Nathan, who at just 21 years old has taken the organ world by storm, to play a program that would appeal to organists and non-organists alike, and utilize the full registrational and dynamic range of the organ. He did that and far more. Nathan's will very much be a name to follow in the future. His brilliant playing, audience friendly programs and gracious demeanor have thrilled audiences and presenters across the US and in Europe.
Opening with his own transcription of the overture to Die Fledermaus, he showed off the many orchestral colours available in the new specification. This was followed by the Passacaglia in C minor of J.S. Bach, a piece that begins with the theme alone in the Pedal of the organ followed by twenty variations composed around that theme, which remains present throughout. Bach works well on St. John's organ and Nathan turned over every stone to find subtle registrations for each variation of this monumental work, played, as was the whole program, from memory. A short Noël of Claude Daquin followed, before the first half was brought to a close by the Sonata Eroïca of Joseph Jongen. Much of our organ is voiced in the French style so again, the Jongen came off very well as Nathan drew out its symphonic colours.
Two works occupied the second half of the program. Of all French composers for the organ, there is perhaps none whose music is as evocative and technically demanding as that of Maurice Duruflé. His Suite pour Orgue, Op. 5, consists of three movements, Prélude, Sicilienne and Toccata. The Prélude begins with the deep foundations of the Pedal underneath an octave B flat held in the manuals, and the new digital 32' stops were heard (and felt) to great advantage here before a crescendo through full organ and down again. The Sicilienne's hauntingly beautiful melody showed off the new oboe stops in the Swell division, before the famous (and very difficult) Toccata rounded off the work with its cascading manual semiquaver passages and forbidding melody in the Pedal. The last work on the program was another of Nathan's own transcriptions, this time to Overture to William Tell of Rossini. Flying hands and feet together with west end trumpets and a complete array of colour brought the audience to its feet at the conclusion of this piece. I had asked Nathan, should an encore be in order, which I was sure it would be, to play a personal favourite of mine, the Fugue sur le nom d'Alain, again of Maurice Duruflé. This beautiful work brought to a close a most memorable evening and one that showed every capability of the overhauled organ.