Young Organist Dazzles Audience
The Vox - Syracuse Chapter of the AGO
By Ernest Camerota
Anyone who was in Grace Episcopal Church, Utica, Friday evening, November 4, was treated to an amazing performance by a 23 year old organist, Nathan Laube. Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Laube earned his Bachelor of Music Degree at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, studying with Alan Morrison. During the 2010-2011 academic year he studied with Michel Bouvard at the Conservatoire a Rayonnement Regional de Toulouse, earning the Prix de Specialise. Though his First Prizes and Honors worldwide are too numerous to mention here, his technical prowess and musicianship was eminently evident, and completely belied his tender age
Performing on the 1983 Holtkamp III/64, the recital began with panache and thunder as Laube tore into Widor’s “Allegro” from the 6th Symphonie pour Grand Orgue, Op.42, No.6. Always a personal favorite of this listener, it was hard to imagine a more authentic reading of this difficult and kaleidoscopic piece. Every nuance of the instrument was used to full advantage, though the Mixtures were absent in order to produce a sound akin to the Cavaille Coll organs in many French Cathedrals, as related by the performer. This movement was followed by the “Andante Sostenuto” from Widor’s Symphonie Gothique pour Grand Orgue, Op.70. Then Bach’s great Passacaglia, BWV 582 filled the large Gothic edifice with the colors of the many variations, and Laube was equal to the task of displaying the architecture of this massive work. The double fugue which crowns the opus was dashed off effortlessly. This ability of Laube’s, making devilishly complex and demanding works seem natural and “easy”, as it were, only added to the total enjoyment and satisfaction of the audience.
Crowning the first half of the program, was Laube’s own transcription of Mendelssohn’s Variations Serieuses, Op.54. Undeniably, the greatest of Mendelssohn’s 3 sets of piano variations, this piece is arguably his greatest piano work. Mr. Laube said that when making the transcription, he merely played from the piano score and worked out registrations. Indeed! His self-effacing manner was genuine, but nevertheless, the work sounded as if it had been written for the organ. The 9th Variation especially, used the resources of the organ perfectly. I personally, prefer the original piano version, but Laube made it believable and fashioned the change in medium with good sense and musical taste.
The second half of the recital opened with Mozart’s curious little Fantasy for Mechanical Organ in f- minor, K.594. The performer explained the origin of such pieces, composed for clocks and organs, played not by a person, but by a mechanical contrivance. As a matter of fact, Mr. Laube gave informative and witty comments before each piece, without becoming pedantic. His love of all periods of music and of his instrument was obvious in these pithy remarks. The final work, Maurice Durufle's Suite pour Orgue, Op.5, elicited the most humorous anecdote. We were told that Durufle did not care for this work, an exercise in over self-criticism to be sure. The three movements are oddly unrelated, the first being “a road to nowhere” (sic), the second a reverie
ala Debussy, and the 3rd a fiery Toccata, totally modern, exploding with fireworks. When asked why he didn’t care for this early work, Durufle was to have said, “The meat is not too good, but, oh, the sauce!”
Thus the recital concluded, but not before we were treated to an encore, Laube’s transcription of Chopin’s Etude No. 4 for Piano, Op. 10, No.4. After a memorized program and an evening listening to the talents of this “wunderkind” of towering abilities, the audience rose to its feet as one and gave the young man a thunderous ovation. Nathan Laube is already among the elite of concert organists, and it seems obvious that he is destined for even greater accomplishments.
[Ernest Camerota is a graduate of Syracuse University in Composition and Organ. He has been organist and music director at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt for 23 years.]