Nathan J. Laube Portrait

Nathan Laube in Gripping Recital at Independent Presbyterian Church

The Birmingham News

By Michael Heubner


5 stars out of 5


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- At the end of his recital Sunday at Independent Presbyterian Church, organist Nathan Laube first acknowledged the tumultuous ovation from the packed audience in the sanctuary, then gestured right and left to credit the sparkling new pipes of the Dobson-built instrument for the gripping musical excursion he had just completed.


His humility exemplified what had just transpired in the previous 75 minutes -- a program that proceeded without pause through Mendelssohn, Buxtehude, Saint-Saëns and Liszt in a single musical arc. He requested no applause until it was over. His musical interpretations deferred to each composer's brilliance, not his. He greeted the audience on ground level, descending from the loft to speak and to bow.


Yet there was no doubt that this personable 24-year-old is a visionary musician, sparked by an ebullient wonder of exploring a fine instrument and realizing it with astounding technique.


Those attributes resonated first in Mendelssohn's Sonata in A, a majestic fanfare followed by a fugue, an intense acceleration driven by a flurry of pedal work. Mendelssohn's “Variations Sérieuses,” Op. 54, was a chance for the audience to catch its breath, a reverent theme expanding to a virtual candy store of hues. It was a fitting complement to the stained glass behind the console ripening with deep colors at sunset.


A Buxtehude Passacaglia (BuxwV161) connected nicely in the same key (D minor) as the Mendelssohn. Softly rumbling pedal notes and playful, fairylike swashes in Saint Saëns' “Fantaisie pour Orgue,” Op. 101, served as a kind for prelude to Liszt's “Les Préludes.”


Like Mendelssohn's “Variations Sérieuses,” the Liszt was Laube's own transcription. With the resources of IPC's Joseph W. Schreiber organ, it became an inventive menagerie of colors, ranging from whimsical to serious. Piccolos trilled and trumpets echoed as Laube completed the sweeping musical journey.


An encore from the Spanish Baroque, Juan Cabanilles “Corrente Italiana,” was an ornate palate cleanser, Laube adding a subtle touch of percussion for effect.


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