I'm sitting at the Vilnius Evangelical Lutheran church right now where the 1st Round of Ciurlionis organ competition is about to begin. The first contestant is Yohan Chung from South Korea. He started Praeludium in E Minor (Large) by Nicolaus Bruhns with a heavy registration which included manual reeds. The fugue sound was reduced to 8' and 4' Principals in the manual and without 16' in the pedals. I wanted more calmness here. The fanfare episode was played with the trumpet stop which sounds quite convincing on this organ. The arpeggio episode was played with a Principal 8' alone. The sound was increased gradually until the full Principal Chorus in the last fugue. The reeds are added for the ending of the piece. We will hear this piece by Bruhns 29 more times in the 1st round. Overall a few little mistakes here and there didn't bother me too much. Not sure about the jury though...
The next piece on the program is Trio super ''Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'', BWV 664 by Johann Sebastian Bach. It seems like the organist chose to register this trio with flutes 8', 4' and 2 2/3' in the right hand versus principal 8' in the left hand. The pedals were quite strong with Principals 16' and 8'. A beautiful piece, especially when listening the first time in the contest.
The organist finished his program with the Toccata by Faustas Latėnas. It starts with the dialogue in octaves and sevenths between the hands and feet. The piece has a free spontaneous character and the organist showed it quite successfully throughout the performance. The toccata is full of contrasts and I thought this was the most excitingly performed piece from his program.
No. 2 on the menu is Tyler Jason Boehmer from the United States. He also started with the Praeludium by Nicolaus Bruhns. During the opening section a nasty cipher in C# disturbed playing for a minute or so. Luckily the organist kept playing almost like nothing happened. In the 1st fugue he felt relaxed enough to add interesting ornaments. The opening was with mixtures and reeds and the fugue to me sounded performed with a single 8' principal both in the hands and feet. The fanfare section was played with without the reeds or mixtures. I think maybe Principals 8', 4' and 2. The arpeggio section was played with the 8' flute accompanied by the 16' Subbass alone. Then we hear crescendo with the gradual addition of Principals and Mixture. I liked nice flourishes and what he did between the phrases. In the 2nd fugue he added the reeds. Maybe because of the excitement a few mistakes could have been heard in the middle of it. The end of the piece was solid but a little bit rushed.
Next he played Chorale Prelude "Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr", BWV 676. Started quite fast and thought at this speed he will not be able to listen to intricate contrapuntal work of the composer. The organist chose to use Principals 8' and 4' in both hands on different manuals and for the pedals - Principals 16' and 8'. In the second half of the chorale prelude the tempo was normalized and I didn't hear any rushed passages.
The program concluded with "Inspiration" by Vytautas Barkauskas. It has many echo passages between the hands and curiously sounding Posaune exclamations in the pedals. Like a lot of Lithuanian organ pieces it sounds like improvisation without too much thought about the form. Three-note motive is repeated and developed constantly. I thought the soft sections were done nicely. The reed sections can serve like a nice demonstration of Posaune and other stops.
No 3 on the program is Ilaria Centorrino from Italy. She started with the E Minor Praeludium by Nicolaus Bruhns. Differently from the preceding two contestants, she played the first fugue with the Vox Humana 8' stop both in the hands and pedals. Not sure if the Dutch would like it. But I'm not Dutch so it was OK for me. Vox Humana is notoriously difficult to tune and we could hear this challenge in the tenor range. The arpeggio section was played by the Flute 4' accompanied by the flute 8' in the pedals. Refreshing sound considering the fact that in this church the organ sounds really in your face. Perhaps a smaller instrument might have been ideal here. The registration grew until the 2nd fugue with the addition of mutations and mixtures but the 2nd fugue was reduced to a few principals. A bit unusual but convincing, especially the echo effect in the end of the fugue. What sound we lacked in the fugue, was compensated in the ending part of the piece with the powerful Plenum sound.
Next we hear Chorale Prelude "Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr", BWV 676 by J.S. Bach, like at the previous contestant's program. The registration was softer - perhaps flutes 8' and 4' in the left hand juxtaposed with flutes 8', 4' and 2 2/3 in the right hand. The pedal played with flutes 16' and 8' stops. Solid and calm performance.
The program was concluded by "Shine" by Faustas Latėnas. The fast section sounded quite humorous which I think worked very well. The slow waltz was quite mysterious. The recapitulation brought back the opening theme and tempo. The ending could have been much slower and more mysterious to my taste...
The last organist I will hear is No. 4 Somang Lee from South Korea. She started with Praeludium in E Minor by Bruhns. If I'm not mistaken, her opening section was without reeds in the manuals. The 1st fugue was played with principals 8' and 4' accompanied by principal 8' in the pedals (I think without 4'). She has a rare skill to listen to rests (at least in this fugue). The episode after the fugue was played with a heavy registration full of mixtures. The arpeggio section I think was registered with the octave 4' in the manuals and 16' and 8' principals in the pedals. In the second fugue she also listened wisely to the rests. Too bad the acoustics in this church lacks a few more seconds of reverberation. My spirits were elevated with the ending bravura.
Next we're listening to Trio super ''Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'', BWV 664 by J.S. Bach which we heard performed by contestant No. 1. Now the registration is different. I think I hear a registration of flutes 8', 4' and 2' in the right hand and two principals in the left hand. The pedals sound heavy and a little too pronounced. I'm not particularly fond of the color in the right hand.
The last piece before the break is "Ad libitum" by Faustas Latėnas. It adds some freshness in the atmosphere because the organist cleverly uses the juxtapositions between the loud sections and softer sounding 9th chords.
Now I'm ready to go back home and listen to the second part of Round 1 from the live-stream:
Specification of the organ:
Specification of the organ:
[Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion which may or may not coincide with the reader's opinion. If you don't like it, write your own.]
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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