Here we are again! I'm sitting at the Evangelical Lutheran church here in Vilnius where the final day of Round 1 of organists will play as part of the 8th International Piano and Organ Competition. I have yet to listen the last 5 contestants from yesterday on the video recording. I promise to create a post about it later.
The first today is No. 16 Filip Šmerda from the Czech Republic. His program starts with Praeludium in E Minor (large) by Nicolaus Bruhns which is an obligatory piece for every contestant. His registration of the first fugue is 8' and 4' principals accompanied by 16' flute and 8' principal in the pedals. A small mistake towards the end didn't throw him of balance. The arpeggio episode is played by a single 8' flute in the manual and 16' and 8' flutes in the pedals. The episode before the 2nd fugue could have had more elements. I've heard people play with more intricate flourishes. The 2nd fugue is registered with Organo Pleno and 16' Posaune in the pedals. The ending lacks a bit of emphasis in phrasing, in my opinion and because of that feels a little rushed when played with a large registration.
The next piece on his program is Chorale Prelude "Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr", BWV 676 by J.S. Bach. The registration is skillfully chosen with flute stops without 16' in the pedals. I like it a lot even though playing Bach's trio without 16' in the pedals is somewhat unorthodox. I think he plays the left hand part one octave down with an elegant 4' flute and 8' and 4' flutes in the right hand. Very stable playing, excellent listening to the dialogues and duets between the voices.
The last piece on his program today is "Toccata" by Faustas Latėnas. The organist doesn't start with loud registration like most other people I heard before but instead smoothly rides with crescendo into mixture and Posaune sounds. By the way, solo Posaune in the pedal has very colorful effect on this organ and clearly the organist has enough artistic experience and good enough taste to show it. In the middle soft section he explores flute combinations and at this moment I thought I would gladly play this piece myself. It's always a good sign for the performer when that happens. A side note: personally I would have finished this piece much softer with a mysterious combination and flutes.
Now is the turn for No. 17 Alexander Little from the United Kingdom. He starts with Trio super ''Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'', BWV 664 by J.S. Bach. Luckily for the previous organist, he makes a few accidental but noticeable mistakes here and there plus the pedals are too strong for my taste - 8' principal (maybe with 16' flute, I'm not exactly sure) in the feet versus 8' and 4' flutes in the hands. Otherwise, the performance is elegant enough.
Next I hear "Shine" by Faustas Latėnas. The opening registration is indeed "shiny" with high-pitched mutations, including 1 3/5'. I wished for more contrast between waltz and fast motion episodes. Everything is played in one tempo and character. He could have been more creative I'm sure, not to mention about the exploitation of rests. "Shine" ends without much mystery at all. Oh and by the way, it's a mystery to me why this didn't happen... Maybe we will hear something special in the last piece?
So, the organist finishes the program with Praeludium in E Minor by Bruhns. After the exciting opening the first fugue is played with 8' and 4' flutes in the manual and rather balanced 8' sounds in the pedals. Interestingly, the end of the fugue features a colorful passage with Vox humana stop in the left hand. The next section with echo is rushed, I think. The arpeggio episode is played by the 4' flute accompanied by 8' flute in the pedals. The 2nd fugue sounds convincing except for a strange single principal passage as echo even though ending loudly. To eliminate any doubts for the jury the piece ends powerfully and brilliantly.
After this comes No. 18 Bart Verheyen from Belgium. We can compare another Bruhns performance right away. He uses expressive echo at the beginning but strangely unbalanced registration between the hands just before the first fugue. The registration of the fugue is Vox humana in the hands and 8' principal in the pedals. Sounds like a Renaissance wind consort. I would have coupled manual with the pedal to preserve consort registration. The fanfare episode has nice dramatic rests and brilliantly played runs between the hands. The arpeggio episode again is played with the 4' flute and 16' (!) and 8' stops in the pedals. Organists' creativity is apparent in the episode leading to the 2nd fugue which is played with a loud registration including 8' trumpet in the hands and Posaune in the feet. Again, here was nice to observe dramatic use of rests between the phrases. In the ending, he makes use of various oratory technique including Abruptio (sudden rest). Overall a very strong performance.
Now the organist plays Chorale Prelude "Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr", BWV 676 by J.S. Bach with a rather heavy registration in the pedal - 16' and 8' principals against 8' and 2 2/3' flutes in the right hand and 8' principal in the left hand. The tempo is quick but the organist displays a good control of polyphonic texture and not for a moment loses his nerves. Although personally I would have reduced the tempo just a bit to have a more relaxed character.
The last piece on his program is "Toccata" by Faustas Latėnas. The registration is brilliant with mixtures in the hands and reeds in the pedals to begin with. But not too overpowering to leave some room for growth later on. This contrast between two dynamic layers continues until the middle episode. It is played with 8' trumpet in the right hand part and produces a curious effect of craziness. I like it. More rests when flutes come in... The organist listens very carefully to the acoustics of the room. Big sound returns with brilliant virtuosity. A sudden stop and a solo flute at the last episode make a hanging effect, amplified by the pedal questions. Excellent performance!
The last organist we'll hear before the break is No. 19 Jihyun Kim from South Korea. She starts with the Bruhns. After a powerful beginning the first fugue is played with 8' principal both in the hands and in the feet. Assistants make a mistake of leaving a Posaune stop in the pedals! Luckily the organist continues to play almost like nothing happened. Good dynamic contrast follow afterwards. In the arpeggio episode she chooses 4' flute in the hands and 8' principal in the pedals. I thought pedals were too strong. Sadly, no improvisation in the following section... The 2nd fugue is played with a loud registration including 8' trumpet in the manuals. No echo at the end. Almost the same sound for the ending with the addition of Posaune in the pedals. Rushed feeling and a wrong chord before the end...
Now is the time for Trio super ''Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'', BWV 664 by J.S. Bach. The registration sounds medium loud - I can't say for sure but it seems like 8', 4' and 2 2/3' flutes in the right hand as well as 8' and 4' flutes in the left hand against 16' and 8' principals. Didn't hear anything special regarding listening to the dialogues and duets between the parts as well as appreciating key changes. A few mistakes here and there may or may not have an influence on the decision of the jury...
Before the coffee break we'll also be hearing "Shine" by Faustas Latėnas. Some accidental slips again. Registration with mutations. The waltz is played with loud stops including 8' trumpet in the hands. Before the recapitulation - solo Vox humana in the right hand. Too many mistakes to be ignored... I like this very slow ending tempo which is true to composer's intentions. But the registration is too loud for my taste.
Now let's have some coffee and come back after 15 minutes to hear the last 3 contestants. And later tonight results of Round 1 will be announced.
If you want to watch a recording of the live-stream, check it out here:
Specification of the organ:
Round 1, Group 1 review
Round 1, Group 2 review
[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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