Today is Thursday and the last day of summer lunchtime organ recitals at Vilnius Cathedral. This time Balys Vaitkus played Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 and German composer's Philipp Wolfrum's Sonata No. 1 in Bb Minor, Op. 1 from the late Romantic period. While Bach's work is probably the most famous organ piece in the world, Wolfrum's Sonata No. 1 is rarely performed. But surprise isn't here. Keep reading.
I came to the Cathedral about 20 minutes prior the recital, made some photos of the interior and was about to find a place to sit when a man came up to me and introduced himself. This was Andreas Spahn, German church organist and member of our Secrets of Organ Playing community who wrote to me some time ago about the possibility of listening to me play while he was visiting Vilnius.
I told him that during that time I'm not playing any recitals in Vilnius but invited him to come to this concert at the Cathedral. But completely forgot until now. So you can imagine how I felt when he introduced himself.
We sat down together before the recital started and I suddenly had an idea. I asked him if he wanted to be a guest on my Secrets of Organ Playing podcast and he agreed. Then we talked a little about how he first fell in love with the organ, what was the first organ that he heard, what is he currently working on, what are some of the challenges that he has to overcome etc. It was sort of a pre-interview, like a short rehearsal so that he could think over about the answers over the weekend and come to the church on Monday relaxed and ready to talk.
Then the recital started and we heard the unforgettable opening sounds of Bach's D Minor Toccata. This music is quite spontaneous, like an improvisation. The passages run up and down the keyboards with quite a few echo effects.
The fugue started a bit too fast for my taste but the organist managed to play it at this tempo without skipping a beat proving his virtuosity. In the middle of the fugue we could hear nice echos between the manuals which led to the strong culmination. The fugue ended similarly like the toccata had started - with the virtuoso runs and passages.
Wolfrum Sonata has 4 movements - a medium-tempo prelude with dramatic harmonies, a slow movement with lyrical melodies, a solemn choral which leads into a fast-motion fugue which again sounded a bit too fast to me. Nonetheless the recital was very solid and I had a great pleasure listening to rarely performed German Romantic work by Wolfrum. Balys did a very good job at making this Neo-Baroque organ sound as Romantic as possible. And Bach's D Minor toccata and fugue is always fun to hear as well.
When the concert ended Andreas and I went to congratulate the organist Balys Vaitkus. I introduced him Andreas in English but as soon as Balys found out he's from Germany, they switched to German. I had to remember what's left from my non-existent German language skills.
We parted ways agreeing to meet on Monday for the podcast conversation and I went to meet @laputis at school where she had 3 faculty meetings today. The school hasn't started yet but meetings already have.
It might well happen that @laputis and I will have an opportunity to play at Andreas' church next summer because we are invited to perform organ duets at the organ festival in Schabischgmunde near Stuttgart. Incidentally, Andreas' church is also about 50 km from Stuttgart so he invited us to perform there too.
I never know what kind of surprises are waiting for me when I go to organ recitals so I try keep my options open.
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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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