This past Wednesday, I gave a recital at Pillar Church as part of their summertime noon series. It is timed perfectly for those who can escape work during their lunch break!
My program consisted of the following:
Sonata No. 6 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Fantasy & Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H by Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
It was quite different from other recitals I have attended at the church. Both are incredibly large works and require a plethora of focus in order to be performed well!
The Mendelssohn is a great piece: 1) somewhat easy on the ear, 2) it has many different-sounding parts, and 3) the tune is familiar(for the most part). Mendelssohn wrote 3 movements based on the chorale tune "Vater unser im Himmelreich". The first: the chorale w/ variations; the second: a fugue based on the tune; the third: a soft & contemplative piece at an "Andante" pace. Overall, a marvelous work of art! Being a chorale person, I enjoyed conducting the melody through every setting. I used several solo stops––including an 8' Orchestral Oboe and an 8' Clarinet––for some of the variations, allowing me to explore the balance of sounds between all three manuals on the 45-rank instrument. My favorite part of this piece is the final movement––though the work is written in D Minor, the last movement is in D Major and, unlike many other pieces similar in style, has a sweet-sounding finish.
The B-A-C-H, on the other hand, is a little strange. You can make an educated guess, based on the title, how the piece might unravel. It begins with a loud Bb in the pedal, joining with the manuals 3 measures later to create an intense, dissonant sound (a wonderful F# diminished 7 chord). The diminished chord is a huge factor throughout the score––how else do you combine 4 notes that are a 1/2 step away from each other & make a 14-minute piece of music? Good 'ole Franz. The fugue begins "mysteriously"(as my score tells me), and slowly builds to a mountainous E Minor chord(a VERY distant cousin of Bb), which is when the player has to commit; otherwise, you might as well give up. The tempo is "fast"––Dr. Lewis described as "attack the keyboard with your fingers as fast as possible". Note taken.
The most difficult section of this piece involved 8th-note octave runs with both hands simultaneously––enough to give the page-turner a headache (THANK YOU KRISTIN). It is a terribly "haunting" segment, for the audiences ears & for the player's fingers.
After another rigorous element involving descending, arpeggiated diminished chords, the piece prepares its final descent with 4 suspending (and LOUD) chords. Naturally, they contain the notes B(b), A, C, & H (B). Before the final notes, Liszt writes in a small variation of the theme with soft strings, bringing to life the power of the last progression: a Bb pedal tone w/ several strange chords layered on top. If you haven't figured it out, strange is the name of the game with this piece.
I am very happy I had the opportunity to perform both of those pieces for a delightful audience. There were family members, friends, mentors, teachers, and others from the community who came to hear me play. "Thank you" is not enough, especially considering all of the help & wisdom I have received in the last decade from many of them.
For those of you who might not be familiar with Holland, Pillar Church is a beautiful church located between Hope College & downtown with historic roots in the Reformed Church(RCA) and Christian Reformed Church(CRC). Now dual-affilated, the church is moving forward on a journey of reconciliation & renewal.
Soli Deo Gloria