Organist Raul Prieto Ramirez gives concert in Washington DC: Basque composer Guridi’s massive “Triptico” is the main event

Sunday, June 18, 2017 I attended the free organ concert at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC given by Raul Prieto Ramirez. The concert was performed on the new Austin organ.

The organist, at about age 28, apparently grew up in Barcelona, Spain, and teaches master classes around the world, including Indiana and Texas in the U.S. and in Russia.

The program started with the Prelude and Fugue in D Major, BWV 532, by J. S. Bach.  The piece reminds me of my days if brief organ lessons about the time I was entering graduate school atKU in 1966 (I had the book of little preludes apparently by Krebs).

He then followed with what I think was the featured work of the concert, the “Triptico del Buen Pastor” (“Triptych of the Good Shepherd”), composed in 1953 by Spanish-Basque composer Jesus Guridi.

The work sounds like a three-movement organ symphony (running about 20 minutes) with a mixture of impressionistic (modal, especially the interval of the fourth) and post-romantic elements.  Were the work played on the piano, it might sound like a late Scriabin sonata (“Black Mass” comes to mind).  The palette, however dissonant and hyper-chromatic,  sounds “French” rather than Wagnerian, but it would be influenced by Basque folk dancing, especially in the area from Bilbao to San Sebastian. The work introduces a heroic big tune theme in the finale, which is a kind of majestic slow movement.  Despite passages that sound essentially atonal, the work is centered around the tonality of E-flat, and introduces a heroic theme near the end.  It ends crashing on one fortissimo final chord in E-flat. Rameriz’s performance adds other notes from the chromatic scale to the chord (is this the Scriabin mystic chord?) but some performances just play the tonic. .

Rameriz followed with the humble Bach Chorale “Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier”, BWV 731.

He followed with the first movement from Charles-Marie Widor’s organ Symphony #6 in G Minor.  I posted a video of the complete work. I love the G Major ending.

After the intermission. Ramirez played his own organ transcription of Franz Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz #1, which plays its own games with tonality (with all the fifths) at the beginning.

He continued with two compositions by Baroque composer Joan Bautista Cabanilles:  the Pasacalles #2, and “Tiento in terzio al estilo Italiano”.

He concluded with his own transcription of the expansive sonata-like Prelude to “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg” by Richard Wagner.  I saw the complete opera (long!) at the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center back in 1977 when I was living in Manhattan. The music that concludes the prelude ends the entire opera triumphantly, in C Major.

As an encore, he played a pedal piece (unknown, published as Bach) and the first two sections of Bach’s Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, BWV 564.

I had an old Columbia with Biggs of this work given to me by a friend right after my lost semester at William and Mary in the late fall of 1961.  On the other side were the Schubler Chorales.

Wikipedia photo of San Sebastian, Spain, which I visited in 2001.

(Posted: Monday, June 19, 2017 at 8 PM EDT)

Diane Bish gives organ concert at FBCDC, her own “All Creatures” hymn variations dominates the event

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On Sunday, June 12, 2016, organist Diane Bish (“The First Lady of the Organ”) gave a concert at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC.

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The largest work was her own Introduction, Theme and Variations on “Lasst Uns Erefuen” (“All Creatures of our God and King”), in D Major.  This hymn (as originally harmonized by Ralph Vaughn Williams) had been the official hymn of the National Federation of Music Clubs in the 1950s when I took piano.  The congregation was asked to sing verses 1 and 6 to the theme.  There were about seven variations, some quiet, but ending triumphantly.

She also played her own “Dance of the Trumpets” (after a Bach “Andante Cantabile”).  She played her own transcriptions of Alphonse Hasselmans’s “Will-o’-the-wisp” (a little reminiscent of a piano piece by that name) and the “Nimrod” variation from Elgar’s “Enigma Variations”.  She also played her transcription to organ solo of the finale of Petro Yon’s “Concerto Gregoriano” in A Minor.  I could say her style is somewhat late romantic and even reminds me of the music of Amy Beach.

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She also performed the “Carillon de Westminster” with the same theme that appears at the triumphant end of the “Academic Festival Overture” by Johannes Brahms. She concluded the concert with the Toccata by Denis Bedard.

She also offered the modernistic suite “Victimae Paschali Laudes” by Charles Tounamire (loosely, Passion, Crucifixion, Resurrection).

(Published: Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 12:30 AM)