Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments
Tuesday - Last evening’s clouds have returned, and Salzburg seems destined to be at least very cloudy today, though the overcast is sufficiently above us that the view from our first morning visit…the pilgrimage church Maria Plain, north of town and at about the same elevation as the Hohensalzburg fortress…is panoramic and beautiful. So is this little Baroque church, built 1671-74 to honor the Virgin Mary, whose picture survived a fire near this site. Hans-Josef Knaust is pleased with his 1998 Westenfelder organ, in the style of local 17th century builder Christoph Egedacher, though I think the organ sounds better in the balcony (bright and pleasant) than in the church (a bit edgy). The place is packed on Sundays, even though this is not a functioning parish.
As we drive through the Salzkammergut (the lake mountainous country west of Salzburg), the views keep getting better and better, as does the weather…indeed, as we left Maria Plain, the sun broke through. By the time of our arrival in Bad Ischl, it’s another beautiful day. Brahms visited here regularly, and for organists it is a particularly memorable place as this is where he composed his last works, the Eleven Chorale-preludes for organ.
Klaus Sonnleitner, our monk-organist friend from St. Florian, grew up in this parish, and was hugely influenced by the Mauracher organ (1888-1910), and no wonder…what a glorious, muscular, colorful sound. Influence of the Alsacian organ reform (pushed by Albert Schweitzer in the early 20th century) is evident in the bright mixtures, though the numerous characterful flutes and string sounds, and the free-reed clarinet stop remain from the ‘romantic’ era. Bruckner played an Imperial Wedding here…and intended to improvize on themes from his First Symphony, which he arranged in some sketches…the royals requested otherwise, but a present-day German has ‘composed’ them into a bracing Festival Fantasy which, along with some Brahms and Bach, beautifully demonstrated this grand instrument.
Then we back-tracked to St. Wolfgang, on the Wolfgangsee, a favorite lake resort of many Berliners, with a church dating from the 10th century. The combination Renaissance-Baroque case contains a 1980 Beckerath organ (pleasant, particularly since the view from the organ loft window…an easy glance to the left from the bench…looks out upon the lake and the mountains on the other shore).
Then back to Salzburg for an afternoon of free time. In the evening, many attended a performance of “Abduction from the Seraglio” at the Landestheater, though another few heard the Kuss String Quartet at the Mozarteum (Haydn, Mozart, Birtwistle and Mendelssohn). After a walk through the Belvedere Gardens on the way home, I finished this report and headed to bed, as the morning comes along quickly.
Still a bus full of happy campers….what a great bunch they are.