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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Go back to day 9

Go on to day 11

 

The 1899 Mauracher; 1928 Kaufmann organ in the Lazarite Church in Vienna.

The 1899 Mauracher; 1928 Kaufmann organ in the Lazarite Church in Vienna.

The recently cleaned and restored towers of the Votive church in Vienna.

The recently cleaned and restored towers of the Votive church in Vienna.

Our tour group listens to the a demonstration of the 1878 Walcker organ in the Votive Church.

Our tour group listens to the a demonstration of the 1878 Walcker organ in the Votive Church.

The 1858 Buckow organ tucked intp the gallery of the Piarist Church in Vienna.

The 1858 Buckow organ tucked intp the gallery of the Piarist Church in Vienna.

Pipedreams Tour 2009

Day 10 - May 15
Vienna

  • Today’s Venues, Instruments & Players
    Lazaristenkirche (Mauracher 1899 + Kaufmann 1928, IV-P/51)
       –Wolfgang Kogert, organist
    Votivkirche (Walcker 1878, III-P/61)
       –Johannes Lenius, organist
    Piaristenkirche (Buckow 1858, III-P/36)
       –Markus Semmeliker, organist

 

Friday - We’re begun to realize that the end is near, though there’s still much to explore. Today, three 19th century organs in succession, separated by 20-year periods, provide an absorbing lesson on stylistic evolution. The 1899 Mauracher at the Lazaristenkirche is the most ‘orchestral’ of the trio, with, grand and richly-hued in content, strong-voiced but not overwhelming...the velvet glove. Wolfgang Kogert’s performance of a movement from Sigfrid Karg-Elert’s “Pastels from the Lake of Constance” definitely captures “The Spirit of the Lake”...with a placid, glistening beginning, building up to a huge storm with thunder and downpour, then a return to a sun-dappled scene with twittering birds and quiet close, exactly the right ‘period sounds’ for this expressive repertoire. Use of the ‘rollschweller’ here (the typical Germanic crescendo devise which adds or subtracts stops as you roll a cylinder-shaped component with your foot) is fun, and very effective in allowing quick changes of dynamic in subtle stages. Though this organ has some modern mechanical improvements, including an ‘echo’ division (Fernwerk) that plays through a hole in the ceiling, its sound remains authentic to its time, as are the original stained glass windows and furnishings of this elegant out-of-the-way church (definitely not a tourist venue, but for musicians a ‘must’).

 

Next, the massive, dark, intense tone of the 1878 Walcker at the Votivkirche (from Germany, the same builder made the famous organ at the Methuen Music Hall in Massachusetts in 1864), an excellent vehicle for music by Brahms. Here there’s an iron fist in the velvet glove, though the Walker also contains many lovely quiet sounds. The fagott, clarinet and oboe stops are ‘free reeds’, producing tone in the same manner as a harmonica or accordion, with similar smooth character, an unusual effect typical of this period in Germanic organ building. The unassisted mechanical action is heavy only when coupled, and this organ feels really good under the hands while the player sits at the detached, reversed console looking out in to the vast reaches of this massive neo-gothic room. The organ is a unique representative of its type in Austria, basically unaltered (but restored), a world organ landmark. The church was constructed as a thank-offering by the community in response to the lucky survival by Emperor Franz Josef of an assassination attempt in 1853. Twin prickly-gothic towers, pointing heavenward, are particularly noteworthy. As a high-school kid I purchased an LP disc of the Brahms chorale-preludes played here; the impact was magical then, and remains so. Johannes Lenius demonstrated, and his CD was available for sale downstairs...via a vending machine (that also included post cards).

 

After lunch, the Piaristenkirche and its 1858 Buckow organ, which retains the brilliance of the classical organ while also including the expressive registers expected of a romantic-period installation. Anton Bruckner played here in 1862 (his Conservatory exams, after which one of his teachers said, in effect, ‘We should be studying with Herr Bruckner’), as did Brahms. Haydn’s “Paukenmesse” was commissioned and premiered here (1796), too. Another wonderfully overwrought interior, a feast for eye and ear. The organ console, positioned under a central arch in the casework, though somewhat disconnected from the ambience of the room nonetheless allows a rather balanced appreciation of the organ’s voices, heard rather well from this odd position. Coupling the three manuals together for extended periods would risk carpel-tunnel injury, but though the instrument could use some freshening, it continues in remarkably fine condition after all these years. Markus Semmeliker demonstrated.

 

From this point (@2:30PM) we were on our own to watch the break-dancers and mimes in the Stefansplatz, explore other aspects of the city, or figure out whether tickets were available for an evening concert. Some heard the Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Musikverein (Mahler’s “Das klagende Lied” was a tour-de-force), others chose Brahms and the Vienna Symphony at the Konzerthaus, where soloist Gabriela Montero offered two improvised encores, to the delight of the crowd. I thought the orchestra played well, but the interpretation was more ooze and less structured muscle than I prefer in this music. Good seats in one of the side loge boxes, and pricey (!).

 

Go back to day 9

Go on to day 11