John Scott, organist

Have you been to a concert somewhere in the world recently? Share your thoughts with us about the performance, the more details the better!

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John Scott, organist

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Jun 17, 2015 11:00 am

Perhaps only in the world of concert organ playing can one attend a recital in the provincial small city of Glens Falls, NY and have it be of world-class quality and name recognition. They go where the important organs and endowed recital series are, and First Presbyterian Church in Glens Falls is very fortunate to be on the map that way.

The church itself is exceptional, having been designed by the great neo-Gothic architect Ralph Adams Cram, who was famous for wasting cathedral-like buildings on low Protestant denominations, the Presbyterians being typical. Another example on an even grander scale is the chapel at Princeton. For information about the organs (there are two), I refer you to the link below.

The organist was John Scott, formerly organist at St. Paul's Cathedral in London and current organist at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, probably the most important church organist post in New York City. His resumé is along the lines of "everything possible for an organist to have accomplished." The church and its organs are no stranger to this quality of talent. Many famous names are on the list of those who have played there. Even non-specialists would recognize at the minimum E. Power Biggs

The program was everything I could have wished for. It began with an arrangement of the overture to St. Paul by Mendelssohn, followed by Bach's "greatest recital piece," the Passacaglia in C minor. Next was the Handel Organ Concert in F Opus 4 No. 5 arranged so that the grander of the two organs served as the "orchestra" while the other one, played from the same console, took on the organ part proper.

The chorales of César Franck have always bored me and this performance of the B Minor Chorale was no exception, but this is why organists sit near the front where it is possible to watch the performer in action. (In a great resonant space like this there is no acoustic advantage to sitting further back.) It was splendidly performed and a perfect bit of programming for everyone's taste except picky old me.

The second part of the program began with the Toccata in and Fugue in D by the composer who for my money really was the most important organ composer of the second half of the 19th century, Max Reger. There followed three organ specialty pieces--it would be belittling to call them novelty pieces--that turn up on programs here and there but are of no great interest. They were the Adagio in E Major by Frank Brdige (Benjamin Britten's teacher), Scherzo by Marco Enrico Bossi (1861-1925), and Pastorale by the 20th century British-American composer Peter Racine Fricker (sounds rather like the name of a James Bond villain). The program concluded with a famous virtuoso concert work by my favorite 20th century French composer, Marcel Dupré, Variations on a Noël. About 500 people showed up to fill about 1000 seats (the concert was co-sponsored by the Eastern NY chapter of the American Guild of Organists). That is huge attendance for such a thing around here, but they enjoyed an evening of the most splendid music making of its kind.

For specifications on the organs:

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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