It's early Sunday morning for me. Yesterday evening the results of Round 1 of Ciurlionis organ competition were announced but I still need to review the remaining 5 contestants from the first day of Group 3. I'm listening from the live-stream video from about 1 hour 50 minutes into the recording:
The first is No.11 Josef Kratochvíl from the Czech Republic. He starts with the Praeludium in E Minor (large) by Nicolaus Bruhns. An exciting introduction leads to a calm 1st fugue performed with 8' principal. At the end I notice a couple of small mistakes. In the fanfare episode he doesn't use reeds but adds them later. The arpeggio section is registered with 4' flute in the manual and 8' flute in the pedals. Only some basic flourishes in the episode leading to the 2nd fugue which is played with a small principal chorus sound. The ending is traditionally very exciting.
The next piece is Chorale Prelude "Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr", BWV 676 by Johann Sebastian Bach. The registration seems to be 8' and 4' flutes on different manuals and 16' and 8' in the pedals. The pedals seem to be a bit too loud but could be a recording issue because of where the camera is positioned. I'm not sure. The playing is well-controlled with one audible mistake until the end.
The last piece is "Toccata" by Faustas Latėnas. The organist starts off with reeds which are later juxtaposed with mixtures. The episode in the middle is registered softer but the power and excitement returns later. The ending with 8' principal in the bass seems to be too loud in comparison with the flute 8' in the upper range.
Now is the turn for No. 12 Péter Mekis from Hungary. He starts with the Bruhns' Praeludium. After energetic beginning the first fugue seems to be registered with 8' and 4' flutes and 8' principal. Good balance between the parts. Calm playing. The fanfare episode has some mistakes. The arpeggio episode seems to be registered with 8' and 4' flutes in the manual and 8' flute in the pedals. No improvisation whatsoever in the episode before the 2nd fugue. The sound is intensified with reeds both in manuals and pedals. The piece ends without any good or bad surprises.
The next piece is "Ad libitum" by Faustas Latėnas. The beginning has powerful 7th chords and other advanced chords. It's a rather short piece in comparison with other compositions by Lithuanian composer's on the competition's repertoire list. The performance left a good impression on me.
The organist ends his program with Trio super ''Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'', BWV 664 by J.S. Bach. It seems to be registered with 8' and 4' flutes in the manuals and 16' and 8' flutes in the pedals. I notice some mistakes which shake up the flow of music. I think I spot mordents playing incorrectly and some undesired legato in articulation.
The next contestant is No. 13. Anastasiia Igoshina from Russian Federation. She plays Praeludium in E Minor at the beginning. After quite rhythmical entrance the first fugue seems to be registered with 8' and 4' flutes in the manuals and 8' flute in the pedals. The arpeggio episode is played with 4' flute in the manuals and 8' flute in the pedals. Strange contrasts in the next episode with some trills. The 2nd fugue has some rush before the ritardando. The piece ends without too powerful Plenum sound.
The next piece on the program is Bach's Trio super ''Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'', BWV 664. It seems to be registered with 8' and 4' flutes in the manuals and 16' flute and 8' principal in the pedals which might be a little too much for the balance between the parts. Some incidental mistakes occur which don't disturb the flow of music. The organist loses a pedal part towards the end but keeps going.
And the last piece on her program is "Ad libitum" by Faustas Latėnas. Imaginative not too powerful registration with Vox Humana stop in the quieter places.
Now is the turn for No. 14 Ae Shell Nam from South Korea. He starts with Praeludium in E Minor by N. Bruhns. The 1st fugue seems to be registered with 8' and 4' flutes in the manual and 8' principal in the pedals. The fanfare episode has some curiously placed echos. The arpeggio episode is registered with 8' flute in the manual and 16' flute in the pedal. I expected more improvisation from him in the following episode. The 2nd fugue is played with powerful reeds. I hear the cipher on the high F# in the manual towards the end. The organist finishes strong nonetheless.
Now he plays Trio super ''Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'', BWV 664 by J.S. Bach. The registration seems to be 8' and 4' flutes in the manuals and 16' flute and 8' principal in the pedals. The playing sounds too mechanical without too much consideration for the pulse, harmonic changes and polyphony.
The last piece on his program is "Ad libitum" by Faustas Latėnas. Here I hear interesting dynamic contrasts as well as seamless crescendos and diminuendos. I don't remember anyone demonstrating so many colors of this organ in such a brief period of time. A hard work for 2 assistants for sure but well worth the effort. I'm beginning to like this piece more and more.
The last contestant for today is No. 15 Yeri Ahn from South Korea. She plays exactly the same program as the previous 3 organists and starts with the Praeludium by Bruhns. The 1st fugue seems to be registered with 8' and 4' flutes in the manuals but end with a passage with a trumpet which seems to belong to the fanfare episode in her mind. The arpeggio episode is played with 4' flute. Too much virtuosity and not enough improvisation for my taste in the episode before the 2nd fugue. It has some nice flourishes in manual parts. Where was she earlier with this imaginative playing? I want more of it in such music. Nice echo registration at the end of the fugue. The ending seems to lack rhythmical unity with the rest of the Praeludium.
Now the organist plays Bach's Trio super ''Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'', BWV 664. The piece is registered with 8' and 4' flutes in the manuals and 8' principal in the pedals. Too much sound in the bass at least in the recording. I can hear some mistakes although they don't disturb the musical flow.
And the last piece for today is again "Ad libitum" by Faustas Latėnas. She starts with a full organ sound but quickly explores softer registration as well. The full organ sound returns in the recapitulation. A solid performance but not enough to make me jump in excitement.
Specification of the organ:
There you have it! I think I've listened to every contestant in the competition's Round 1 except to those organists whose recording wasn't available. I didn't get to hear to contestant No. 5 Wenying Wu from China, contestant No. 6 Magdalena Moser from Austria and the 1st piece of No. 7 Sunghyun Park from South Korea.
After 1200+ words of writing and 2 hours of listening I'm ready to have some breakfast. I hope to see some of you during the 2nd Round tomorrow at St Casimir's church which starts at 3 PM Vilnius time (1 PM UTC). Live streaming should be available from competition's website:
Good luck to the contestants who advanced to the 2nd Round! Much larger organ and a fabulous acoustical environment awaits you...
[Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion which may or may not coincide with the reader's opinion. If you don't like it, write your own.]
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