Ciurlionis Organ Competition, Round 2, Group 2

in secretsoforganplaying •  last month 

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After a coffee break I'm back at the church of St Casimir where Round 2 of Ciurlionis organ competition continues. Now in the evening there are more listeners in the church which might affect the acoustics somewhat.

The first to play is No. 5 Sunghyun Park from South Korea. He starts with Poèmes pour orgue: "Eaux natales" - Le Masque by Thierry Escaich. It's a rather dramatic work starting with an intense chordal and rhythmical drive and ending mysteriously on a single flute. The organist plays it so convincingly that although it's the first time for me that I hear this piece, I like it instantly. The Neo-Baroque organ of this church for a brief moment transferred me to some dark French Gothic cathedral.

My score on the 10 scale basis:

Technique: 10
Registration: 10
Artistry: 10

The next piece on the program is the Fugue in C# minor, VL 86 by M.K. Ciurlionis. Everybody is playing it in the 2nd Round. The Romantic spirit was clearly evident in his performance without unnecessary virtuosity. I thought I heard a small mistake which didn't disturb the flow of music.

My score:

Technique: 9
Registration: 10
Artistry: 10

The organist's program concludes with Toccata and Fugue in E major, BWV 566 by Johann Sebastian Bach. In this piece we finally hear some variety of registration. The fugue starts with 8' and 4' principals in the manual and 16', 8' and 4' in the pedals. Now the mistakes are too apparent to be ignored. Perhaps the tempo is a bit too fast for tonight. Sadly, mistakes continue to appear throughout the piece. But this organist has good nerves to continue to fight until the end. I expect such mistakes to appear more often in other organists' playing now because the stakes are much higher now in the 2nd Round.

My score:

Technique: 4
Registration: 8
Artistry: 8

The next contestant to play is No. 11. Josef Kratochvíl from Czech Republic. He starts with J.S. Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548. I hear a small mistake in the manual part which didn't bother me too much in the prelude. Good listening to the echo before the fugue starts. The sixteenth note runs have a few mistakes. The subject needs shorter upbeats. No Posaune in the fugue. Rush of the tempo towards the end a couple of times. The final trill could have been much longer and complete.

My score:

Technique: 6
Registration: 9
Artistry: 7

The next piece is the fugue by Ciurlionis. A nice calm playing in the beginning. Still the pedals could be stronger where E major episode starts. More 16' sound perhaps. More attention to harmonic changes is needed. A slight slip in the manuals towards the end. The organist continues to fight to the end.

My score:

Technique: 9
Registration: 9
Artistry: 7

The last piece of his program tonight is "Light and Darkness" by Sofia Gubaidulina. I have to confess, I have never heard this composition before. It would sound well for my organ experiments with the students of the Art Academy for the project "Living Organ" later this year. It has lots of unusual sounds, trills in upper range, runs throughout the compass, thick clusters. Ocean of sound. I wonder if he will turn off the organ motor like they do sometimes in avantgarde music? I admit, I'm not a fan of this style. Lots of effects but not much content. But it's not the organist's fault, of course. And I'm sure other listeners might appreciate it much more than me. I'm just thinking out loud and pondering everything from the perspective of improvisation. If this was an improvisation, how would I feel about it? How much skill an organist should have to improvise something like this? By the way, registration effects that the organist chose here are great. Maybe a little too much mechanical noise from the performer's part. Hitting the pedals too strongly.

My score:

Technique: 9
Registration: 10
Artistry: 10

The last contestant tonight is No. 13 Anastasiia Igoshina from Russian Federation. She starts with Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, BWV 564. I didn't enjoy the slow beginning. I don't think changing registration on the pedal echos work on this organ. Maybe on a historical organ with very expressive reeds and tuning. By the way, these passagios almost stopped forward motion. Luckily, the forward motion continues later on. At the beginning of Adagio, I hear a slight rhythmic unevenness. The solo voice seems to be playing with 8', 4' and 2 2/3' flutes. I expected much more improvisational elements in the solo line, not just ornamentation. The Grave section sounded really nice. The fugue starts bravely but in one pedal passage the organist makes mistake which disturbs the flow of music. Almost a small disaster before E minor section. Can the organist retain control until the end? I guess, not at this tempo. Attention to details is fading away with every difficult passage. Probably the organist forgot to breathe. The ending was too obvious. Too much ritenuto and too long held last chord.

My score:

Technique: 4
Registration: 8
Artistry: 5

The fugue by Ciurlionis sounds next. Slight slip of harmony but good pedal balance in E major section. A couple of obvious mistakes before B minor section. The mordent sounded out of place here. No regard for harmonic changes.

My score:

Technique: 7
Registration: 10
Artistry: 7

The last piece tonight is "Transports de joie" from "L'Ascension" by Olivier Messiaen. The organ sounds quite out of tune. The opening 3 chord motive appears to be very cautious. While listening to this piece, I couldn't suspend my disbelieve that I wasn't listening to a French organ. Sadly, the organist didn't use the trick to play with high pitched mixtures one octave lower. I think the range of the manual part allows this (at least in most cases). A couple of mistakes occur in the manual runs. In the last chord the organ screams and not roars.

My score:

Technique: 7
Registration: 6
Artistry: 7

That's it folks! I'm going to go home to get some sleep and return to this church tomorrow! See ya!

Organ specification:
http://www.vargonai.lt/vargonai_vilnius_kazimiero.htm

Live streaming should be available from competition's website:

http://ciurlionis.link/en/b/organ

[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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Check out my Secrets of Organ Playing books:
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Light and Darkness sounded for me like one of your organ experiments...

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