January 30, 2009

Organ-ic Entertainment

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Just 21 people showed up to see Thiemo Janssen play the organ at Sage Chapel on Wednesday night, a small number for such a grand space. The chapel is a cavernous and elegant space, a beautiful setting for beautiful music. And Janssen’s music fit the setting so perfectly that the audience at times seemed to lose focus; the sound of air escaped from the pipes behind the pews, and jackets and legs rustled.
The audience was an eclectic mixture: some old folks, som locals, a few balding men and some other unique characters. A cultured-sounding man introduced the pieces that would be played. As people began clapping, many in attendance seemed mesmerized just by the way the organist approached his bench and clumsily flipped through his sheets.
Janssen began with an ephemeral, epic, stimulating piece by Christian Erbach. Ultimately, all the pieces were thought-provoking and eerie: the music seemed like the feeling of being pulled from a cold lake. Janssen seemed to love keeping the notes going as long as he could. This lended a uniqueness and beauty to the organ as an instrument, leaving a lasting quality in the ears and mind.
After the intermission, everyone turned their heads around. Looking to the back of the chapel, there was a bigger built-in organ; Janssen chose to move from the Vicedomini to the Aeolian-Skinner. Pieces by Medelssohn and Louis Vierne followed. These two organs sounded extremely different, with the Aeolian-Skinner seeming the more dynamic. The sound would be quiet for a while and then, just when the audience got comfortable, it would erupt with a tirade of loud notes. As a finale, Janssen concluded the last piece, Liszt’s “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” by letting loose and holding the final note at its loudest and longest. And with that, a fascinating, if unusual, Wednesday night concert came to a close.