Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Robert Parkins, organ / Happy Birthday, JS Bach

Sunday, March 21, 2010 marked the 325th anniversary of the birth of JS Bach. What better way to celebrate than to go to an organ recital featuring his works?

Robert Parkins, the University Organist and Professor of the Practice of Music at Duke University, presented an organ recital featuring Bach's organ music that is appropriate to the Lenten season. He used a pair of toccatas (and fugues) as bookends to two chorale fantasies, one of which was recently (2008) discovered, and chorales from the Clavierübung III and the Eighteen Chorales comprising the core of the program.

Before I list the program, the recently discovered piece is Fantasia super Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält, BWV 1128. According to the scholars, the style and source firmly confirms this as Bach's, dating to his early years, possibly composed in his late teens, early twenties.

Bob performed this program on the Flentrop organ and dedicated it to the memory of his mother, Bette Parkins.

Toccata and Fugue in d minor (BWV 565)

Chorale Fantasy on Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält (BWV 1128)

Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit (BWV 672)
Christe, aller Welt Trost (BWV 673)
Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist (BWV 674)

Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist (BWV 671)

Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr (BWV 663)

Wir glauben all an einen Gott (BWV 680)

O Lamm Gottes unschuldig (BWV 656)

Chorale Fantasy on Von Gott will ich nicht lassen (BWV 658)

Toccata and Fugue in d minor ("Dorian"; BWV 538)

I must say I was charmed by the new piece and wouldn't mind having a copy of that piece. It would be difficult to choose a favourite amongst this group of pieces Bob had presented. Even the (IMHO, overplayed) opening Toccata and Fugue received a refreshing treatment. The Flentrop is a four-manual instrument, and you can tell Bob used every manual in this piece, especially in the double-echo passages. And what can I say about the Dorian—it was a most satisfying way to end this wonderful program of music.

As a post-script, Bob said in his program notes that he concluded his first recital in Duke Chapel on the then-new Flentrop on February 27, 1977.

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