Bach, the Organist, A Trumpet and Organ Concert, Berkshire Bach Society, Allen Dean trumpet and Walter Hilse, Organ

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
J. S. Bach

Trumpet and Organ Concert
Berkshire Bach Society

Bach, the Organist
Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 4pm
St. Stephen’s Church in Pittsfield
Walter Hilse, organ; Allan Dean, trumpet; String ensemble


Giuseppe Torelli (1658-1709)
Sinfonia in D major for Trumpet and Strings [G. 8]
Allegro – Adagio – Allegro – Presto

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Toccata and Fugue in F major [BWV 540]

Vivaldi/Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Concerto in D minor [BWV 596]
[Arrangement of Vivaldi: Concerto Grosso, Op. 3 No. 11]
Allegro – Grave – Fuga – Largo (Siciliano) – Finale

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Chorale Preludes
Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr [BWV 662]
Trio on Herr Jesu Christ [BWV 655]

Vivaldi/Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
Concerto in C major [BWV 594]
[Arrangement of Vivaldi: Violin Concerto, Op. 7 No. 11 “Der Grosse Mogul”]
Allegro – Recitative (Adagio) – Allegro (Cadenza by Vivaldi, arranged by Bach)

Walter Hilse (Organ)
Allan Dean (Trumpet)
Patrick Wood (Violin)
Irena Momchilova (Viola)
Anne Legêne (Cello)

Kenneth Cooper (Conductor)

The Berkshire Bach Society pursued its lively and varied work of furthering the legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach in our region with a program focused on Bach the organist. This year’s programs have concentrated on different aspects, some rather unusual, of Bach’s multifarious activities and output. The first explored gypsy dances and improvisations and their influence on the music of Bach, Telemann, and others — of course of a secular nature. The second was a choral concert devoted to Bach’s music for the Thomanerschule in Leipzig. Of course the Brandenburgs didn’t fail to appear at New Year’s. Last week’s program, although it involved a well-known aspect of Bach’s work, his genius as a virtuoso and composer for the organ, brought out some elements we often tend to ignore: the zest, even mischief in his arrangements of Vivaldi concerti, and his sense of humor. One got more of an impression of Bach’s personality than one can find often in his best-known masterpieces.

To accomplish the BBS brought in some superior talent from New York and environs: the renowned trumpet player, Allan Dean, of Yale, and Walter Hilse, a fixture among the organists of Manhattan. Trained at Juilliard and Columbia, Hilse studied the organ and composition in Paris with Maurice Duruflé and Nadia Boulanger, respectively. He currently teaches at Manhattan School of Music and has positions at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Congregation Rodeph Sholom, and Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He is well-known as a composer, and he has harbored an ongoing love for jazz, which appears in his compositions and improvisations, not to mention in one of Bach’s cadenzas, as he played it last Sunday in Pittsfield.

New York City has a wealth of organs in its churches and concert halls, and Mr. Hilse is used to playing the best of them. St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, for example, has an outstanding 1977 Klais organ, built with a tracker action expressly for the music traditional in Lutheran worship, in which Bach plays a towering role. The organ in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Pittsfield, is unfortunately nothing like that, and we could really only hear a pale shadow of what an organist like Walter Hilse can accomplish on a stronger instrument. His clean, often staccato treatment of passage-work came through, but the dryish acoustics of St. Stephen’s and the limitations of the organ could not encompass Bach’s grand moments, which were not plentiful in this program, except in the great Toccata and Fugue in F Major, BWV 540 and the Chorale Prelude BWV 662. My impression was that Hilse’s tidy technique can border on fussiness, while he restrains an inclination towards the flamboyance typical of Manhattan church organists. The playful Torelli concerto Sinfonia in D major for Trumpet and Strings set a light secular mood for the concerto and grounded it in the Italian tradition. Allan Dean played with a rich tone and flowing legato which blended well with the strings, supported by the organ. Patrick Wood, Irena Momchilova, and Anne Legêne, played a lively accompaniment under Kenneth Cooper’s direction.

This was followed by the most substantial work on the program, the Toccata And Fugue in F Major. The playful, even humorous toccata is an early work written at some time in the second decade of the eighteenth century, when Bach was employed at Weimar. The fugue, on the other hand, a sombre ricercare, was composed in the late twenties or around 1730 at Leipzig. Hilse clearly revelled in the fanciful contrasts and passage-work of the toccata, and his change of mood was so marked in the fugue, that it brought out the disparity between the works to such an extent that they seemed to come from different worlds. What better example of the range of Bach’s style over time, as well as of his practice of reaching back to earlier compositions and working them into new contexts!

The Vivaldi D Minor brought us back into a lighter, secular vein, in which Hilse attempted to introduce as much color as possible, along with snappy rhythms and his usual clear articulation.

After the break, Mr. Hilse took the two chorale preludes from the “Great Eighteen” as teaching moments, giving a short, engaging disquisition on how the works were conceived and written. Both, Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr [BWV 662], and the Trio on Herr Jesu Christ [BWV 655], are examples of Bach at his most ingenious and most eloquent, and they are very different kinds of compositions, once again developing the concept behind this recital as an exploration of the diversity of Bach as a composer for organ. He played the hymn tunes before each prelude to help us understand how Bach transformed them. He compared BWV 662 to an extraordinarily beautiful woman, dressed in a surpassingly beautiful dress, and adorned with the most exquisite, tastefully chosen jewellery. In other words it was all about ornament. If so, the work is a stately, grave lady, whom one would approach with a sense of awe. I found myself more absorbed in the voice-leading and shape of the work than in the beauty of the ornament, as it fell on my ears. BWV 655 is a lively movement, built for the most part around a three-note “motto” in the tune, which appears in its entirety in the pedal only near the conclusion of the work.

The concert concluded with Bach’s arrangement of a Vivaldi violin concerto known as “Il grosso mogul.” Bach threw himself wholeheartedly into Vivaldi’s exuberant cadenzas, with spectacular results, including an extraordinarily elaborate cadenza in the last movement. It went on and on, like a digression on a pet obscurity a professor might spin out to tease his students. On afterwards, when I learned of Walter Hilse’s interest in jazz, did I think of this cadenza in the light of an extended, inspired riff in a jazz performance. There was nothing especially jazz-like in his playing of this passage to suggest jazz, nor should there have been. In order to put to good use the instrumentalists, who had come for the first work on the program, Kenneth Cooper devised an accompaniment for the organ, turning Bach’s arrangement into an organ concerto.

The program notes, by our own Seth Lachterman, were learned and elegant. They can be accessed from the Berkshire Bach Society Site, in case you missed them. Meanwhile, I’ve made inquiries among knowledgeable folk about organs and venues in the Berkshires, which might be appropriate for a Bach organ recital and have not come up with a solution yet!

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By :