Lucid Culture


David Goodenough Plays Vierne’s First Symphony in New York, 4/13/08

Scottish organist David Goodenough had the good taste and imagination to play the great French composer Louis Vierne’s First Symphony in its entirety at St. Thomas Church Sunday evening. While its fiery introduction and rousing finale are standard performance pieces in the organ repertoire, it’s not every day that this fascinating work can be heard all the way through. In hindsight, this isn’t the same Vierne whose wife would leave him for his best friend, who lost family and students in World War I, wrote the scathing, wrathful Third and then equally scathing, wrathful Fifth Symphony (although there is some foreshadowing). The First Symphony contains none of the eerie, macabre, atmospheric sheets of noise that would be one of his signature devices for the rest of his career. Rather, it’s a boisterous, generally optimistic work, a prime example of late-period French Romanticism, something Cesar Franck – who taught Vierne a thing or two about it – would be proud of.

Goodenough began the famous intro a little fast (resist the pun, resist the pun), but the piece eventually worked itself out. Vierne has the pedal playing the central melody, ascending toward a resolution that never happens. Finally, after several permutations, it bursts into flame, one of only two places where any real anger comes out. It’s followed by a pretty if generically baroque fugue, an even gentler, quiet, equally pretty, pastorale and then the symphony’s piece de resistance, the allegro vivace which is a devious, defiant little dance on the flute and woodwind stops that ends with a cynical flourish. Goodenough absolutely nailed it, bringing out every bit of disobedient bounce. The andante that follows builds up to the warm, Mendelssohn-esque melodicism of the famous finale, the pedals once again making the church rattle all the way up to the big, predictable, chordal conclusion.

Despite all of Lucid Culture’s incessant attempts to popularize the organ repertoire, it looks like it’ll take a much more substantial PR campaign before the general public will be caught dead listening to this. That being said, adventurous listeners would be richly rewarded getting to know both the organist and the composer on the program tonight.

April 14, 2008 - Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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