Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Isabelle Demers Plays a Stunning Program at Trinity Church

Equal parts lightning and enlightening, organist Isabelle Demers showed off both her supersonic chops and insightful wit at her concert today at Trinity Church. She opened with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 54. It was the last one he wrote during his time at Liepzig, and as Demers mentioned, there’s definitely a sense of the sun coming out. And, “It gives your feet a rest,” Demers laughed: there’s very little for the pedals, very atypical for Bach.

James Blachly’s Meditation on Captain Kidd was next. Moving from otherworldly atmospherics to dramatic and wamly melodic, and then back again, it gave Demers the chance to showcase some of the organ’s upper-register stops that aren’t typically heard by themselves in most standard repertoire. She noted wryly that the real Captain Kidd was once a prominent member of Trinity Church: like a lot of other bad guys, he gave a lot of money to the church but not for altruistic reasons. Henry Martin’s showy Prelude and Fugue in E Major, which followed, was all endless volleys of B-A-C-H references, bluegrass riffs and rapidfire rivulets: it was breathtaking to watch Demers play, but not so much to hear.

The high point of the concert was Demers’ own transcription of selections from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. The opening Street Awakens scene, where the characters are introduced, and the gently disheartened Romeo at the Fountain (before Romeo met Juliet) were understatedly graceful, Demers playing as if for dancers. The balmy Madrigal, Romeo chatting up Juliet on her balcony gave no indication of the eerie intensity that was to come with the twisted music-box ripples of the Morning Serenade, more of a dirge or contentious wake than any kind of serenade, and arguably the high point of the entire suite. Demers closed with the lickety-split, atonally-spiced fight scene where Romeo decides to avenge Mercutio’s death – “If it sounds like wrong notes, it’s not me,” Demers told the crowd – and then the macabre martial theme Duke’s Command, a staple of a million horror movies. She closed the program with fellow Canadian Rachel Laurin’s Toccata from her Symphony No. 1, whose lickety-split staccato created a tremolo effect it was so fast, but Demers made it seem almost nonchalant. Without losing momentum, it shifted from ferocious apprehension to a simple, memorable Romantic theme: it made a good conclusion to a fascinating concert. There was an encore, too! Unfortunately, this being the middle of the day, we had to stay on schedule and missed it.

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May 5, 2011 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, organ music, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment