Monday, November 16, 2009

Felix Hell Organ Recital

I bought myself an early birthday present weeks ago, well in advance of my birthday - two tickets to an organ recital by Felix Hell, a 24-year old German organ virtuoso. The recital was held last night at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles.

Hell would be playing the fully restored Skinner Organ with all of its 6,600 pipes in full splendor.

The program consisted of Johann Sebastian Bach's Fugue in D Major, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, Healey Willan's, Passacaglia, Fugue and, after the intermission, Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony #5 in C minor, Op. 67. I was familiar with Barber's Adagio and everyone is familiar with Beethoven's 5th (Dah Dah Dah Duhhhhh....).

About half-way through Beethoven's 5th I thought, "I should make a concerted effort to hear Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor someday. I don't get to organ recitals too often, and they probably seldom play that. Too common."

I consider Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor to be just about the greatest piece of music ever written. I still love Bohemian Rhapsody and Sea of Love, but T and F in D is beyond description. Especially when it's loud.

At the end of Hell's concert he was brought back to the stage by the rousing applause and cheers of the very appreciative audience. He was coerced into playing an encore. I leaned over to my friend, Christine, and said, "The only thing that could top this off is if he played Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor."

I then noticed that he had no sheet music on the organ, as he had for the previous selections. Immediately I thought, "He's going to play something he's familiar with, something that he doesn't need sheet music to refer to..."

Just as I finished that thought, the unmistakable opening three notes of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor pierced the silence. Tears welling up in my eyes, Hell pulled out all the stops and Bach blasted himself into Royce Hall with all the power and super nova brilliance only Bach could create.

What a birthday present!

Here's an interesting link to a YouTube video with animated graphics that cleverly illustrate the complexity of this Bach masterpiece. Check out some of the other YouTube versions while you're there.