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I'd love to see the stats on the last time a Prom was this packed for an afternoon organ recital. Were it not for the fact that organist Cameron Carpenter was sporting spandex trousers encrusted in silver glitter, a wife beater and Mohawk, you could have been mistaken for thinking we were back in the organ glory days of the early 19th century. Even the programme harked backward, offering as it did big, bloated Romantic transcriptions, arrangements and improvisations (pretty much everything in fact except the urtext).Scratch that. We did get two pieces of unadulterated Bach, the Toccata and Fugue in F major, BWV 540, and the Prelude and Fugue in A major, BWV 536. Not even these however could completely escape the Carpenter treatment, the garish stops chosen for both reflecting better the organist's outfit than the sober wishes of the composer. The tradition for arranging Bach works is long and eminent. Several works in yesterday's programme were transcriptions of transcriptions. I have no objection per se to any of this. Not even to the slash-and-burn type of arrangements that the young showman clearly seems to like most. But the result must be musical. And very little of what I heard was.When left to his own devices, Carpenter revealed a musical tastelessnessHis arrangements of the Partita No 3 in E major for solo violin, BWV 1006, Chorale Prelude "Nun freut euch, lieben Christen", BWV 734, and the Evolutionary Toccata in D minor, BWV 565, was full of mess and confusion. Bach's melodies and musical arguments were endlessly being swallowed up by Carpenter's incontinent fiddling. Again, no problem with that if there had been some sense to it. But there wasn't.The wonders of Carpenter's technique (his foot pedalling is beyond compare) could only sustain interest up to the end of the first piece. Beyond the opening Toccata and Fugue in F major, the excitements of his technical virtuosity became overshadowed by irritations over his fidgety musical excess. And when left completely to his own devices in his Improvisation on B–A–C–H, Carpenter revealed a musical tastelessness that suggested this virtuoso wasn't going to return the organ back to the glory days of the 1800s but to the naff indulgences of the middle part of the 1900s.The 19th-century theme carried through into the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra's Prom, with a programme that wasn't just all Mendelssohn but was all newly restored early editions of Mendelssohn. The only piece that wasn't making a Proms premiere in a new version was the ever popular Violin Concerto. Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider (pictured above with Riccardo Chailly) was the soloist. It would have been churlish not, at some level, to enjoy his accomplished performance. There was an elegance and aristocracy to his sound and a Nathan Milstein-esque cleanness and directness to his playing. But dissatisfaction did creep in. A warhorse like this needs to be invested with a new energy when being wheeled out for a millionth time. And despite a few tiny idiosyncrasies in phrasing here and there - which seemed almost accidental - there was no new vision for the work.
By: Heather M. Higgins CNNLOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Perched high above Glendale, Calif., in the dry heat of the Verdugo Mountains sits an octagonal room that houses a musical instrument with a storied past and an uncertain future."There's no question about it that the pipe organ will always be the most revered of the organs, but it doesn't reach the masses now like the digital organ will," said Robert C. Tall, PhD., 74, an organist who has played many of the great organs around the world.If you've never stepped inside a church like the magnificent Milan Cathedral, or if you've never attended a concert at a hall like the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, chances are you haven't heard live organ music. All of that could change. The fledgling digital organ, which has been relegated to second class, has a new generation of champions.One of those champions is virtuoso and traveling sensation, Cameron Carpenter."The organ is in a kind of crisis. I think it needs radically outsider approaches to reestablish its connection with the world at large. And that's what I'm doing," said Carpenter at the TED 2012 conference in Long Beach, Calif. earlier this year.Carpenter is embracing new technology to design a digital touring organ invented specifically for the 21st century.This organ may scarcely resemble the pipe organ once declared the "King of Instruments" by Wolfgang Mozart, but it will guarantee to bring the organ out of the church and expose it to the masses -- something Carpenter hopes will connect audiences and demystify a complicated instrument.A pipe organ uses wind moving though metal pipes to produce sounds, while a digital organ relies on loud speakers and computer processing to play sounds or model the sounds of the former.There are two schools of thought -- those who believe the craftsmanship and artistic integrity of the pipe organ can't be falsely duplicated and those who say the digital organ, with its mobility and flexibility is the organ of the future."Cameron is really trying to reach mainstream public to potentially create a wider audience which is a good thing," said Alan Morrison, chairman of the organ department at The Curtis Institute of Music in Phila., Pa.Morrison admits that Carpenter is a controversial character in the industry but he attributes that to people who compare him to those who practice more historically informed approaches. "I believe there is room for everyone and we should not be forced into a mold."Carpenter is breaking that mold.When asked if he'd like to be the next Liberace, he said, "I'm simply the first Cameron Carpenter, that's pretty obvious, isn't it?"Some in academia say it is ultimately about the glorious instrument, not the performer. But an organ is an inanimate object that needs an artist to give it life. If the artist is provocative, people want to watch and listen.Carpenter's skintight black leather pants, bleached-blond mohawk and porcelain doll-like complexion give him the appearance of a rock star rather than a Juilliard-trained professional.However, glitz and flair aside, there is a sense that Carpenter is intimately involved with the music he plays, whether it's Leonard Cohen, Rufus Wainwright or Schubert.As his fingers glide across the organ's keys and his feet work their magic below, the soundproof eight-sided Glendale studio filled with transporting melodies and the vibrations from a powerful instrument.Robert Tall, who was one of nine organists invited to perform at the October 2000 Virgil Fox Memorial in the famed Riverside Church, stood in the corner and listened intently as Carpenter played.The music room, with its honey-colored wood beam ceiling and crimson velvet covered church pew, bleeds music.It is rife with memorabilia and a Yamaha concert grand piano, but the digital organ with its awe-inspiring silver pipe facade is the star. The walls are blanketed with awards from the California legislature honoring the property's current owner, Ruth Charles. Charles, 87, a prominent musician, and her late husband are known as Mr. and Mrs. Glendale. They bought the home from Tall and his partner David, in what he describes as a very meaningful and friendly transaction.Tall, who pursued an education and career in music initially to his father's dismay, credits the organ for shaping his life. His mentor, the late Richard Purvis once told him, "The organ is like a disease, once it's in your system, it will never come out."While social media has created attention about all things organ, and the number of organ videos on YouTube has skyrocketed, it is challenging to change the perception of a centuries old instrument that many people don't ever think about.The overall size of the organ market has shrunk and it's been on a long decline over the last 10 years, according to the 2012 census report from Music Trades magazine."Fewer people can play and fewer can purchase, but we hope Cameron will spark a rebirth," said Jennifer Brandlon, marketing manager for Rodgers InstrumentsCorporation, which is part of the Roland Corporation, the largest builder of digital music instruments in the world.In the same way sports transcend borders and bring people together, music has a similar power."Music feeds our souls and is proven to play a crucial role in the positive development of human behavior," said Morrison who teaches an elite group of organ students.Tall envisions a world where people trade guns for musical instruments."If we were to offer all of those young people in the world who are being taught to hate and kill and strap bombs to their bodies and create mayhem, if we were to give each one a violin, or a flute, or a guitar, their lives would be totally different," he said.At an average price of around $50,000 it's naïve to think that everyone who wants to play the digital organ will have the opportunity. However, prodigies like Carpenter can generate awareness which is key to securing its future.To demonstrate the digital organ's accessibility, Tall helped orchestrate a Venice Beach concert on the two-and-a-half mile stretch of white sand notorious for its circus-like ocean front and edgy characters."A lot of people came up and said, 'we've been walking this beach for years and this is the most incredible thing we've ever seen.' It's important to know that that really had an impact out there the other day," said Tall."I mean, who's going to take that very expensive piece of equipment, put it on a boardwalk and play it outdoors? It's unheard of." Read more: http://www.kypost.com/dpps/news/science_tech/an-ancient-instrument-goes-mobile_7607710#ixzz26xGnL6wt
Is this young man the 'savior' of the organ?Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/ae/music/is-this-young-man-the-savior-of-the-organ-359435/#ixzz26xH0S0M5
Organist Cameron Carpenter -- "He is doing things that people never thought the organ was capable of."Click image to enlargeShare with others:0inShareRelated Media: YouTube: A performance by Cameron Carpenter PG blog: Classical MusingsBy Andrew Druckenbrod / Pittsburgh Post-GazetteThe rock-star outfit, the mind-boggling virtuosity and the unusual repertoire of young organist Cameron Carpenter already have shocked many in the world's pipe organ community. But that's just the beginning of the revolutionary changes the firebrand has in store for it.At Mr. Carpenter's recital today at St. Bernard Church in Mt. Lebanon, you are likely to hear Bach. But you also might hear John Williams' "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or transcriptions of Chopin piano pieces. His spectacular version of Chopin's difficult "Revolutionary" Etude gives the work's lightning quick runs entirely to his feet, causing Mr. Carpenter to hold on to the bench for dear life while his extra-long heeled organist boots fly across the pedals.He takes virtuosic playing of the organ to a new level and the music industry has taken notice. Telarc released his debut album, also called "Revolutionary," last year."He is a marvelous player and person," says Michael Barone, host of the radio show "Pipedreams," produced by American Public Media. "He is doing things that people never thought the organ was capable of.""I definitely push things, but I argue that they are pushed artistically," Mr. Carpenter says. "I want to re-evaluate what can be played on the organ, everything from Bach to Liszt to Leonard Cohen. If my playing of Liszt's 'Mephisto Waltz' on the organ damages it in your mind, you must not think so much of Liszt to think he wrote something so fragile."But the 28-year-old -- a mix of brash confidence and well-argued activism -- is a man with more ambitions for himself and for the pipe organ than repertoire issues or speedy playing. He articulates those ambitions with over-the-top, combustible statements such as, "Everything we know about the organ is wrong," or "the biggest symbol of what is wrong for me about the pipe organ is the pipe organ."But he has a serious desire to make the ancient instrument more popular and technologically improved."He sees himself as the savior of the instrument," says Elizabeth Etter, Mr. Carpenter's first piano teacher when he lived near Meadville, Crawford County. "The fact that he brings to it the rock vibe is his personality, but he [also] wants the instrument to be accessible to more people. He wants to stretch the capabilities of the organ."Mr. Barone agrees."The big challenge of the pipe organ these days is that people don't think about it, and if they do, they do so in a limited way. Cameron is trying to break through that."Virtual pipe organsAnd the solution for Mr. Carpenter is to change the very nature of the pipe organ.It starts with changing the instrument itself. Until the 1900s, the organ was for centuries the most technologically advanced music instrument around. But organs have always been hindered by their own sprawling physical nature and by the acoustics of the churches or halls they are placed in -- "faults that organists have been succumbing to for centuries," Mr. Carpenter says. "I can outplay the organ; I can play faster than it can play."Developments in computer processing, sampling and speaker technologies now allow organs to escape their physical problems and even their surroundings, he says.Unlike most musicians who can travel with their instruments, visiting organists have to adapt to whatever pipe organ they are performing on. While some enjoy the idiosyncrasies of these instruments, Mr. Carpenter says they hinder his abilities to perform at a high level. He takes hours -- sometimes days -- preparing an instrument and adding extra digital effects for what he considers essential prep work for recitals."If I don't even know this instrument, how [am I] to bare my soul?"But Mr. Carpenter's more permanent solution lies with an emerging wing of the organ building community: virtual pipe organs. These are consoles and speaker sets that use sampled sound of real pipes but apply more sophisticated processing than the typical digital organ."It doesn't slavishly imitate the pipe organ," says Mr. Carpenter, who has designed two such organs for builders Marshall & Ogletree, based near Boston. "There is a trend of digital organs to imitate the faults of pipe organs, which for me is really asinine since the great pipe organ builders would go to their graves trying to fix these issues."Delights in limitationsWhile Mr. Barone agrees with Mr. Carpenter that a more sophisticated electronic instrument is key to the future, he disagrees somewhat about the "faults" of pipe organs."To me the delight of the organ is its limitations, its individuality," Mr. Barone says. "We do go to hear the organ, since they are all so different. Part of the challenge of being an organist is to being able to use those instruments to the maximum."Mr. Carpenter's position is unwavering on this, however: "Freeing the pipe organ from its physical fetters is what I am for." That includes plans for him to create a touring version of a virtual pipe organ, aka VPO, the only thing that might keep him from making good on a threat to stop playing publicly because of the "wrestling" he must do with organs."I was in London when he played in Royal Albert Hall and that experience was very frustrating to him," says Ms. Etter. "He only had a limited rehearsal time since he had to work to get the organ's registration in line."For now, the problems of being an itinerant soloist will remain because Mr. Carpenter also is not shy about admitting his atheism, an issue that is often in the "don't ask don't tell" category for many organist positions at churches."I would be a big hypocrite if I took a church job because I don't believe in God," he says.And so, Mr. Carpenter's outspokenness puts another major issue of the organ world out in the open for healthy debate: Should pipe organs be considered religious instruments today?"There are some churches that continue to require that the musician hired by them be one of the community," Mr. Barone says. "There are other churches less concerned with the beliefs of their organist and are looking for someone who can provide their needs."But secular music is played at recitals in churches everywhere, and Mr. Barone recounts that, "the organ was not invented as an instrument of the church. It had its first real flowering there, but later was thrown out by conservatives in some areas."In the end, since the best organs today are found in churches, Mr. Carpenter "needs to know what the limitations of each situation is for his recitals," Mr. Barone says. "One can push the envelope of the pipe organ and audience engagement without being offensive to the particular church."'Mozart on your hands'Mr. Carpenter was born in Titusville as Taylor Carpenter. His mother, Lynn Carpenter, is an artist and his father, Greg Carpenter, designs industrial furnaces. They home-schooled their son in rural Townville, near Meadville. Neither was a professional musician, and it wasn't until they took 4-year-old Cameron to Ms. Etter's studio that his musical talents were groomed."His mom said [they] put on Scott Joplin at night when they think he is asleep and he comes down in the morning and plays it," says Ms. Etter, who made room for him in her schedule right away. "I thought he was something else. He could technically play anything, so I would give him works like Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words" that needed deeper musicality."But even then the boy's personality was peeking through."In our recital he would take the place by storm, not only with accuracy but with pizzazz," she said. "He would wear vests with sequins, and bow to the floor; he was a personality."In fifth grade, Mr. Carpenter heard a performance of the Princeton, N.J.-based American Boychoir and begged his mother to join its boarding school. By that time he had already become intrigued by the pipe organ after seeing a photo of an instrument that looked a bit like his dad's furnaces. A few years later, he played on one in a church in Cleveland, and the organist there, Karel Paukert, told Ms. Etter: "You have a Mozart on your hands."Mr. Carpenter began organ lessons with William Witherup in Meadville and frequently traveled to Pittsburgh and Erie to play church organs. He enrolled in the North Carolina School of the Arts and then the Juilliard School in New York for undergraduate and master's study. Mr. Carpenter is now artist-in-residence at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City's East Village.Over that time, Mr. Carpenter developed his unique take on the organ's future, as well as his astounding abilities on its keyboards."I set out to change the paradigm of what is accepted by organists, but it is not something that can be accomplished by the current technology," he said. "It is not that I don't like the instrument. I play on [older] tracker organs, but they are not the key to unlocking the future."Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/ae/music/is-this-young-man-the-savior-of-the-organ-359435/#ixzz26xHFD51n