Organist Cherry Rhodes
Friday night in the University at Buffalo's Lippes Hall, North Campus, Amherst.
Cherry Rhodes is an interesting organist, one of those artists who can attract partisans by her skills as a musician and attract naysayers by her skills as a musician. Still, one has to admit that her choice of music to concertize with is pretty interesting too and all that combines to make her concert one that was well worth hearing and seeing.
When members of the Buffalo branch of the American Guild of Organists get together at a gathering, they often hear music by Bach, Handel and other, similar mainstays of the classical repertoire. It's a good history lesson in the hands of a good organist and, sure enough, members of the audience at Rhodes' Friday evening recital were treated to a technically difficult and musically impressive work by J.S. Bach -- the Prelude and Fugue in E minor (BWV 548).
Powerful phrase after powerful phrase rang out from the ranks of pipes at the back of the Lippes Concert Hall stage as Rhodes demonstrated how physical playing one of these works for solo organ can be. Bach calls for the musician to hit notes with hands and feet, an exercise that -- by virtue of the organ's foot-pedals -- can treat an audience's ears to beautiful, mind-stretching music. Other period pieces were played and the results were quite pleasant. There was an 18th-century work by Spaniard Jose Lidon, a score from 19th-century Frenchman Charles Dupont and a pair of 20th-century pieces by Clarence Mader and area composer Father Marius Joseph Walter.
The concert's closer was an absolutely stunning rendition of "Variations on Victimae Paschali Laudes" by Jiri Ropek, a mid-20th century Czech composer whose gift for creating sacred music filled with love, pomp, and glory seems to be clicking on all cylinders.
In conclusion, Rhodes' concert was all about the music and this is probably the way it should always be. It presented music from masters, major and minor, with considerable grace and, when necessary, majesty.