Organs and organ music can inspire strong passions. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once referred to the organ as "the king of instruments." But one standard joke about organists goes: "What do you call 101 organists at the bottom of a lake?" and answers "A good start!"
For Western New York fans of classical organ music, February and March will be good months to revel with some of the finest musicians in America playing works that display the proud characteristics of these instruments to the fullest extent.
Tonight, the Eastman School of Music in Rochester is sending over four of its highly talented students (Annie Kirk, Adam Peithmann, Michael Unger and Jonathan Young) to perform on the Fisk organ in the University at Buffalo's Slee Hall.
"Organ enthusiasts are sure to walk away with a smile on their face," said Phil Rehard, Slee Hall's concert manager.
Most of the pieces on the Eastman organists' program are relative mainstays of the repertoire by Johann Sebastian Bach, Cesar Franck, Max Reger and Marcel Dupre. Two relatively short pieces by one of Bach's later contemporaries, Johann Ludwig Krebs, will also make an appearance, as will a more modern piece from 1998 by Pamela Decker.
Anthony Newman, the first of two internationally renowned organists to appear in the area this spring, will be here on Feb. 16. Newman has recorded a number of well-received albums over the years and has quite a reputation as a baroque specialist, although he also has a fairly well established career as a conductor and composer.
It should be no surprise that two of the works he will be playing during his recital include Bach's majestic "Toccata and Fugue" in D minor and six Mozart sonatas. At that same concert, he will be performing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of JoAnn Falletta, as the soloist in Camille Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3.
On March 3 and 4, the ever exuberant and charismatic Carlo Curley will be playing two concerts in Western New York. The first date finds Curley (nicknamed the "Pavarotti of the Organ" by his fans) playing on the Slee Hall organ, while the follow-up concert has him performing a totally different program on the organ at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Buffalo. His appearances here are co-sponsored by the UB Music Department, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and the local branch of the American Guild of Organists.