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Music review

Organist David Fuller

Saturday evening, Lippes Concert Hall, University at Buffalo North Campus.

David Fuller retired in 1997 as professor of music, organist and director of the organ performance program at the University at Buffalo, but his reputation as a formidable scholar of baroque keyboard music and a prime force in the creation and siting of the magnificent, nationally prominent Fisk organ in the university's Slee -- now Lippes -- Concert Hall has remained quite impressive.

Fuller still presents occasional recitals, with Saturday evening's performance in Lippes Hall just the latest in his lengthy career. By the end of the evening, however, the organist clearly just wasn't in peak form.

Up first was Fuller's own "March," a lively, albeit lightweight, processional that took a basic theme and ran a set of variations off it. This was followed by the second movement, adagio sostenuto, from Hans Fahrmann's Sonata No. 8 in E flat major, op. 46, a difficult yet pleasant excerpt from a composition Fuller once recorded.

Other than Marcel Dupre's composer credit, no hint was given on the genesis of the next piece, a "sketch" in E minor. Plenty of piquant voicings could be heard, especially in the upper registers. But it was plainly a chip off of a master's workbench, and Fuller played it that way.

Tibor Harsanyi, a French composer of Hungarian heritage, also played jazz piano during the 1940s and '50s. This led him to write a piece simply called "Blues." Leonce de Saint-Martin produced an organ transcription of "Blues," and Fuller found a copy of it in his collection of sheet music. It was added to Saturday's program even though Fuller admitted he was not a jazz or blues afficionado. The organ arrangement clearly muddled any rudimentary sense of swing that might have been written into the piano version.

Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major" (BWV 564) was the first full-blooded masterpiece of the concert, and Fuller's interpretation was more about playing the notes, not finding the feeling. The result was OK but certainly not revelatory.

All of this led up to the piece de resistance of the concert, the powerful "Sonata on the 94th Psalm," by Julius Reubke, a composition that some have hailed as the finest Romantic-era score for organ and a masterpiece of writing for the organ's resources.

While it may have been the most outwardly thrilling music on the program, Fuller's rendering missed just the last ounce of brilliance that this young genius, who died at 26, wrote into the score. The result was a solid version of the piece but not the earth-shattering kind of experience that Gillian Welch provided during her Buffalo recital a few years back.

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