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Michael Beattie at St. James' Episcopal Church, Oct 3, 2010


Michael Beattie at St. James' Episcopal Church, Oct 3, 2010

Beattie played an all-Bach organ recital after that satisfying and peaceful marker for the transition from afternoon to evening known as Choral Evensong. He opened with the dramatic Prelude & Fugue in c minor (BWV 546), using a full sound - from 32' to mixtures - that carried well the great chordal passages in the prelude. The fugue used a well-balanced registration, with reeds providing contrast in the middle section. Next was the ornamented setting (BWV 659) of the Advent hymn "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland" ("Savior of the Nations, Come"), played with sensitivity and polish. The Trio Sonata II in c minor followed. The six trio sonatas are formatted for two manuals (a separate one for each hand) and pedal. In the first movement (Vivace) the right hand dominated the registration somewhat, and in the middle movement (Largo) even moreso, with a solo treatment that was smooth and appealing (the middle sections of the trios sometimes seem boring, but not tonight!). The final movement was handled in a democratic way with the two hands having sounds more or less equal in volume but nevertheless contrasting, with the pedal a further contrast because of its lower pitch. Bach's six trio sonatas are notoriously difficult, probably the epitome of the three-way independence of the two hands and the feet, but Beattie made them sound easy. Then the Chorale Prelude BWV 622, "O Mensch bewein dein S√ľnde gross" ("O man, bewail thy grievous sin") was played with passion and grace. Finally the program closed with the monumental "Passacaglia in c minor (BWV 582), also known as the "Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor". This work is technically demanding, and requires skill in expressiveness, both of which were supplied in abundance. Beattie played flawlessly, and with imagination. It would have been nice to have a better view of him as he played. At a masterclass a year or so ago, Paul Jacobs (some would say the reigning organ virtuoso in the U.S.) explained that body language at the console was an important part of communication between organist and audience, and I would have liked to have seen more of Beattie than just the top of his head (although just that much helped a lot). Finally we thank St. James' church and their parish musician Don Messer for hosting this event and providing excellent program notes.

 - Glenn A. Gentry

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