Harry Wimmer

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T H E R E A L20 F R E S C O B A L D I

As a cellist, what drew me to last Saturday's organ recital at New York's St Peter's Church
was first of all the name
Girolamo Frescobaldi emblazoned on the program, and then the listing
Walter Hilse as the performing artist, almost guaranteeing brilliant and deeply felt playing
of this adventurous recital.

First, to Frescobaldi: there was a time, not so long ago, when almost any cellist of a certain vintage
would include the Frescobaldi Toccata arranged by
Gaspar Cassadó, the famous Spanish cellist
and composer, on his recital program. It is a brilliant concert showpiece, with a warm opening
followed by the famous theme that is then transformed into a more elaborate development
and ending, exploiting the cello's sonority to its fullest.

Because of its great popularity (it had even been orchestrated, performed and recorded by
orchestras such as the
National Symphony of Washington, D.C.), Cassadó was pressed to produce
the originalmanuscript. At first he told the questioner that he had obtained it from his father,
the organist at the Conservatory of Barcelona. Finally, unlike the famous violinist
Fritz Kreisler,
he could not quite admit that this was all a hoax, and that the "Frescobaldi" Toccata
was his original composition!

The REAL Frescobaldi Toccata presented last Saturday is "a horse of a different color," part of a
larger work, the Fiori Musicale (Musical Flowers) written for the celebration of the Mass.
Unfortunately it is only 31 beautiful measures long. Mr.Hilse made the most of its lyric beauty
by his sensitive registration of woodwind colors.

I was fortunate in my teen-age years to study cello with the well-known Austrian-American organist,
composer and conductor
Fritz (Frederick) Schreiber. Therefore the remainder of the program meant
a return to some familiar organ works. The string player possesses the luxury of achieving infinite
tonal colors on his instrument. Thus I appreciated anew Walter Hilse's much more difficult task
of making an organ (granted the St. Peter's Klais is a very fine instrument) respond to the coloristic
and artistic demands of the music at hand with such sensitivity and imagination by his most skillful
choice of registration throughout.

The program included much Bach, such as the Trio Sonata No. 4 in E Minor and the Canonic
on a Christmas Song. To break up the severity of this generous presentation,
Walter Hilse wisely interspersed it with some charming, light-hearted comments from the
organ bench.

The formal recital concluded with Charles Maria Widor's Symphonie Gothique, Op. 70. Widor
was the co-founder and frst Director of the
École Americaine de Fontainebleau, France
in the 1920's. Without Widor's creation of that institution I would not have been able to enjoy
two wonderful summers there performing and teaching as Adjunct Professor. But at that
more recent time Widor's ghost had all but vanished, only
Nadia Boulanger's memory
was still being celebrated. As to Widor's organ Symphonie Gothique, I refer the dear reader
to Volume 1, p. 491 of (George Bernard)"
Shaw's Music", and his reaction to the British première
of his Symphony in A.

Lastly, for me the highlights of the program were the opening Canzona in D Minor and the encore,
G Major Prelude and Fugue BWV 541, both by Bach. The Canzona was played in a grand style,
measured yet flowing, never dragging. And the brilliant Prelude and Fugue showed Mr.Hilse
in total command, both instrumentally and musically.


This blog created, written and maintained by Harry Wimmer (
Thanks to Shirley Givens
sgivens@juilliard.edu for her imaginative illustrations.
Design and content ©2006-2016 by Harry Wimmer, Incidental Artwork ©2006-2016 by Shirley Givens.
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Bio from the"Joy of Cello Playing" site

Klais Organ at St. Peter's Church, N.Y.