When the featured organist at a solo recital steps on stage outfitted in blue crushed velvet tails, platform footwear backed with rhinestones, and sporting a bald undercut Mohawk coiffure, you recognize you’re at a Cameron Carpenter live performance.
Even earlier than Carpenter made his entrance Sunday night on the Jacobs Music Middle’s Copley Symphony Corridor, his identifiers have been onstage. 5 manuals (i.e., keyboards), stops, and an LED display carved a futuristic convex form out of a black console cupboard downstage middle, whereas eight quartets of glossy audio system stood stage proper, left and all the best way upstage, bathed in blue lights. Cones projected like megaphones from 5 of the speaker units.
If George Jetson performed organ, his instrument may appear to be this. It’s precisely — if immodestly — referred to as “The Worldwide Touring Organ,” a powerful assortment of sampled organ sounds from church and theater organs which travels with Carpenter.
There isn’t a higher recognized organist at the moment, nor one so controversial. Followers love Carpenter’s extravagance, his colourful preparations, and his virtuosity.
Others regard him because the Antichrist of the American Guild of Organists. Enjoying on an digital organ as an alternative of actual pipes? For disgrace! Utilizing dozens of organ timbres and heavy rubato to play Bach? Sacrilege! Creating preparations of piano and orchestral repertoire for the organ? Pshaw, there’s nice music composed for the organ which he might champion as an alternative! Enjoying gooey preparations of saccharine pop music like Leslie Bricusse’s “Pure Creativeness?”
Okay, that final one really is unjustifiable.
Let’s get again to the organ. In the event you closed your eyes, it typically appeared like an acoustic organ. The amplification was clear and highly effective. The speaker placement created an phantasm of divisions of pipes spreading throughout the stage. It’s a marvelous instrument.
Carpenter’s method was astounding. He typically performed two manuals with one hand, fingers whipping out speedy figurations on prime whereas the thumb sounded a melody on the keyboard under. His pedal work was superb, displaying a fluidity of tone that contradicted the mad dancing his ft did.
His association of Scriabin’s “Piano Sonata No. four” discovered applicable tone colours to painting Scriabin’s ecstatic melodies and harmonies. In going from orchestra to organ in Carpenter’s model of Wagner’s “Overture to Die Meistersinger,” there was some lack of readability from the unique, however Carpenter maintained Wagner’s bombast and self-acutely aware humor.
Two Louis Vierne tone poems for organ — “Naiades” and “Carillon de Westminster” (“Westminster Chimes”) — acquired mysterious and playful renditions respectively.
To my ears, Carpenter’s three improvisations have been curious however properly-completed throwbacks to film home theater organists, not often transcending cleverness and virtuosity to make a profound assertion.
His Bach performances have been both thrilling, as in his performances of an unannounced fugue or his personal association of a harpsichord Gigue from the “French Suite No. 5;” or ridiculously excessive, as in a gaudy association of the “Prelude” to the “Partita in E Main for Violin.” His model of the “Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor” was contaminated with over-embellishment of melodies, drastic pushing and pulling of tempos, and a picket obviousness in performing the repeating theme — Carpenter needed to make certain you couldn’t miss it, regardless of how a lot Bach disguised it.
Bach’s “Passacaglia” ought to be profound and stirring, however there was a lot of Carpenter in Bach’s means that it turned a check of 1’s style for performers imposing their wills on defenseless lifeless composers. For at the very least one listener, Carpenter failed.
Hertzog is a contract author.