As Featured On NPR's Day to Day radio program!
The Eastman Italian Baroque Organ
Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY
Organ restored by Gerard Woehl
Hans Davidsson—David Higgs—William Porter
The only full-size Italian Baroque organ in North America, Eastman's newly installed and restored instrument reveals the exotic sounds of another culture and time. Played by three virtuosi of the school's faculty, the organ sounds as beautiful as it appears: a genuine work of art.
Frescobaldi: Toccata Quarta, Il secondo libro di toccate, 1627
Frescobaldi: Bergamasca, Fiori musicali, 1635
Rossi: Toccate e correnti d'intavolatura d'organo e cembalo, ca. 1634
Rossi: Toccata Quarta; Toccata Settima from Sonate d'intavolatura, 1716
Zipoli: All' Offertorio;
Zipoli: All' Elevazione II
Zipoli: Al Post Communio
D. Scarlatti: Sonata in C Major (K255)
Gherardeschi: Sonata per organo a guisa di banda militare che suona una marcia
Quagliati: Toccata dell'Ottavo tuono, 1593
Quagliati: Ricercare e canzoni, 1601
Pasquini: Ricercare con la fuga in più modi
Review from Magazine de l'orgue (Belgium)
The story of the Atlantic crossing made by this instrument borders on being a fairy tale. It's true that Hans Davidsson, one of the fathers of the North German baroque organ of Goteberg, today a professor at the Eastman School of Music (in Rochester, NY), is accustomed to such remarkable occurrences. Who doesn't dream of discovering an instrument of historic quality in the shop of an antiques dealer?
That's what happened in Florence in 1979, to German organ maker Gerald Woehl. After a passage at Eastman (one of, if not the best, schools of music in the United States, with a remarkable organ department), he was able to bring over the instrument which, after a complete restoration in his Marburg workshops, was installed in Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery during the summer of 2005. It is this magnificent instrument which is presented to us by three Eastman professors.
To open this three-part recital, Hans Davidsson plays two works by Frescobaldi and two by his disciple, Michelangelo Rossi (of which the best known, the seventh, has a disheveled chromatism which is extremely well emphasized by the inequal time signature). The impression given is of a remarkable mastery and calm, and, it must be said, one hears all the agogic freedom which is the true essence of the music of these creators. David Higgs has chosen his repertoire from later music, which allows him to display on several occasions the single sheer of this organ, a Tromboncino restored by the workshop of Italian craftsman Giovanni Pradella. After four pieces by Zipoli (of the famous Pastorale) and one sonata by Scarlatti, he continues in his Italian repertoire through the height of Frescobaldi's music; tambourine and nightingale embellish Gherardeschi's decadent sonata. But he has the good taste to impose only one stretch in which the organ seems to rebel: in it the large pipes devour so much air that the larger instrument loses some of its beautiful accuracy.
It's quite a shock when William Porter takes to the keys. Coming immediately after the most recently composed piece in the program, he in turn plays the oldest: Quagliati's Toccata was published in 1593 by Diruta in his celebrated treaty Il Transilvano. After two pretty Canzones by the same composer, he concludes the concert with a Ricercare by Pasquini, almost a return to the source given how much the piece is inspired by the work of Frescobaldi. So we have three acts in this interesting recital, all with contrasting style of composition, despite which we are treated to a beautiful unity---in part due to the instrument (happily, the Italian style has remained strongly conservative over the course of the centuries, and, apart from Gherardeschi, who would have perhaps demanded a more "modern" instrument, these three or four generations of composers can all express themselves on a single organ), and in part thanks to the perfection of style demonstrated by these three Eastman professors.
How happy for the students of this school, who receive instruction from these excellent musicians and who now have an instrument of great quality at their disposal. For everything to do with Italian music, in any case, these young American musicians can make use of a marvelous tool in the comfort of their own home.
The Eastman Italian Baroque Organ Hans Davidsson, David Higgs, William Porter Loft Recordings: 1077 www.loft.cc The story of this instrument is just as good as the music on this disc! This organ was found in an antique shop in Florence, in storage since the seventeenth century. Reassembled it in Rochester, NY, it sings again in a resonant accoustic. What is surprising are the colors and the “toy” stops such as the bird whistle and “thunder.” Had a tape recorders been around 400 years ago, this is what they would have recorded in churches of Italy.
-Randall Engle, The Banner magazine
The Italian Baroque organ that was instlled in the Memorial Art Gallery at the Eastman School of Music in the summer of 2005 first surfaced in a Florentine antique shop in 1979. German organ builder Gerald Woehl purchased in instrument and, together with Monica May, restored it after a 2001 meeting with the organ department at Eastman.
The organ case conatins parts of an earlier instrument that may have been built in the late 17th century. As was the practice in Italy, instruments were enlarged, embellished, and tinkered with, so what we have at Eastman is a solid representation of the genesis of the Baroque organ.
Woehl and May did fine work, and this recording by Eastman faculty members Hans Davidsson, David Higgs, and William Porter shows off the unique colors of the instrument. The selection of repertoire is well conceived, with familiar works by Frescobaldi, Michelangelo Rossi, and Zipoli balanaced with pieces by Paolo Quagliati (1555-1628) and Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710) as well as a by a delicilously vulgar sonata by the early 19th-century composer Giuseppe Gherardeschi (1759-1815).
These are marvelous performances, and each organist acquits himself with honors. Davidsson never gets bogged down in the weird chromaticism of Rossi's "Toccata Settima," while Porter's treatment of the large-scaled "Ricercare con la fuga in piu modi" never meanders. In some ways, Higgs gets to have the most fun by rolling out the organ's arsenal of special effects, using a tooting reed stop in Zipoli's Pastorale and cranking up the bells and drums in Gherardeschi's Sonata per organo a guisa di banda militare che suona una marcia (Sonata for organ in imiation of a miliary band playing a march).
Craig Zeichner, Early Music magazine