Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Inaugural concert of the Rubenstein Family Organ

Q:  What did the billionnaire philanthropist call himself after giving an incredibly expensive organ to the Kennedy Center?

A:  An organ donor [chuckle, chuckle]

Said organ was unveiled today for its debut public performance.  My friend Jennifer (another Kennedy Center alum) managed to get special tickets and brought me as her plus one (her husband is in Afghanistan).   The program featured the National Symphony Orchestra (and members of the orchestra playing solo or in small ensembles) and, as you might imagine, everything involved the organ somehow.

The concert opened, inevitably, with Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565).  It's the first time I've heard it performed live on an organ this size, and it was awesome -- those pedal notes will shake your bones every time.  Of course, I couldn't help thinking of the orchestral arrangement that the Philadelphia Orchestra played for Disney's Fantasia (though the original organ-only version is much better, as far as I'm concerned).

The middle of the concert had a random trombone/organ duet (snooze) and an organ/brass choir ensemble number (rad), and concluded, as inevitably as it began, with the Sain-Saens Symphony No. 3, which is called the "Organ Symphony" because it incorporates the organ into the full 90-piece orchestra. 

Now, I say that the Toccata and Fugue and the Organ Symphony were "inevitable" because they're some of the best known organ repertoire out there.  They're wonderful pieces of music and everyone knows them -- so it made perfect sense to me that they would be featured in a concert that was open to the public and designed to get people excited about the instrument.  Apparently not everyone appreciated this populist gesture, however.  Here's my favorite exchange of the evening:

Me: [happily] Oh look, they're playing the Organ Symphony!

Jennifer: [sarcastically] That's because it's the only thing there is for organ and orchestra.

Random eavesdropping guy sitting next to us: [very emotionally] That is NOT TRUE!  There is SO MUCH MORE organ music out there, and it is MUCH better than the Saint-Saens. [sniff] Believe me, the Saint-Saens is SUCH a cliche.

Seriously, dude needed to get a grip -- I couldn't tell if he was about to cry or smack us, or both!  So I played into it and admiringly asked him if he was an organist (no, just an enthusiast) and if he could please educate us on what all the best organ music was.  The concert soon started and he spent the whole time playing with his iPhone (apparently recording the concert and sending recordings to people in real time), so I returned the favor and spent the rest of the concert judging him for being an organ enthusiast with extremely poor concert etiquette.  What goes around comes around, mon ami.

In any event, the concert was nice and blessedly short (only an hour!).  Afterwards Jennifer and I went upstairs to the fancy reception that was thrown in honor of the Rubensteins and other major donors, so I got to hobnob with the rich and (not very) famous as well as see a bunch of my friends who still work at the Kennedy Center.  A fun excursion on a worknight!

Mr. Organ Donor himself, with the NSO and the organ behind him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Would LOVE to have seen, felt, that number on the organ. Would LOVE to have watched the organist play it! Lady