Gail Archer, Organist
Franz Liszt: A Hungarian Rhapsody
(Franz Liszt Bio)
Church of the Heavenly Rest
2 East 90th Street
New York, NY 10128
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 8, 2011
All works by Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Excelsior! Preludio fur Orgel
Orpheus, Symphonische Dichtung
Adagio (Consolation JV in Db major)
Offertorium aus der “Ungarischen Kronungsmesse”
Consolation V in E major
Ein feste Burg is Unser Gott:
Transcription of the overture by Otto Nicolai
Am Grabe Richard Wagner’s
Praeludium und Fuge uber B-A-C-H
After a full day at The Guggenheim, I proceeded one block north on Fifth Avenue to Church of the Heavenly Rest, founded as an Episcopal church in 1865 by veterans of the Civil War, and built at its current premises in 1924 on property acquired by Mrs. Andrew Carnegie. Its stained glass windows in the nave and rose window above the alter are spectacular. The simplicity of the Church’s interior is striking, worthy of a tour and rest from the busy Museum Row and Central Park outside its doors. Its organ is documented at 8,004 pipes, sight unseen behind a stone screen. In 1993 there was a massive fire at Church of the Heavenly Rest, and the new movable console for the restored pipes was dedicated in 1997. I must say immediately that this was the finest organ concert I’ve ever attended.
Gail Archer performs, records, conducts, and lectures around the globe. She has paid tribute through concert series to Johann Sebastian Bach and Mendelssohn, as well as to Franz Liszt, showcased tonight. Ms. Archer’s notes describe Liszt’s organ music as dating from 1849 to his death in 1886. She notes that he wrote works based on choral pieces, operas, instrumental symphonies, and tone poems. In fact, Ms. Archer provided the guests at this Friday evening, spring concert an entire historical analysis of tonight’s eight works. Ms. Archer made a compelling appearance, in long, flowing silk, seated at this grand organ console, beneath the brilliantly colored windows, sandstone hued walls, and red oak choir stalls. Her choice of works was diverse and dynamic.
The concert began with the Excelsior with its variations in volume and fascinating harmonies. Ms. Archer’s notes slowly rose up the scale in heraldic form. The second Orpheus work had flowing, evocative melodies, almost like film noir, with highly pitched and yearning refrains. The Adagio was filled with intensity, encompassing the Church with mournful melancholy. The Offertorium was lengthier than most pieces, with a rich choral quality. The Consolation was briefer, tuneful, and uplifting. In the remaining works, Ms. Archer presented undulating chords, sumptuous echoes, lyrical, ethereal passages, and heightened, orchestral qualities. I noticed the way she worked her feet on the heavy console pedals with fervent immersion in the music. Kudos to Gail Archer for this stunning solo concert on the historical organ at Church of the Heavenly Rest.
Gail Archer, Concert Organist
(Shown at a Previous Concert)
Courtesy of Buck Ennis