Print this page

Weir shows what organ can do

Performance at Knox United Church was flawless, Bill Henry writes

I listened [recently] to Dame Gillian Weir's astounding music making with the newly refurbished Casavant pipe organ at Knox United.

Her performance was flawless. Perhaps more importantly, it seemed both spontaneous and inspired.

This was thrilling, joyful, virtuoso playing on an incredible instrument in a space meant for contemplating the divine. Under such circumstances, only the music matters, soaring into every corner of the building, raising the spirit, satisfying the soul.

The celebrated British organist is considered to be among the finest living keyboard players. She was invited to rededicate the organ built in 1919 as a memorial to more than 20 men associated with Knox who died in the First World War.

Weir knows how to gets tons of sound out of that Casavant.

The delicious, dark, frightening rumbling of Weir's introductory Prelude and fugue on B.A.C.H. by Franz Liszt set the stage for what would be an evening of incomparable sound. Nothing else is at all like a full pipe organ, and I doubt anyone could play one with more expertise.

Weir's throbbing, fat, rhythmic chords ending in triumph the startling 1878 Cesar Franck composition said to portray Napoleonic battles. That brought the audience immediately and unusually to its feet in appreciation as Dame Weir ended not the concert, but only the first half.

In contrast, sweet, sprightly tinklings introduced the second half with Franz Xavier Schnizer's loving musical reflection of the Abbey Church in Bavaria, where he was a monk in charge of building the Riepp organ.

Marcel Dupre's Variations sur un Noel ended the concert, giving Weir a chance to "exploit all the colours of the organ with wit and virtuosity," as she wrote in her own program notes.

From the Sun Times, Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, 28th June 2007