Readers may remember that last November I wrote an article about the formal presentation at the Blue Whale of the great Klais organ, biggest in Latin America. Those concerts came after a first cleaning of the tubes by German specialists, and they were possible because for a while pending works were postponed in the area. But as I informed in a more recent article, the new government completed the most important remaining restorations and transformations, and the CCK was reinaugurated in May.
However, although there were concerts at the Whale, the Germans came back and during May cleaned the tubes again, because the Summer works had dirtied them again. And so, two concerts were programmed in July to let the audiences hear the results: one with Mario Videla, which I couldn´t hear, and the other with Diego Innocenzi, the interpreter on this review.
The Klais organ "Opus 192" has (I quote myself) "3.633 pipes and two consoles: fixed and mechanic, attached to the pipes wall; and mobile electronic, on the stage. There are four keyboards". And of course a pedalier plus two pedals which open up boxes mixing registers.
The programme chosen by Innocenzi was ideal for a great symphonic organ such as the Klais. The Belgian César Franck lived all his adult life in Paris, where he was the organist of Sainte Clotilde. Born in 1822, he matured slowly, producing his most characteristic works late in life: the Symphony, the Violin Sonata, the Quartet and Quintet; his three significative organ scores are the Six Pieces (1860-62), the Three Pieces (1878) and the Three Chorales (1890).
Innocenzi played the Three Pieces: "Fantaisie", "Cantabile" and "Pièce héroïque". A paragraph on the artist: an Argentine born in 1971, after early studies here he played the Cavaillé-Coll at San Isidro Cathedral. Then he went to the Geneva Conservatory where he obtained in 1999 the First Virtuosity Prize in the class of the eminent Lionel Rogg. He also studied with the great Marie-Claire Alain. And at Geneva Michel Corboz was his teacher in Choral Direction. Since then he has created such projects as the Vandoeuvres Autumn Festival and the Chamonix Organ Festival and he is at Geneva organist of the Victoria Hall and two temples. He has recorded little-known French organ music.
As you see, an impressive curriculum. The recital confirmed an earlier impression I had of him, when some years ago he played in a church, although this time he had a vastly greater instrument. To coordinate five different sources of sound (the four keyboards and the pedalier) plus the vast timbric resources provided by 55 registers reveals the skill and taste of a player. From extreme pianissimo to overwhelming fortissimo with clean articulation and positive phrasing proved both the quality of the artist and of the Klais. As the acoustics have been bettered since November (the panels in the roof) and the organ is placed high, it was quite an experience.
1878 was a year in which Paris had recovered from the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune (a mini civil war crushed by Thiers) and the Republic gradually settled down; it was also the year of a monumental International Exhibition and of the first Trocadéro.
Charles Marie Widor (1845-1937) was at the time organist of Saint Sulpice; the instrument was a behemoth: 5 keyboards, 118 registers, 6500 tubes, 20 combination pedals! He was the man to create a new genre: the Symphony for organ. He wrote ten, as well as a Symphony for organ and orchestra. They are extremely difficult; as Harvey Grace wrote in Grove´s dictionary, "they are among the most important of the organ repertory, both in scope and in the influence they have had on organ technique, idiom and registration".
Symphony Nº 5 is dated 1880, very close to Franck´s pieces. It has five movements (in fact the symphonies might be called suites as well); unfortunately Innocenzi played only three: the initial Allegro vivace; Nº 4, Cantabile; and that famous tour de force, the final Toccata (recorded at least 50 times! Plus 15 for the whole Nº5). He omitted Nº2, Allegro cantabile; and Nº 3, Andantino quasi allegretto. Even adding the encore, Théodore Dubois´ "Religious cantilena", we had 51 minutes of music, very short measure.
However, the playing was exciting and powerful; this may not be profound music, but it is splendidly written for the capabilities of symphonic organs, and Innocenzi has the means to give us the true aural picture. But it also convinced me that the Baroque shouldn´t be played on it: that style requires no gigantism. Instead, clarity in counterpoint, poise at all times and reasonable forte are required. There are instruments of that kind in our city.
Cavaillé-Coll was the great firm of symphonic organs in France, and we have a few in Argentina. Klais Orgelbau, Berlin, has been designing them since