An interview with Elizabeth about her recital and C. B. Fisk Opus 136.
Elizabeth’s recital was on March 19.
Tell us more about your program, especially the Duruflé, and why you picked what you’ll play.
When Rob Smith and Sam Gardner approached me about this series, I immediately decided to play the Duruflé Suite as part of my program for the series. I actually haven’t performed this work in its entirety since I was a junior in college at Eastman. But, in recent years, I’ve been looking for an occasion to relearn it. The Fisk plays everything well, but it plays Duruflé especially well—a huge credit to this instrument as Duruflé can be quite difficult to register. The variety of color required, the various combinations of those colors—there aren’t many instruments that can accomplish that with ease. Our Fisk is made for it. This monumental work takes up about half of my program and the rest of the program is heavily influenced by its presence. It’s a magnificent work—one of the masterpieces of the 20th-century organ repertoire. It’s also a weighty and, at times, dark piece, which certainly feels suited to a Lenten recital. But everything else I chose for the program is an effort to bring balance to that. Selections from George Shearing’s Sacred Sounds and Calvin Hampton’s beautiful Lullaby bring some necessary lightness. And there must always be Bach, and especially in this case as we will be merely days away from Bach’s 337th birthday on March 21. In this case I’ve chosen his Prelude and Fugue in C, BWV 547, a cheerier selection than many of the other major Bach works I play.
The Fisk was fully installed when you came to St. Peter’s. What has surprised you most about playing it? What was your most recent “discovery” about the sounds you can make with it?
Our Fisk is so versatile. It never ceases to amaze me how well it plays such a wide variety of repertoire, how easily it shifts from solo organ repertoire to accompanying hymn singing, and then to accompanying the choir. A pipe organ has to play so many different roles, and each of them require it to be a different sort of instrument. Every pipe organ is unique; they all have unique strengths and some excel at particular types or repertoire. In the eight years I’ve been at St. Peter’s, I’ve only rarely encountered a piece of music that required me to make accomodations in terms of registration, which is a credit to how thoughtful everyone involved in the project was in its design.
What are your “go to” pieces that you never tire of playing, especially playing on this organ.
Again, I never tire of playing Duruflé on this organ. I played his Fugue sur le theme du Carillon des Heures de la cathedrale de Soissons (a very long title, indeed!) for my audition for the assistant position here in 2014. Bach also sounds especially wonderful on this organ. But probably my favorite thing is accompanying the choir, especially for choral works from the Anglican repertoire—Howells, especially. St. Peter’s Choir will sing Howells’ anthem “Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks,” for the Fifth Sunday in Lent and I never tire of accompanying that on this organ.
What’s your favorite stop?
This is a very hard question to answer! I love all of the flute stops on the Fisk, particularly the Flûte harmonique on the Great division, and the Flûte traversière on the Swell. I’m also very fond of the smaller reed stops: the Clarinette on the Choir and the Hautbois (oboe) on the Swell. The Hautbois is particularly well suited for the works of César Franck.