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Joan Lippincott, Professor Emerita of Organ at Westminster Choir College, continues her active performing career as a recitalist and recording artist. She displayed her superb technique and musicianship in a program which was tailored for the French-Baroque-style Flentrop organ at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.
In a pre-concert discussion, Dr. Lippincott characterized the Flentrop organ as "world-class." The wonderful acoustics of St. Stephen's Church are obvious enablers of any music performed in the nave, where every sound is both reverberant and clear.
The recital opened with Ned Rorem's "Fanfare and Fugue" from his Organbook III. Like many of Rorem's works, this one is thoroughly contemporary in its harmonies and rhythms (especially the quirky fugue subject); its neo-Baroque style, however, makes it well-suited to the sounds of this instrument. Lippincott featured many of the organ's voices, using a lighter registration and more legato articulation for the Fanfare's middle section and adding reed stops at the Fugue's ponderous and dramatic conclusion.
Two contrasting works by J.S. Bach followed: the Prelude and Fugue in C Major, S.547 (called the "9/8" to distinguish it from the other C-Major P&Fs) and the chorale prelude on "Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele," S.654. Lippincott played the Prelude and Fugue on a plenum registration, including the main division's 16' Bourdon, throughout. While a valid approach to this music, the fugue in particular could have benefitted from some stylistically-proper terraced dynamics in its registration. The Prelude's tempo was on the leisurely side, especially in light of the fanfare-figure which dominates the pedal line and also brings the Prelude to its close.
Lippincott's performance of the chorale prelude was exquisite. The melodic line, played on the Positiv, used four of the usual five voices of an organ "cornet," a voice constructed of pitches including off-unison voices sounding a 12th and a 17th above the main voice. The highly ornamented soprano melody sang its way above the flute-like voices of the alto, tenor, and bass voices of this prelude from the collection known as the Eighteen Leipzig Chorales.
The program's first half concluded with a fiery reading of one of Mozart's last works, the Fantasia in F Minor, K.608. Its grand beginning and vigorous fugal finale were separated by the gentle Andante section which drew upon the beautifully-liquescent flute voices of the organ.
Lippincott played two contrasting works based on the plainsong hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus" as the second half of her recital. The music of French Baroque composer Nicolas de Grigny comes to life on an organ like St. Stephen's Flentrop, which contains the colorful sounds which typify the organs of de Grigny's time. Lippincott understands this music well; her use of notes inégales gave many of the five "Veni Creator" variations their uniquely French-Baroque rhythmic pulse, although the artist's slow tempo for the Duo lessened the sprightly nature of its gigue-like rhythm.
Maurice Duruflé, who died in 1986, was one of France's iconic organist-composers. While the total number of his compositions did not rival those of Guilmant, Vierne, Widor, or Marcel Dupré, his organ and choral music have already achieved permanent places in the world of sacred music. Joan Lippincott closed her recital with the concluding portion of Duruflé's Prelude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le thème du 'Veni Creator.' While the sounds of St. Stephen's Flentrop organ are far from those of the French Romantic organs for which Duruflé wrote, Lippincott used the Flentrop's resources convincingly enough to conjure up the colors which the composer calls for.
Congratulations and thanks to St. Stephen's Concert Series for continuing the high quality of their programs with Dr. Lippincott's performance.
Note: We are pleased to welcome Dr. Simon to CVNC. For his bio, click here.