Program also inspired by the tragic burning of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
By Peter Alexander Oct. 3 at 2 p.m.
The Longmont Symphony Orchestra will open their 2019–20 season, “Music is Life,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 5) in Vance Brand Auditorium, with three pieces that celebrate the wealth and variety of music for organ.
The program comprises Leopold Stokowski’s orchestral arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor; Francis Poulenc’s Concerto for organ, strings and timpani; and Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, known as the “Organ Symphony” for the prominent part for that instrument within the orchestra. The guest organist is Brian du Fresne.
But if you have been in Vance Brand Auditorium, you know that there is no grand pipe organ, or any other kind of organ in the hall. Nonetheless, LSO conductor Elliot Moore says that is not a problem. He has known from the time he arrived in Longmont that digital organs that can be transported, installed and played for a single performance are available locally.
Finding an organ to use with the LSO “was in my mind as a possibility,” he says. “I thought that it was an exciting possibility, one that I wanted to do at some point.” For Saturday’s concert, the LSO has rented a Viscount three-manual, 51-stop digital organ provided by Church Organ Works of Loveland.
The program fit into this year in part because of the season theme, or “thread” as Moore calls it, “Music is Life.” “I knew that I wanted to open the season, not just with something that’s big and bombastic, something that is going to set the tone for our season, but something that is uplifting, and tells some kind of narrative about life,” he says.
“There is something about Saint-Saëns’ ‘Organ Symphony’ that I find to be very organic, and while it is certainly not program music, it does take us through a process that winds up in triumph. It is one of my favorite pieces, because it seems to have everything. It has incredible lyricism, it has sorrow, it has angst, it has passion, and all of these things are elements that are in life.”
Once he had an organ for the concert, Moore says, he thought of performing another piece that would not be possible without an organ. One of the pieces he thought of is the Organ Concerto by Poulenc, a much more delicate and light-hearted work that Saint-Saëns’ dramatic symphony.
“It was my idea [to add the Poulenc Concerto to the program], but I spoke to du Fresne to see if that was a piece that he wanted to bring to our audience, and it was a resounding ‘yes.’ He was very enthusiastic about pairing these two works.”
Both works are by French composers, which is one reason they are not heard as often in this country as are the more standard classical works from Austria and Germany. Moore believes both works will receive their first Longmont performance on Saturday.
Opening the concert will be conductor Leopold Stokowski’s orchestral arrangement of Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. Its place on the program comes from a tragedy that occurred while Moore as thinking about the program: the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
“I went home one day and saw Notre Dame on CNN, burning,” Moore says. “It was an emotional experience for me in the sense that I lived in Paris for 6 months and had been inside of Notre Dame several times. And then they were showing pictures of Parisians singing together.
“All these people were coming together, to mourn, to present a united voice for culture, to console one another—all of these things. The image of the church burning and of people coming together was a very moving juxtaposition. That was where I had the idea to program the Bach/Stokowski Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, because that work is the equivalent of Gothic architecture—how it’s structured and how it builds to soaring lines and how it represents something more than itself.
“That was very moving to me.”
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Longmont Symphony Orchestra,, Elliot Moore, conductor
With Brian du Fresne, organ
“Opening Night: The Organ Symphony”
J.S. Bach/Stokowski: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor
Poulenc: Concerto for organ, strings and timpani
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (“Organ Symphony”)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5
Vance Brand Civic Auditorium