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2014年3月16日 星期日

Hector Olivera's Organ Fantasia

Before yesterday, my only regular acquaintance with the pipe organ is its sound in catholic cathedrals and protestant churches and occasionally in the concert hall where a piece of orchestral music features such an instrument. But yesterday, at the concert hall of the Cultural Centre, I had my first concert in which there was no other musical instrument than the organ which some say is the queen of all musical instruments. And we had some one who simply is in love with that instrument. He is Hector Olivera, an argentinian who started  learning music the Buenos Aires Conservatory at the age of 6, entered the University of Buenos Aires for studies in advanced musical studies and has since appeared with major orchestras around the world and more than 20 CDs on classical, contemporary and film music. In addition, he's been the senior improvisional accompanist for the Collegium Musicum in Buenos Aires for 3 years. It was a joy to listen to him as he deftly moved his fingers on the three rows of keyboards and switches on various stops on the left and right of our enormous concert organ as his legs swung left right and centre depending whether the higher or lower bass notes were called into action.


We had a very varied programme by composers from the 17th to the 20th century. Our first piece was a Toccata by W R Driffill (1870-1922), I piece I heard for the first time. Driffill was a 19th century Englishman from Dunstable, Bedfordshire whose musical manuscripts was only recovered in 1998. It was a very festive piece full of color and bustle descending into a calmer mood which soon burst forth again in joy. 



This opening piece was followed by César Franck (1822-1890)'s Prelude, Fugue and Variation, Op 18 which is a rather popular piece which had often been adapted for the piano and strings. Franck had been the organist for the St. Clotilde Basilica in Paris for 30 with  a huge collection of organ works rivalling those by J S Bach. The pastoral sounding prelude was dedicated to Camille Saint-Saens famous for his Symphony for the Organ whilst the fugue with its counterpoints reminds one of those of Bach, with beautiful variations of the main theme by the foot pedals.

 

The third piece before the intermission was an organ favorite: J S Bach's (1694-1772)'s famous Passaglia and Fugue in C minor BWV 582 with its 21 variation upon the ground bass in the key of C minor with its two subjects in the opening sequence developing into a double fugue which so seamlessly interweave into each other and contrasting with each other  .



Then there was a complete change of mood with Louis-Claude Daquin (1694-1772)'s Noel No. 8 or Étranger, an extremely talented improvisor who is equally adept in playing the clavein and the organ. It's a Christmas carol expressing the energy and joy at the birth of the savior in 17th century France

 

The last piece before the break were two excerpts from an  organ suite called Suite Gothique by Léon Boëllmann(1694-1897), the most famous of his 160 compositions which he wrote two years before he died:  Prière à Notre Dame (Prayer to our Lady) and his Toccata: one lyrical and the other solemn. 



Then we had a most remarkable organ work, the magnificent Organ Symphony No. 6 in G minor Op 42 no. 2 by Charles-Marie Widor (1845-1937), one, like Daquin's and Boëllmann's, which I heard for the first time at the concert. In Allegro, Adagio, Intermezzo, Cantabile and Finale, a piece which shows the remarkable tone colors, timbre and capacity of the organ to do the work of an entire orchestras with its various stops and the keys upon its triple manuals in isolation and in combination with each other from the softest to the grandest sound.



After that heavy work, he played for us one of Astor Piazolla's most memorable pieces, his Oblivion. Olivera told us that Piazolla loved him and when he was seven, he used to sit on t that great Argentinian composer's lap as the latter played his music.

 

At the end of the concert, Hector Olivera was asked to improvise a theme which would only be given to him at the last moment. He was given the theme song of "Below the Lion Rock" the popular Radio HK TV series on the lives of various Hong Kong people. He studied it for half a minute and started a most elaborate development of the theme. It was sheer joy to watch him play and making things up as he went along. Genius is born. It can never be learned. You either have it or you don't. But not only is he a musical genius, he must be one of the most amiable musicians around. He exudes a natural fondness for people and is ever to sensitive to people's need to be associated with greatness. He would pose for photos of one after another of his fans together with his little green rag doll "Harry" after he signed their programme notes at the autograph session after the concert. The quota was 30. But I was the No. 31. But I didn't give up. I waited till the last and then asked "Uno mas? " . He smiled and asked me to walk over the dangling red rope over the stands and did it for me and then embraced me. I was sure he would never refuse. So I became his 31st and the last one to have his signature on a CD I bought there.