On Monday evening August 10th, 1998, Gregory D'Agostino performed at Spreckels. This was my third and final evening there, this summer; once again, I was the one in the PIPORG-L golf shirt, with the 7x50 binoculars.
Information on the organ, and its concert series, can be found at the Spreckels Organ Society web site, http://www.sosorgan.com/
The Bach Toccata Adagio and Fugue in C has been for quite some time one of my favorites (though I could not, at my present meager level of playing, begin to play it), but though I'd heard it on recordings by both E. Power Biggs and Dr. Pamela Decker, I'd never heard it live, and always wondered what it looked like. Dr. D'Agostino didn't disappoint. He played that, and indeed the entire program, with a verve that gave the performance as much visual appeal as sonic.
Dr. D'Agostino followed the Bach with three of his own transcriptions of harpsichord pieces (Daquin's "The Cuckoo," Couperin's "The Butterflies" and Rameau's "The Hen), his registrations varying from those suggestive of the original harpsichord versions, to those suggestive of the animals in questions, to those that were completely (but delightfully) off-the-wall.
Dr. D'Agostino must be rather fond of doing his own transcriptions; he followed the three harpsichord miniatures with his own transcription of the Liszt Consolation No. 3 in D-Flat. Staying with Liszt, he finished the first half of the concert with the Fantasy and Fugue on BACH.
After the intermission, Dr. D'Agostino began the second half with the Ives Variations on "America." Definitely not Biggs on the Fisk, but this performance seemed to bring out the humor of the piece rather nicely: some of the sillier variations drew chuckles from the audience (and had Maestro Plimpton, in the row just in front of me, laughing his head off).
The Ives was followed by Elmore's Pavane (which Dr. D'Agostino, noting that Elmore was one of Maestro Plimpton's teachers, dedicated to the "titulaire").
Then, it was time for one last transcription: Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk." Some time ago, Dr. D'Agostino had the opportunity to meet Dave Brubeck; he half-expected Brubeck to be angered by his "presumptuous" organ transcription, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that Brubeck had liked it.
The last work on the program was an exciting performance of the first movement of Widor's Fifth Organ Symphony.
I was almost ready to bet money that the encore would be the Toccata movement from the Widor Fifth, but thankfully, I did not: it was one of Haydn's "musical clock" pieces.
Throughout the performance, Dr. D'Agostino definitely seemed to be getting into the music, often throwing his upper body into it as if he were playing a tracker organ under far too much pressure, with his long hair flying about. He performed the entire program from memory; the music desk was empty all evening. After the concert, he proved to be as friendly off-stage as on.
While not everything on the program was precisely my cup of tea, it was, as a whole, an excellent program, and an excellent microcosm of the entire Monday Evening series.
Copyright © James H. H. Lampert, 1998
Revised Thursday, November 19, 2015
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