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Three AGO Rising Stars, #3: Nicholas Capozzoli

Nicholas Capozzoli represented Region III in this 3-in-1 recital. Also eschewing Bach, Mr. Capozzoli began with the beginning “Moderato” of the Symphonie Romane, Op. 73 of Charles Marie Widor (1844-1937). Based of the Gregorian Chant “Haec dies” the piece has a strangely indeterminate character, neither modal (as say Vaughan Williams) or traditionally tonal, one doesn’t get a feeling of direction. This is not the Widor of Symphony’s 4, 5 and 6. It is, at the risk of adding extra musical ideas, much more introspective music. It is Widor at what could be considered to be his most experimental. This not the kind of piece with which one begins a recital. I realise this was an audience of other organists; notwithstanding, it was still an audience, and the last thing you want to do is start off with a confusing, amorphously introspective piece like the first movement to Widor’s last Symphony. Mr. Capozzoli could have taken a hint from his predecessors as to what kind of piece with which you should begin a programme; that is, play something dynamic, something that will engage the audience. It doesn’t necessarily have to be familiar; it just has to be interesting, compelling, a piece of music that tells the audience that you are excited to play for them, and that they will be equally excited to continue listening. In any event, the Widor was played very faithfully, in so far as Mr. Capozzoli followed the M. Widor’s dynamics and bare-bones registrations without imagination, contributing the bromidic effect of the work.

Next came the “Intermezzo,” which serves as the scherzo movement to a Symphonie pour Orgue in b, Op.5 by the French Belle Epoch composer Augustin Barié (1883-1915). Barié studied composition at the National Institute for the Blind under Louis Vierne, who was only thirteen years his senior; but, had evidently made a considerable impact on Barié. Moreover, considering that Barié was only twenty-four when he wrote the his Op. 5, the influence is not only understandable, but, as far as I’m concerned, a good thing. The “Intermezzo” could have very well been excerpted from a Vierne symphony. It puts him squarely into the lineage of the Franck school. Mr. Capozzoli followed M. Barié’s registrations and dynamics quite faithfully. But, he could have gone a bit further in using his imagination beyond trying to duplicate the registration called out in the score. Also, Mr. Capozzoli could have articulated the staccatos more distinctly; that would have given the melody a little more definition. Otherwise it was a perfectly adequate performance; i. e.; the type of playing indicative of most organ recitals. Regarding programming again, this would have normally been a perfectly fine choice for a second piece, notwithstanding its nebulous thematic material, if Mr. Capozzoli had elected to to open with something more dynamic than the Widor.

As cited above, Mr. Capozzoli regrettably had to forego the Te Deum by the brilliant in every way Jeanne Demessieux (1921-1968) and most unfortunately “La Vallée du Béhorléguy, au matin” from a suite entitled Paysages Euskariens by Joseph-Ermend Bonnal (1880-1944) another student of the Franck School who studied with Vierne and Tournemire, succeeding the latter at St. Clothilde. Instead, the decision was to go ahead with the exceedingly noisome Évocation II by Thierry Escaich (b. 1965), which although very loud (hence its use as a finale) is nothing less than dreck. Lots of crashing dissonances and a lot of jumping around different manuals over an ostinato bass with no sense of continuity or thematic development. It’s precisely the kind of bewilderingly appalling stuff that befouls so much of contemporary organ music, and is another reason the concert going public (and a lot of organists) shun organ recitals.

I’m always in favour of doing unfamiliar works on a concert programme: whether it’s an orchestra, chamber music, solo instrument, it’s always good to hear something beyond the tried and true. Notwithstanding, there’s a point of diminishing returns. Mr. Capozzoli, or whoever assisted him in his programming decisions, not only went past that point but fell off the cliff. Mr. Capozzoli needs some one who knows what they’re doing, to help him understand how the good programming of a recital works, whether it’s for the general public or one’s peers. People need something, somewhere to which they can relate. And then one must learn to perform those works, whether familiar or obscure, in a manner that reaches beyond the basic notes, dynamics and registrations and make those pieces, at the very least compelling.

Mr. Capozzli, if you wish to be a concert organist (and this goes for Ms. Mcpherson earlier) don’t be typical.