Robert Knupp at St. Peter Catholic Cathedral, February 9, 2018.

Knupp opened the program with some of Maurice Duruflé's most accessible organ music - three variations on "Veni Creator", from the Prelude, Adagio, and Chorale, Op. 4. The first two, on various flues, were followed by a grand piece featuring reeds and the melodic use of the pedals.

In welcome contrast Knupp then played Movement II - "Chorale" - from Widor's Organ Symphony No. 10, a calm and peaceful precursor to what followed the 1st movement - "Allegro" - from Widor's 6th Symphony, in my view the most exciting piece in all of Widor's symphonies - even moreso than the famous "Toccata" from the 5th. Knupp gave it the performance it deserved - bold, and aggressive, with a flawless rendition of one of the longer rhythmic strings of 2 vs 3 vs 4 in the organ literature.

In another contrast, the audience - led with the organ alone - sang three verses of the hymn "Lord, You Give the Great Commission", tune Abbott's Leigh with an upward shift in dynamics for the last verse. I recall Craig Cramer's dedicatory recital in the 1980s, when he led - again with the organ alone - the audience in singing "A Mighty Fortress" to great effect. Including a hymn in an organ recital is not done very often, but for me it is a sine qua non. It is also a custom for each recital in the Organ Historical Society's national conventions. Their reasoning is that leading congregational singing is the first and foremost function of any church organ, and that how well the organ functions in that role deserves to be heard.

Larry King's "Resurrection" followed. It began with some small and stark passages in a contemporary but tonal style that initially made me wonder where it would end, but then developed slowly and powerfully so that it became one of my favorites of the evening. Symbolically it suggested that rebirth (or resurrection) is not a sudden process but a long and painful one that nevertheless manages to blossom into a triumph as it progresses.

Again another marked contrast, with Joel Rainey's "Variations on Amazing Grace". There were four, 1st with an ornamented melody, 2nd principals with strings, that included some "blue" notes, 3rd, a full and jazzy version (reminiscent of Dixieland), and finally a more straightforward (but still full) one.

Knupp then turned to the German literature, with Bach's Prelude and Fugue in c minor (BWV 546), a full and satisfying experience like a powerful river relentlessly flowing to the sea. Interestingly, the fugue was composed in 1716 and the prelude some 14 years later. Did Bach's style mature significantly during those years? Although it would be hard to say, it is interesting to consider.

Finally, just as in many great individual organ pieces in which the end develops relentlessly and concludes with a majestic climax (as in Bach's Passacaglia & Fugue in c minor), this entire recital also underwent such a development, ending with a great finality in the 3rd movement of Julius Reubke's sonata on the 94th Psalm. Knupp gave a passionate and powerful reading of this work, which occasional inspired feelings of foreboding similar to those encountered in Mulet's toccata "Tu Es Petra". It is worth quoting two verses from Psalm 94: vs3, "Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?" and vs22, "But the Lord is my defence, and my God is the rock of my refuge".

We are grateful to St. Peter Cathedral, not only for sharing their remarkable organ with the community, but also for sponsoring this series of three outstanding organ recitals.

Glenn A. Gentry