Orgelfest16 opener showcases masterful playing of Frederick Swann

Portland is one of the 85-year-old organist’s last stops before he ends touring.

Swann’s selections – most notably Healey Willan’s richly varied Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue, a fairly comprehensive tour of organ technique, and César Franck’s “Choral, No. 2,” the intensely mystical meditation that was the centerpiece of the first half – were played with a commanding sense of pace and color.

He also gave a masterly account of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G (BWV 541), notable for both the vigor he brought to the Prelude and the textural transparency with which he illuminated the fugue.Allan Kozinn, Portland Press Herald


On the Kotzschmar, a local organist whose star is rising

Katelyn Emerson of York plays a program on ‘War and Peace’ at Orgelfest.

Emerson is an assured, thoughtful interpreter whose strength lies in an ability to marshal the power of seemingly opposing qualities. She conveyed the excitement within the works she played, for example, by taking a calm, reasoned approach and allowing the music’s tensions to build without overstatement. Her approach to coloration is subtle, rather than showy…she draws widely on the instrument’s resources, and she is not afraid of a true pianissimo…

…transcriptions for organ are not always successful, even on the Kotzschmar. Making them work has less to do with the organ’s timbral palette than with the players’ fingers and imagination. That Emerson could make so much of these transcriptions, this early in her career, is heartening. It should be fascinating to see where she goes from here.Allan Kozinn, Portland Press Herald


Organist Ray Cornils delivers power of many kinds

The municipal organist shined on light-hearted works from Rawsthorne and Langlais.

The solo works on the program suited the “powerhouses” theme, particularly if you took to heart Cornils’ comment, during the pre-concert interview, that powerful did not necessarily mean loud. There was loudness, of course…and Cornils was not shy about reveling in the Kotzschmar’s might.

But Cornils was at his best in music that depended less on overwhelming sonic grandeur and more on light-spirited humor. He was clearly in his element in the “Line Dance” movement from Noel Rawsthorne’s “Dance Suite” (1997)…And the “Cats” Scherzo from Jean Langlais’ “American Suite” (1959) let him show off his fleetness and entertaining interpretive sensibility as he scampered, with cat-like tread, up, down and across the manuals.Allan Kozinn, Portland Press Herald