Arch from the Baroque into the early Modern

2 août 2016

The award-winning Italian organist Giorgio Parolini, an internationally sought-after concert virtuoso, performed at the 12th Marbach Organ Summer on the Voit organ of the St. Alexander Church on Sunday evening.

District cantor Hermann Toursel was quite pleased that this exceptional artist born in 1971 chose the Schiller city as one of the stops of his tour of Germany. Parolini, who was the main organist of the Basilica Santa Eufemia in Milan from 1999 to 2012, played for about 160 visitors. Similar to the Russian organist Yulia Draginda, who opened the organ summer this year, Parolini’s one-hour performance followed a finely crafted, chronological course that combined a baroque prelude with a romantic body and extended into the early 20th century – all at a consistently high level, leaving behind, however, completely different impressions. Without putting pieces in a direct comparison, the organ summer invited to attractive and enlightening juxtapositions.
Both worked with contrasts, but while Draginda’s virtuosity found a temperamental, physical expression, the North Italian’s grasp seemed decidedly more spiritual. Where the Russian woman generated a tremendous emotional pull with her dramatic contours, Parolini thrilled with sensitive sound design, evoking mediation rather than the confrontation of opposites.
Transparency and synopsis count among the basic values in Parolini’s musicianship, seduction instead of overpowering is his artistic strategy. This was already the case with J.S. Bach’s sinfonia to the cantata « Wir danken dir » (BWV 29) in the arrangement by Alexandre Guilmant. The elegant restraint in the presentation of the magnificent chains of motives, fluid motion, was captivating. His interpretation accented the elegance of the work, which was written in Leipzig in 1731. The organ version of the Bach cantata « Ertödt uns durch dein’ Güte » (BWV 22) by Maurice Duruflé is naturally cantabile, muted counterpoint in a measured tempo.
The romantic timbre of the Voit organ of 1868 corresponds ideally to the « Six Fugues on the Name of BACH » op. 60 by Robert Schumann (1810-1856), two of which followed. The first the theme of Fugue No. 1 in B-Major develops sideways as it were, carried in the shadows, until the piece culminates with a triumphant gesture in a finale of dramatic dimension. Without such exaggeration, the Fugue No. 3 in g-minor, which lives up to its surname « with soft voices », is a delicate cradling in subtle registers.
Highly original Franz Liszt’s adaptation of « Der Gnade Heil », the pilgrim’s choir from the opera « Tannhäuser » by his future son-in-law Richard Wagner: sensitive, reverent, in pronounced chromaticism and intricate pianissimo, Parolini lucidly elaborates upon the character pointing to the modern age and lends something like an avant-garde undertone to the piece.
Two works by Johannes Brahms (1833-1883) were conceived to be immersed in the full richness of tonal colors: wonderfully depicted « Herzlich tut mich verlangen » Op. 122 No. 10, delicately intoned the pastoral praise of « Herzlich tut mich erfreuen » Op. 122 No 4. Solemn and introverted « Ave Maria » op. 80 No. 5 by Max Reger (1873-1916), subtle and cultivated Parolini’s technique also in the Andantino Op. 51 No. 2 by Louis Vierne (1870-1937).
Sonorous stops in the forte of the suspenseful « Rédemption » Op. 104 No. 5 by the Italian composer Marco Enrico Bossi (1861-1925), trustful his « Chant du soir » Op. 92 No. 1. Varied register changes characterized the final « Rapsodia italiana » by Pietro Alessandro Yon (1886-1943), elements of suite and toccata, interwoven with folkloric dance passages, almost childishly playful and then again overexcited, the grandiose finale culminated in broad chords.
The enthusiastic audience did not let the organist go without an encore: standing ovations followed Giuseppe Gherardeschi’s Rondo in G major.

Harry Schmidt (Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung, 2/08/2016)