MUSTRIC 1: EAST OF BERLIN
Music by Ben-Haim, Mussorgsky, Sokola and Suda
Paul Ben-Haim, Modeste Mussorgsky, Miklos Sokola, Peeter Suda
FLORENCE MUSTRIC, organ
Rudolph Von Beckerath Pipe Organ
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cleveland, Ohio
"Florence Mustric, organist of the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cleveland, Ohio, gives a moving recital on that church’s Von Beckerath organ that shows us why there is still room for a large mechanical-action organ of this sort. Built in Germany by Rudolph Von Beckerath and installed in 1956, this wonderful instrument was designed along baroque lines but, as the present recording clearly indicates, it is ideal for modern repertoire as well.
Beginning with Mustric’s own transcription of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, we hear early-on the qualities make this organ so distinguished, even as it passed its half-century mark at the time of these recordings. Though to the trained ear it was in need of renovation, the Von Beckerath shows, as early as “The Old Castle,” its beautiful degrees of tone coloring and rare ability to create atmosphere that are so essential to make this tableau come alive. “The Cattle,” a portrait of the world’s weary, blearing labor in the person of a yoke of oxen drawing an overloaded wagon, benefits from the deep sonorities of this instrument and the slow, steady rhythm that underlies the melody.
With 244 keys on the manuals and 32 pedals on a pedal board that is kept continually busy, Mustric clearly needed help in setting the stops, which undergo numerous changes in this recital – some 700 in Pictures alone – and she expresses gratification in her booklet annotation to the registrants who pulled the stops for her. This is no small matter, as it enables the artist to give a fluid performance that would not be possible otherwise. At 38:45, these Pictures have a longer playing time that we are used to in either the piano or the orchestral versions, but the result is by no means tedious, quite the opposite in fact. The transition between the recurrent Promenade theme and the “Ballad of the Unhatched Chicks” is a trifle labored, owing to the fact that the tableau music has to begin before the promenade has ended. But the transition from the flurried activity of “The Market Place at Limoges” to the stark solemnity of “Catacombs” is so accomplished, it takes one’s breath away – as was indeed Mussorgsky’s intention.The remaining tableaus – “With the Dead in a Dead Language,” “The Hut of Baba Yaga,” and “The Great Gate of Kiev” – transpire with the greatest excitement and conviction in this performance. One can feel Mussorgsky’s keen anticipation to commune with the spirit of his departed friend Hartmann in the first-named of these tone pictures, the slow movement through the catacombs, resting place of the dead, and the soft light that seems to glow within the pale skulls.
There follow two fine encores by Mustric: a Prelude by Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim that plays like a near-eastern lullaby with a more perturbed middle section, and a Toccata by Miloš Sokola that keeps the performer alert with its intense rhythms and fresh harmonies. The program concludes with a Prelude and Fugue in G minor by the rather short-lived Estonian composer Peeter Süda (1883-1920) that ought to be much better known than it is – a part of the organist’s standard repertoire, in fact. In its masterful fugal treatment of the famous BACH motto (that is, B-flat, A, C, B natural in German notation), it pays eloquent tribute to the great composer’s memory."
Phil Muse, Audio Society of Atlanta - August 2011
"The featured instrument is historically significant [and] sounds robust, incisive, colorful, coherent, and clear... Florence Mustric has chosen a program that is well-suited to [the organ]... Mustric performs [her own arrangement of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition] in a classically oriented manner, with crisp, clear phrasing and articulation that match the parameters of the instrument and provide a refinement and clarity to the music. Mustric chooses registrations that are appropriate to each tableau and consonant with the classical character of the instrument, which serves to underscore the temperament of the music surprisingly well. With this performance, one hears the familiar in a new, revealing way. Sokola's Toccata is played with strength, clarity and precision. The most compelling performance is [of the Suda]. Replete with emotional energy, [the work] concludes with a whisper. This disc is a welcome documentation of one of America's most significant instruments, revealing its flexibility in familiar and unusual repertoire."
The American Organist - May 2009
"A fine arranger-player thrills with colorful Pictures on the organ. Florence Mustric's version [of Pictures] provides a fresh spin on a piece originally for solo piano. Mustric's adaptation is a particularly spacious evocation of Mussorgsky miniatures, with all manner of expansive tempi allowing for time to dwell on details that may fly by in other versions. Even to ears accustomed to Ravel's wondrous spectrum of orchestral colours, the organ transcription has plenty of convincing and effective registrations. Mustric makes use of the highest wind-like sonorities with great success, just as the pedals add ample weight when needed. The instrument's grandeur is put to magnificent use in "The Great gate of Kiev". Mustric plays the Mussorgsky as if the work were born for organ. The recording's sound is excellent."
Gramophone - June 2008
The Beckerath organ
employed in this recording has the rare and winning combination of clarity, power and warmth. Its versatility makes it superb not only for Baroque masterpieces but also for music of almost every other style and period. The goal in recording this program is to showcase the fabulous qualities of the instrument in some of the most beautiful and imaginative music composed over the past three centuries.
These recordings document the sound of the Beckerath at its half-century mark, before restoration. After 50 years, the pipes, keyboards and many other parts need attention. Leathers and other items need replacing. This Beckerath still sounds wonderful, despite the need for restoration, a project currently under the direction of Leonard Berghaus.
RUDOLPH VON BECKERATH ORGAN (1956) Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cleveland, Ohio
This historic organ was the first large mechanical-action organ in North America. It was built in 1956 in Hamburg, Germany by Rudolph von Beckerath, who crafted it in the tradition of the organs of northern Europe in the Baroque era. With this organ, Beckerath demonstrated that centuries-old techniques of organ-building produce a beautiful sound that is transparent and powerful yet warm. Ideal for Baroque repertoire, this organ also serves music of many other styles and periods. It has inspired more than one generation of builders, organists and music lovers. This organ has 3,467 pipes arrayed in 65 ranks in five divisions.
Florence Mustric has a master of music in organ performance from Cleveland Institute of Music and a bachelor of arts from Oberlin. In April 1994, in order to showcase Trinity’s world-famous Beckerath organ at the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Ohio, Florence Mustric and Robert Myers, director of music, began Music near the Market, a concert series of themed programs presented free every Wednesday of the year.
MODESTE MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures an an Exhibition (Transcription by Florence Mustric)
PAUL BEN-HAIM (1897-1984)
MIKLOS SOKOLA (1913-1972)
PEETER SÜDA (1883-1920)
Prelude and Fugue in G minor