Kile Smith Recommends...
A Grand Celebration: The Philadelphia Orchestra Live with the Wanamaker Organ at Macy's Center City
The Historic Grand Court Concert
Peter Richard Conte, organist. Rossen Milanov, conductor
You're careful - Indiana Jones careful - not to touch anything. You tip-toe over cables and ducts and around wooden stairways and you see them everywhere. The pipes. Pipes thick as elms that rise two storeys. Pipes small as pencils, tin pipes, wood pipes, round and square pipes, growing, it seems, out of the fractals of corners, advancing on you...and the astonishing realization is that there are people here who know exactly where every pipe is.
This is the Wanamaker Organ. It has patio-sized bellows that could crush a lawn tractor. It's the largest functional musical instrument on the planet. The entire Grand Court of the store (now Macy's), surrounded by condominiums of ranks and choirs and chests and louvers, is really the instrument, and it's for this instrument, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, that Joseph Jongen wrote his Sinfonia Concertante. The deaths of the composer's father and the store owner postponed, and then canceled, the scheduled 1928 premiere. The music has been heard around the world, but not until 2008 did it finally erupt in this place, as if it had been waiting all this time. The CD of this live performance is worth the wait.
Facing all this power, you might expect to be pummeled. But the surprise is how lightly Peter Richard Conte makes this dance. He and Maestro Rossen Milanov coordinate these two behemoths - this great orchestra and organ - with precision. They delight in the illumined edges of sound, where harmonies brush by each other and decays ruffle the silence. You can almost feel the space. Just don't touch anything.--Kile
On This CD:
Marcel Dupre: Cortege and Litany
Joseph Jongen: Sinfonia Concertante
Edward Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance No. 1