who or what the star of the show is here. The remarkable young
Latvian organist Iveta Apkalna takes centre-stage in a programme
of astonishingly virtuosic and mostly little-known works. Apkalna
(b. 1976) studied organ and piano in her home country, before
moving to London to pursue piano tuition at the Guildhall School
of Music and Drama. Thereafter she continued her organ studies
in the Conservatory of Stuttgart under Ludger Lohmann. She has
already performed all over Europe and won prizes both there
and further afield, for example at Calgary.
playing is frankly astonishing, her concert pianist training
clearly evident. This is a refreshingly original programme of
extremely demanding pieces, including no less than twenty minutes
of pedal solos (gimmicky to say the least). Apkalna makes it
all sound heart-breakingly straightforward. Best played are
possibly the Eben and Liszt. The division between the pieces
related to Heaven and those related to Hell is rather subjective
and ultimately fairly arbitrary. The
Duruflé Toccata, the only piece of really mainstream repertoire,
is flawlessly whizzed through. I would have preferred a little
more profundity, this is after all what Louis Robilliard described
as "an epic poem, a new Pièce Héroïque", more than
a mere show-stopper.
I can understand the choice of organ for such a diverse programme,
I find it a little unimaginative. It is a 1987 Rieger of 39
stops and sounds like an extremely typical work of that builder
from the late Glatter-Gotz period. Every stop is voiced as a
solo stop, big chunky flutes, french-ish reeds in the 'Schwellwerk',
rock-steady wind, a curiously dull tutti, and an overwhelmingly
neutral eclecticism, (doubtless combined with the finest engineering
imaginable in large-scale European organ building). While the
organ is spot-on for the Eben, how I would have liked to have
heard the Liszt transcriptions played on the famous Walcker
in the Cathedral in Riga, Latvia where Ms Apkalna is seen playing
in one of the many photos of her in the booklet. The notes in
the latter are good, but the English is rather poorly translated.
for the unusual repertoire and the sheer virtuosity of the playing.
It will be interesting to see what this phenomenally
talented organist records next. I hope to hear her in some perhaps
more mainstream repertoire on a really first-rate organ.