15 August 2009

A tree no one heard fall in the forest

When Albert Ahlstrom played the long-awaited (well, I waited a while for it, I can tell you) première of my designedly demanding organ Toccata, at St Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta (9 October 2005), it was a non-event in the press.

That of itself would not seem unusual, but that Atlanta Journal-Constitution music critic Pierre Ruhe did review the concert. The review concentrates on new works by Atlanta composers, so my première went unnoted, through the accident of my not being a local composer. (Since none of my music has been reviewed in hard print here in Boston, either — not even Out in the Sun, at whose première I did with pleasure note the presence of the critic from a local paper, in which no comment on my piece ever appeared, that I wot of — far be it from me to hold any grudge against Mr Ruhe.)

A devoted cadre of diplomatic friends commented on the on-line AJC; for which I am grateful, as this drew the revelation that Mr Ruhe had indeed made some notations about the Henning Toccata:

Indeed this article was centered on Atlanta composers, which explains why the world premiere of the six-minute Toccata by Boston-based Karl Henning (b. 1960) was left out of an already oversized review.

But I was listening. In my notes, I described the Toccata, composed in 2004 but premiered on Sunday, as Gothic in style, inspired by Widor. The Toccata’s energy was restless, often prowling and catlike, sometimes sounding like it was pent up in too small a container, looking for an outlet. Near the end — this is from my notes — the music was making me nervous, all that bottled energy, ready to explode. Organist Albert Ahlstrom, as ever, gave it a winning and showy performance.

Pierre Ruhe ajc music critic
“Prowling and catlike”; I’ll take it.

(The composer again extends hearty thanks for all their kindness, to Mark, Stephen, Mike, Davey & Pepper — who, I can assure you, Gentle Reader, are not the same person.)

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