Cameron Carpenter

I’m so occupied with farmers’ markets, preserving, cooking, eating, and socializing that i don’t usually even look at announcements of upcoming events, but last Thursday my eye was somehow caught by the San Francisco Symphony’s advertisement in the Chronicle about this afternoon’s Cameron Carpenter recital at Davies Hall.  Hmmm, i thought, finally after 28 years of fiddling around i’ve spotted an organ recital at Davies, so i could hear the magnificent Ruffatti for the first time.  Here are the specs.

<Oh, and even though i’d been thinking the best introduction to that organ would be a performance of Camille Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony, Carpenter might well give the organ a better workout.  After all, he outrages purists with the liberties he takes with classical compositions, and better yet, he’ll be performing the US premiere of five movements from his work in progress Science Fiction Scenes, described in the program notes as “essentially an opera for organ alone”.  If nothing else, i thought, Carpenter ought to provide some good entertainment since he’s already more flamboyant than Liberace was at his age.  Just saying, but when he performed movements from Science Fiction Scenes for the first time in Berlin last fall, he was described as a “bird of paradise”.  In a word, glitter.

So i agonized for a day and then on Friday went ahead and called the Symphony box office to get a ticket. And then, on the spur of the moment realized i should get two tickets so i could take somebody. But once the order was confirmed i started wondering if i knew anyone who might enjoy this spectacle, which took up most of the day until i thought of Tony, who not only likes classical music but doesn’t mind having it glittered up and is also not averse to a gay spectacle.

The recital? Well, i’d gone YouTubing and was ready.

He came glittering out and launched his transcription of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major.  Look, i’ve loved Bach since i was an undergraduate, but i have to say this may have been the most exciting Bach work i ever heard on the organ, or at least the most different one.  He followed this with Bach’s Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor, and it was equally exciting although i promise you it never sounded like this in Lüneburg.  You can hear, and see both of these works on the Berliner Philharmoniker’s site  It’s free after you register.

Carpenter followed the two Bach works with selections from Franck and Dupré, which were unconventional but enjoyable. And after the intermission he played the Science Fiction Scenes, getting in touch with his inner theater organ, and i just loved them. IMHO, he’s better at this than at revising the classical repertoire.

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