Organ Recital Press

A Concert to Celebrate
The 225th Anniversary of the Town of Claverack
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Review by Sheila Silver, composer

Gwen Gould’s playing on the organ at the Claverack Reformed Dutch Church was clear and crisp. Everything you’d expect from a person whose first incarnation was as an organist and is now returning after having focused for many years as a conductor. Bach’s Fantasy in g minor was dramatic and compelling and had the audience spellbound. Chorale Prelude “Kommst du nun” had charm and wit and Gwen’s handling of the chorale tune in the pedals was deft (with trills included). Her lively rendition of Buxtehude’s fugue in a minor made it a joy to follow the intricate dialogue. Well done Gwen!

Review/Music
by C.T. Barr
Weekend April 28-May 4, 1994
Taconic Newspapers Entertainment Weekly

New venue, artists are a nice surprise

There is nothing to compare with new pasture, is there? It is a tonic to find new cultural territory, new and enthusiastic artists of quality. So it was in Hudson, New York on Saturday afternoon at Christ Episcopal Church on Courthouse Square.

Gwen Gould, organist, and Jeffrey McClendon, baritone, presented a perfectly organized program in which four of J.S. Bach’s Chorale Preludes in the first half were countered with four of Brahms’ in the section after intermission. Mr. McClendon’s Bach arias fit into the Baroque segment and Vaughan Williams’ “Five Mystical Songs” played a similar role in the essentially Romantic part.

The Bach “Preludes” and “Arias” were framed with a Couperin “Chaconne” (cousin to the brass-oriented passacaglia form) and a stunning Buxtehude “Prelude and Fugue in A Minor.” No wonder that Bach was enchanted with Buxtehude’s works on his one extended visit outside the Leipzig area! The Prelude ends on an extended cadence over pedal-point and the Fugue is broken by an instrumental recitative which goes beyond tradition and provides elaborate flourishes adding only aesthetic advantages.

The cantata form was crucial to the Lutheran Service of Bach’s time. In the aria from No. 56, “Ich will den Kreuzstab Gerne Tragen” couplets of the verse are treated as separate units, in each instance making a salient contribution to the whole. Mr. McClendon chose a part of the Credo from the “B Minor Mass” for his second contribution to the first half on the program. As a soloist he handled the long melodic lines with ease. His voice has an even scale without “breaks” and, in these pieces, evidencing uniform color.

Of the Bach Chorale Preludes, two come from well-known works, “Wachet Auf!” and “Christ lag in Totesbanden.” the texture of the Brahms Preludes is quite different, attributable in part to the era in which they were written. In the final one, “O Gott, du frommer Gott,” well-placed rests lend drama to the polished, refined harmonies.

Mr. McClendon is an undemonstrative singer who does everything through the voice. Even so, Vaughan Williams’ “Mystical Songs” (on poetry of George Herbert), seemed more congenial to his temperament than the earlier Bach. In the first song there was more variety in the tone color, in the second, a beautiful opening lyric line. Of the fifth, “Antiphon,” there are so many settings of one kind or another that one waits, anxiously, to hear what yet another composer has done with the text. The final heroic manner seemed very appropriate, fitting natural.

Ms. Gould is an accomplished organist, in this instance somewhat impeded by an electronic instrument. She has a strong rhythmic sense and clean articulation, but above all, sensitivity to the material.

Throughout the Baroque half of the recital one was struck by the beauty of the sanctuary and of how it complemented what one was hearing. The time of the recital between day and night seemed almost symbolic.

Music Review
by Alan Hovhaness
The American Organist, June 1970

The organist, Gwen Gould, gave an outstanding program at St. Michael’s Church [New York City]. Her playing was always clear and technically of a high excellence. The lovely Magnificat of Jean Francois Dandrieu was especially beautiful in her choice of registration and her expressive, beautifully legato performance. Outstanding was her magnificent performance of the Great St. Anne Prelude and Fugue in E flat by J.S. Bach. She played this towering work with great majesty, clear precision and splendid rhythmic vitality. It was wonderful to follow such a clearly delineated rendering of the polyphonic compleities of this great triple fugue with its solemn and ever ascending first section, its light fantastic development of the second subject combined with a dance-like version of the first subject in many inversions, followed by the great culmination of the third subject in majestic triple counterpoint, with the first and second subjects, all leading to a brilliant, truiumphal ending. This great architectural work revealed her spendid mastery of all elements of organ playing and musicianship.

Following the intermission, she was joined by Louis Fletcher, trumpet, in a beautiful and moving performance of my Prayer of St. Gregory. Both organ and trumpet played with a Byzantine feeling of fervor. The Adagio and Allegro of G.F. Handel was beautifully played by two trumpets and organ, F. Joseph Docksey, joining the enseble with excellent effect.

The Suite, opus 5, by Maurice Durufle, is a large organ work in the grand post-Franck style, with some Ravel and Widor influences. This is in the form of a Prelude, Sicilienne and Toccata. This work revealed the organist in all her skill and sense of color. I found the Prelude most moving from a purely musical standpoint in its beautiful harmony. Each piece was different in style but highly inventive. She played the Toccata with great virtuosity and brilliance.

Music Review
by Alfreda Hays
the Summit Independent 10/21/1970

If ever a concert deserved to be described as “absolute perfection,” it was the program of music for organ and brass presented at St. Mary’s Abbey, Delbarton, last Sunday afternoon. All the elements that go to make up a memorable performance were present: highly skilled artists, an unusually well-planned program, excellent acoustics, and a good-sized, warmly appreciative audience. An added attraction was the presence of the gifted young composer Hubert Arnold, whose Sonata for two trumpets and organ appeared on the program.

Arrangements for this outstanding event – the third in the 1970-71 series of monthly concerts open to the public without charge – must again be credited to Father Gabriel M. Coless, who has an obvious knack for ferreting out exceptional talent. Gwen Gould, Assistant Organist at St. Luke’s Chapel, Trinity Parish, New York, first attracted Father Gabriel’s attention with her recital on St. Michael’s new Beckerath, considered one of the country’s finest tracker-action organs. In accepting the invitation to perform on the Abbey’s own tracker organ, Miss Gould, in turn, invited two associates to be part of the program – trumpet players Louis Fletcher and F. Joseph Docksey, II, now completing their Army service in the West Point Band.

Seated at the organ, dressed in a brightly colored mini-tunic over black tights, her dark curly hair cut short, the attractive miss Gould looked rather like a young page in a play by Shakespeare. The first bars of Maurice Durufle’s Prelude from his Suite Op. 5 (1930) which opened the program, however, left no doubts as to her qualifications as a concert organist, and an adventuresome one at that. To open the program with a contemporary French work was unusual enough, but to reverse the customary chronological order of programming and end with a work representative of the early North German School and make it work wa a credit to the extraordinary skill of the performer.

The Sonata in D by Petronio Franceschini introduced Messrs. Fletcher and Docksey, as agile a pair of trumpet players as it has ever been my pleasure to hear. Franceschini, who died in 1681, at the age of 31, is rarely mentioned in music histories, and then only as a composer of operas, so this work was a revelation. In four movements with typically Baroque tempi (slow-fast-slow-fast), it had more musical interest than many works of the period. the antiphonal effects so fluidly rendered by the well-matched trumpets over the organ continuo were more characteristic of the music used in the great Italian churches of the Renaissance. St. Mary’s, with its wonderful acoustic properties, was an ideal setting for this work, as well as the sparkling Sonata (1968) by Mr. arnold, who is staff arranger for the West Point Band. In three movements – March, Intermezzo, and Finale – this well-written modern work showed off the brillian technique of the two brass payers and their associate at the organ. The Sonata, incidentally, was written specifically for Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Docksey, who introduced the composer to share in the applause they received.

Miss Gould rounded out her program with two of Bach’s Schubler Chorales: “Meine Seele erhebet den Herrn” and the joyous “Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel herunter”, in which the Zimbelstern was used. Two Sketches by Rober Schumann were nicey registered to accentuate the romantic elements. Dietrich Buxtehude’s mighty Prelude and Fugue in A Minor was the grand finale. Miss Gould, who received not one, but two floral tributes, was repeatedly recalled by the enthusiastic audience.

Leave a Reply