Even prior to Mechanics Hall’s “Crashcendo” (the Steinway concert grand that rolled off stage during a concert intermission stage re-set in the 1980s), there have been tense moments in Worcester’s concert history. Presumably soon after the 1957 concert, the faulty generator was disconnected and now an OrgElectra DC power supply (“rectifier”) supplies 15 VDC to the instrument. (see nameplate images in the Gallery pictures)
Feb. 1957 T&G Articles for Virgil Fox Recital
By RAYMOND MORIN
Telegram Music Critic
In a spectacular organ recital last night at the Auditorium, Virgil Fox gave a memorable exhibition of virtuoso playing.
Just as worthy of admiration was his devotion to the instrument’s gentle voices and music that’s directed at the heart and poetic sensibilities.
Fox acquaints his audience (last night’s was a large one) with a warm personality. When he described his Bach scores, he made one feel that the music was to be a most personal communication from the German master.
And when he told of playing Durufle’s Suite, Opus 5 last October in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, you were brought closer to the music than reams of program notes could have accomplished.
But the audience had no idea how informal this recital was to be until Fox reached the last stretches of Bach’s “Now Thank We All Our God.”
He had woven Bach’s original melody around and over the Chorale tune with wonderful skill. Volume began to amass. Stops were added deftly while keyboards and pedals were under fire—then nothing. Fox arose and asked for a “doctor.” One stepped forward in the person of Martin G. Becker of Waltham. In the Cellar it was discovered that a generator was in need of repair.
From a special standpoint, nothing more disastrous could have happened than in Bach’s Toccata and Fugue that was four selections beyond the Chorale.
Not that the Toccata had been Innocent of any wrong notes, but it was a masslve accumulation of subjects—sonorous and mightily impressive. The Fugue was rolling along quite impeccably. The subject had been spoken in the four voices—episodes had built up the structure—the brilliant recitative at the end had gone at breakneck speed—and there remained but two immense chords to be played. The very last succumbed to more generator trouble.
When it was rectified[sic], Fox repeated and brought the work to its massive “Amen.”
One of Greatest
He also explained to the audience that these things do happen—in fact it happened at his home instrument in Riverside Church, New York City. He also called the Auditorium Organ “one of the greatest in the world.”
Fox taught a lesson to organists who permit Bach’s music to become dull for want of tonal color. He derived beautiful sounds from the ‘Adagio Cantabile.” The “Fugue a la Gigue” wasn’t only brilliant Execution, it was virtually drenched in good spirit and when the tune reached the pedals, he literally “danced a jig.”
Much the same can be said—character –wise—about Edmundson’s “Elfin Dance,” and the Scherzo from Vierne’s Second Symphony. The fireworks were set off in the Durufle Suite and Reger’s Fantasy and Fugue on “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star.”
Fox has his individual style. In rampant passages he emphasizes the rhythm with sideways head and shoulder motions. And when he reaches the final stage of stentorean volume, he looks up at the right bank of pipes as if he’s investigating where it’s coming from.
These don’t influence or alter the energy, drama, and magnificent musicality that went into such as the Durufle and Reger.
Nor did these bents in “showmanship” deter him from squeezing every ounce of beauty he could from the Suite’s Sicilienne. It was crystal-like in sound.
The Toccata was an eminent ”tour-de-force”—so was the Fugue from the Reger score.
In his December 1955 Auditorium recital, and again last night, Fox proved that the organ has an unchallenged membership among the aristocrats of the concert platform.
As such, he stands with Horowitz, Heifetz, and Piatigorsky.
Virgil Fox, presented by Worcester Chapter, American Guild of Organists, in a recital on the Worcester Memorial Auditorium organ.
By Johann Sebastian Bach: “Now Thank We All Our God,” “Adagio Cantabile,” “Fugue a Ia Gigue,” “Have Mercy Upon Me, O God,” “Toccata and Fugue in D minor.” Edmundson: “Elfin Dance,” Durufle, “Suite,” Op. 5, Prelude, Sicilienne, Toccata. “Scherzo” from Symphony II, Vierne; “Greensleeves,” Vaughan Williams; Fantasy and Fugue on the Chorale: “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star,” Reger.
By JOHN F. KYES
Capitalizing on the great success of’ the recital given by Virgil Fox at the Auditorium in December 1955, the local A. G. O. chapter made history last night with a return engagement.
While the hall was not filled, I feel sure that this was by far the largest audience in the entire. history of Worcester to ever come out for the single purpose of hearing organ music.
As devotees of Fox know so well, the reward of the audience is threefold. There is splendid sound, also the visual pleasure of seeing the most formidable tasks performed gracefully, and the rare personal charm of what Mr. Fox says.
Last night, there was ·an added thrill, as the huge instrument left the organist suspended several times: in the midst of a piece, with no sound when the keys were pressed. This happened at times of great stress, when the soloist was calling on the organ for climaxes of power. Mr. Fox handled the situation with whimsical skill, pointing out that we have one of the finest instruments in the world, but that it needs use in order to avoid “gumming up” of vital parts or delicate controls.
Frank Kronoff, Auditorium manager, confirmed Mr. Fox’s statement that the trouble was in the generator associated with the organ, and that brushes of the generator were failing to function at critical times.
Virgil Fox is unique in the truest sense, and you would not want anyone else to play just that way, for this style is peculiarly his own. He can take music apart and reveal things without actually disjointing the structure. Much as Fox worships Bach, and worships through the music of Bach, he does not play the music “straight,” but devises all sorts of special effects.
The genius of Fox shone perhaps at its best in the challenging modern work by Maurice Durufle. The audience relished the chatty but eloquent description of how Fox played this work in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It seemed unlike boasting, but rather a sharing of a treasured experience.
In the formidable Toccata which concluded this work, even Fox seemed at times to meet his match, not technically but in the realm of making the music coherent. The whole suite constituted a triumph for the artist and for modern music, proving in this case at least that unusual approaches to the mystic, the dainty and the immense can all be palatable.
Fox showed fine taste after the “Adagio Cantabile” and “Have Mercy Upon Me, O God,” so handling himself that the audience was aware that he did not desire applause.
Footwork, which was not only skillful but also exceedingly neat to watch, was featured in the Bach Fugue ”where the organist dances a jig,” and even more strongly in the final encore, scored entirely for the pedals.
Daintiness of the sort which employs a charming variety of registrations was found in the “Elfin Dance,” in the Vierne “Scherzo,” and in an encore about a little French clock. Vaughan Williams’ setting of the traditional “Greensleeves” was softly voiced also, with its tragic story softened through the eyes of memory.
The Auditorium organ spoke out with fine fullness of power (such as very few players can achieve with good taste) in the initial and final Bach offerings and in the Reger work. This was one of the rare and thrilling evenings when one could glory in sound and delight in every new climax which brought more of the golden flood.
Generator Is Blamed
For Organ’s Failure
The failure of the organ in Worcester Auditorium at a concert last night has been laid to generator trouble.
The organ failed twice as Virgil Fox of New York City was giving a recital, the first time during Bach’s “Now Thank We All Our God,” the second during Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor.”
Mr. Fox commented at the time, “This is one of the great organs of the world and as it is great, so has been its neglect.”
The organ, which cost about $50,000 when installed in 1933, is worth about $150,000 today, according to Dr T Charles Lee, Worcester organist. He added that even at that price, it couldn’t be duplicated.
Needs More Use
Mr. Fox explained that in order to function properly, the organ should be played more often.
“It must be used in order to function. Unfortunately, it is played very little,” he said. Mr. Fox also explained to the audience that such things do happen, ·that it has happened to him at his home instrument in Riverside Church in New York City.
Frank G. Kronoff, auditorium manager said this is the first time to his knowledge that the organ has ever falled. He added that he has worked in the Auditorium since its dedication in1933.
He said the cause of the breakdown was in the generator which supplies the electric power to operate the organ
Service Chief Present
Mr. Kronoff said Martin Becker of Waltham who is in charge of the organ’s servicing, was present both during rehearsals and at the recital.
He said Mr Becker is responsible for care of all parts of the organ with the exception of the generator, which is the auditorium’s responsibility.
Commenting on Mr Fox’s statement that the organ is “very little played,” Mr. Kronoff said it is normally used about a dozen times a year, not usually for such extensive programs as last night.
He said the generator would be removed and given an overhaul by an electrical contractor.