Reviews: Peter Planyavsky (organ) – St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin
This year’s biennial George Hewson Memorial Recital marked a long-awaited return to Ireland by Peter Planyavsky, professor of organ and improvisation at Vienna’s University for Music and Drama. The Viennese thread running through his programme led to crannies of the repertoire that even the more intrepid of organ aficionados might not previously have explored.
From the late Romantic era, a Fantasy in D flat by Robert Fuchs was ample testimony to Brahms’s opinion that “Fuchs is a splendid musician; everything is so fine and so skilful, so charmingly invented”.
Fuchs’s pupil Franz Schmidt was represented by an imposing set of variations, based on fanfares from his own inauspicious debut opera, Fredigundis. The Brucknerian source material itself held out little promise, but from its foundations arose a sequence of six intriguing character pieces, a short chorale, and a fugue. Along the way, addicts of chromatic harmony, evolving tonality, scholarly counterpoint and abundant virtuosity could all take their fix.
Though Planyavsky might have included a composition or two of his own, he instead improvised on a submitted theme, Veni redemptor. The resulting 13 minutes were among the evening’s most vividly varied, and placed their plainchant matter in more seductively modern surroundings than those of Ecce lignum crucis by Planyavsky’s teacher Anton Heiller – a stern interweaving of modal melody and rigid atonalism.
There were samples, too, of the less familiar side of two non-Austrian giants. Though Franck’s discursive Fantaisie in A was perhaps too strongly coloured by this organ’s idiosyncratic tone quality, Mendelssohn’s Allegro in D minor struck a fine balance between focus and fluidity.
Planyavsky’s delivery was consistently and shrewdly musical, and it made this recital much more than merely entertaining. ANDREW JOHNSTONE