Gerard Gillen (organ)


Pro-Cathedral, Dublin

Liszt – Tu es Petrus. Ave Maria (Arcadelt). Angelus! San Francesco. Salve Regina. Prelude and Fugue on BACH.

Liszt stands at the top of the pantheon of piano virtuosos. He invented the recital as we know it, choosing to focus for the first time on a single performer, himself – “Le concert, c’est moi!” he jokingly remarked. And his reputation has never dimmed, even though he was in his 30s when he abandoned the life of the travelling virtuoso.

Later, he also wrote for the organ, sometimes with the flamboyance for which he was famous on the piano, and sometimes with an inwardness that reminds one of the fact that he entered the minor orders of the Catholic Church when he was 53, hence the nickname Abbé Liszt.

Gerard Gillen’s all-Liszt programme commemorated the bicentenary of the composer’s birth with music that ranged from the sweetly sentimental to the questioning to the overtly virtuosic. It was the kind of programme that set out to remind one of an extraordinary fertility of invention that Liszt unleashed.

Gillen’s handling of the shorter pieces was a little impatient, sometimes even rhythmically itchy, as if he wasn’t comfortable at the idea of dwelling too fully in the sweetness and apparent simplicity of certain aspects of Liszt’s world, and wanted instead to move things on in a more business-like way.

But once he reached the great Prelude and Fugue on BACH, he seemed to be on home territory, glorying in the possibilities of the Pro-Cathedral’s Walker organ, and ensuring that Liszt in the church sounded at last as exciting as Liszt in the concert hall.

This was the first of a weekly Wednesday lunchtime series that continues until September 28th.