Organ recital highlights Yale’s strength

On Friday, Michael Salazar MUS ’13 will perform his degree recital on one of the world’s finest organs — the Newberry Memorial Organ in Woolsey Hall.

Salazar will perform “choral fantasies” — rhapsodic compositions that include variations on a theme — by two early 20th-century German composers, as well as a prelude and fugue by Maurice Duruflé and a sonata by Felix Mendelssohn. The choral fantasies will be the “centerpiece” of Friday’s program, which Salazar said he discovered while researching at Yale’s libraries. Salazar said the libraries are just one part of the “vast wealth of resources” that attracted him to Yale — also including a two-person organ faculty, seven historic organs, the School of Music, the Divinity School and local professional opportunities.

The choral fantasies, which both draw upon the same German Lutheran chorale, were written by Heinrich Reimann and Max Reger in the same decade. He added that Reimann likely influenced Reger’s choral fantasy and later works. Salazar said these connections motivated him to juxtapose the two works in Friday’s program. Salazar will also perform an organ sonata by Mendelssohn and “Prelude and Fugue on the Name of A.L.A.I.N.” by Duruflé, who dedicated the work to organist and composer Jehan Alain and translated his name into notes to compose the main theme.

The organ program is part of the Institute of Sacred Music, an interdisciplinary graduate center for the study of sacred music, worship and related arts. A gift in 1973 established the institute, under which the organ program has secured its longevity, organ professor Martin Jean said. Yale’s dual strengths in the School of Music and Divinity School motivated the donors to establish the institute at Yale, he explained.

Salazar studies with Jean, one of two professors at the institute. In addition to having a faculty size as large as only three other schools in the country, Yale has seven organs, which are among the “best in the world,” Jean said. The organs in Dwight Memorial Chapel, Battell Chapel and Marquand Chapel, the ISM’s two organs and the Woolsey organ — one of the largest in the country — are all open to student performance, he said.

“[The Woolsey organ] is enormous and one of the most beautiful organs in terms of voicing,” Salazar said.

Jean and Salazar said Yale provides opportunities for practical experience playing the organ. The chapels on campus and in New Haven hire students to play in worship services, and the New England area provides more opportunities for organists than the Midwest or Southwest, Salazar said. As a secular university, Yale is unusual in having been built near so many Christian churches, Jean added.

Organ improvisation classes have given students practical tools to use for their careers, lecturer Jeffrey Brillhart said. Churches often need transitional music between different parts of their services, and the ability to create music on the spot ensures that an organist will play for an appropriate length of time, he explained. Communion, for instance, is not always five minutes long, so a five-minute written work may not always be appropriate, he said.

“For me personally, I have trouble without the music in front of me, so this has been an expansive and creative outlet,” Salazar said.

The organ recital will take place at 8 p.m. Friday in Woolsey Hall.

Correction: March 7

A previous version of this article mistakenly included a photograph of the Battell Chapel organ. In fact, Michael Salazar MUS ’13 will perform his degree recital on the Newberry Memorial Organ in Woolsey Hall, as the caption stated. 

Comments