Rochester, NY — After years of painstaking preparation on two continents — including two-and-a-half months in its new home at the Memorial Art Gallery — the only full-sized Italian Baroque organ in North America will make its highly anticipated public debut.
On Saturday, October 8, 2005, audiences will finally hear what is “virtually a ‘living recording’ of the musical sounds heard hundreds of years ago,” says Eastman Organ Professor Hans Davidsson. The antique organ will be the centerpiece of an extremely rare performance of Monteverdi’s magnificent Vespers (Vespro della Beata Virgine, 1610) which will also feature Tragicomedia and Concerto Palatino. These instrumental ensembles — made up of world-renowned early music virtuosi — are making their Rochester debut. Nine handpicked singers who are also internationally acclaimed Baroque specialists will join in this historic concert.
“Most often, the organ playing in the Monteverdi is relegated to a small, portable, modern pipe organ,” explains Eastman Organ Department Chair, Professor David Higgs. “This performance could very well be the first time in North America that the piece has been heard as originally conceived — with a large pipe organ tuned in meantone temperment playing in the ensemble of voices and period instruments.”
The official inauguration of Eastman School of Music’s one-of-a-kind organ will take place the previous evening at an invitation-only event. Special guests include new University of Rochester President Joel Seligman, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, County Executive Maggie Brooks, and Mayor William Johnson.
The inaugural concerts will also kick off the fourth annual Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative (EROI) Festival (October 6-16, 2005). Installation of the Italian Baroque organ is the first major accomplishment of EROI, the School’s ten-year initiative to assemble an unparalleled collection of new and historic organs in Rochester.
“This inauguration is the culmination of tremendous effort by many to preserve an essential element of music history,” says James Undercofler, Dean of the Eastman School of Music. “It also represents the beginning of an even larger effort — one that will make this music history come alive again — for our students, for this community, and for the world.”
As beautiful, authentic sounds fill the Memorial Art Gallery’s historic Herdle Fountain Court, the work of period artists will be a feast for the eyes as well. The organ — with its 600 pipes and lavishly carved, painted, and gilded 22-foot case — is the focal point of a new installation that highlights more than 30 major Baroque paintings and sculptures from the Gallery’s permanent collection. The museum’s latest acquisition, Luca Giordano’s monumental altarpiece The Entombment (1650-1653), is a powerful addition to this unique collaboration between the Eastman School of Music and the Memorial Art Gallery, both divisions of the University of Rochester. The Eastman organ, surrounded by major works of art from the Baroque period, immerses audience members and museum visitors alike in the rich visual and musical culture of 17th and 18th century Europe.
- Saturday, October 8, 7 p.m., MAG. Public inauguration concert, featuring Monteverdi Vespers with Tragicomedia and Concerto Palatino, Paul O’Dette, director. Reserved seats (extremely limited) are $50, available through RPO Box Office (454-2100).
- Sunday, October 9, 1 p.m., MAG. Organ concert (Hans Davidsson, David Higgs & William Porter). Limited general admission at door only, $10 ($5 for full-time students w/ ID)
- Sunday, October 9, 3 p.m., MAG. Repeat of Monteverdi Vespers at the Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word (597 East Avenue). General admission at RPO Box Office and door, $20
- Sunday, October 9, 8 p.m., MAG. Organ concert (Harald Vogel). Limited general admission at door only, $15 ($7.50 for full-time students w/ ID)
For a complete list of EROI concerts, please visit the EROI website. Organ performances at the MAG will continue after the EROI fest.
Editors and reporters:
There will be a closed preview performance on Thursday, October 6 at 7 p.m., which will be open to media who want to preview the organ inauguration. Eastman Organ Professors Hans Davidsson and David Higgs will be available for interviews starting at 6:15 p.m. Please contact Eastman’s Interim PR Director Sally Cohen to schedule an interview time. High-resolution photos and media kits are also available.