Simon Preston, world-renowned recitalist, recording artist and organist-choirmaster at London's Westminster Abbey, gave a spectacular organ concert for a capacity crowd yesterday afternoon at National City Christian Church.
This concert inaugurated the city's first five-manual console and 20 new ranks of pipes recently added to the National City organ, making this 141-rank Moller organ the second-largest in the city.
But it was Preston's artistry, his rhythmic control and his sense of registration color that were the real stars of the afternoon. The centerpiece of his program was Franz Liszt's Fantasia and Fugue on the Chorale "Ad Nos," a technical and musical tour de force that was both quintessential Liszt and quintessential Preston. The organ's lush strings and delicate solo voices brought to life the poetic sections just as the battery of festival trumpets (the most commanding Washington has ever heard) made the finale a moment to remember.
The theme of Louis Vierne's Carillon de Westminster is adapted from the quarter hour peal of the chimes of Big Ben, and Preston played this French toccata with particular affection. The Vierne and the work that closed the program, the first movement of Marcel Dupre's Symphonie-Passion, showed this instrument to be as equally suited to French romantic repertoire as it was to the German.
The first half of the program included a sprightly reading of Handel's Concerto in G Minor, two works by Bach, a chorale prelude, "An Wasserflussen Babylon," and the monumental "St. Anne" Prelude and Fugue.