Wednesday, April 6, 2011

'Sonatas and Toccatas:' The organ recital of Kurt Knecht

Nebraska Wesleyan University’s O’Donnell Auditorium was the location of Kurt Knecht’s organ recital yesterday evening. On the program were works by Bach, Rheinberger, and Jongen, composers that are heard at many organ recitals, but unique to this performance was the first performance of Dr. Knecht’s own organ piece entitled “Sursum Sonata.”
According to his official website, Dr. Knecht already has choral compositions that are a “staple of the modern choral festival literature having been performed on All State and ACDA concerts in over 15 states.” His work, “Manly Men,” has been a hit with men’s choirs (TTBB) and audiences for years.
Dr. Knecht received his Doctor of Music Arts degree in Musical Composition from UNL and was awarded the prestigious Folsom Distinguished Dissertation Award for his composition, “Missa Prolationem,” a beautiful piece incorporating historical compositional techniques with modern ones. This piece was for soloists, choir, string quartet, and organ.

On last night’s recital, the program was:
  • Sursum Sonata by Kurt Knecht (b. 1971)
  • 1. Surging Fluctuations
  • 2. Suspended Mirrors
  • 3. Spinning towards Euphoria
  • Sonate No. 7 in f minor Op. 127 by Joseph Rheinberger (1839-1901)
  • 1. Preludio – Allegro non troppo
  • 2. Andante
  • 3. Finale – Grave – Vivo
  • Toccata Op. 104 by Joseph Jongen (1873-1953)
The highlight of the evening was the premier of Dr. Knecht’s “Sursum Sonata.” Despite his many compositions and published works, Dr. Knecht has only composed one piece for organ before this work. He wrote the “Sursum Sonata” a few years ago for an undergraduate student who was studying organ at UNL, but the piece has not been performed publicly until now. Dr. Knecht introduced the piece by telling the audience to listen to the contrasting sections that make up the first movement of a sonata. Then he told the audience that the second movement would make use of inversion. According to the online Britannica Encyclopedia, “to invert a melody means to change its ascending intervals to descending ones and vice versa.” Imagine a melody in a mirror—reflected back at itself. That seems to be the inspiration for the title of that movement, “Suspended Mirrors.”

Lincoln should keep an eye out for further works and performances of Dr. Kurt Knecht!

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