NEW YORK – The world premiere of Greek-Cypriot composer Aris Antoniades’ Toccata & Fugue for Organ took place on February 5 at St. Michael’s Church in Manhattan. Organist Shannon Murphy performed the piece which was commissioned for Fresh Pipes: A Concert of World Premieres for Organ a project created by organists Austin Philemon and Murphy.
Offering a wonderful opportunity to hear five impressive new works by talented young composers, the concert was also free and open to the public.
Born and raised in Limassol, Cyprus, Antoniades, 27, is already building an impressive resume of compositions. His Toccata & Fugue for Organ kicked off the Fresh Pipes concert and immediately drew the audience in with its magical, lyrical quality and powerful dramatic moments. Antoniades managed to capture in this one piece, the depth and breadth of what the organ can do, the spiritual heights, the drama, the tension, and the all-encompassing sound of the notes filling the space of the church, totally immersing the listener in this world of sound created by the composer. The emotional effect was powerful and gave just a short, yet impressive sample of what the talented Antoniades can accomplish in music since this was his first ever composition for organ.
Audience members applauded enthusiastically, appreciating the work and Murphy’s playing of the difficult piece. She commented to The National Herald following the concert that the piece was “quite a workout” for the organist.
Antoniades also spoke with TNH following the concert, expressing his gratitude for the opportunity and the support of Murphy and Philemon in organizing the concert and including his piece to open the concert of world premieres.
Five composers originating from five different countries were commissioned to write innovative new works for the organ, showcasing what the instrument can do in the 21st century. The works were performed by organists Philemon and Murphy, and percussionist Jon Clancy.
Following Antoniades’ Toccata & Fugue, Suzanne Kosowitz from Perth, Australia via internet video call, introduced her work Eitz Chayim (Tree of Life). She wrote the moving piece after the tragic news spread of the shooting massacre that took place in Pittsburgh last year, at the Tree of Life Synagogue. It is based on the prayer of the same name, when the Torah scroll is returned to the Aron Hakodesh (Holy Ark) at the end of the service.
Lydia Wayne Chang’s Hypnos was inspired by Greek mythology and a conversation she had with Murphy about dreams and the subconscious. Hypnos is the Greek god of sleep, who is the son of Nyx, the Night, and Erebus, the Darkness. Hypnos lives with his brother Thanatos (Death) in the underworld, Hades.
There will come soft rains by Victor Baez was performed by Philemon and percussionist Jon Clancy. Baez noted the post-apocalyptic inspiration for the work in his introduction. The organ and percussion worked together perfectly to convey the tension and emotion in the evocative work.
Austin Philemon performed his own piece, vaporwave.mp3, for a fine conclusion to the concert. Drawing inspiration from various types of music, Philemon highlighted yet another aspect of the organ’s capabilities.
Murphy thanked all those in attendance and all who supported the project through the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, as well as the Manhattan School of Music Organ Department and St. Michael’s Church for hosting the event.