Gwendolyn Toth

Gwendolyn Toth is the director of the New York City-based early music ensemble, ARTEK, and a soloist on early keyboards (organ, harpsichord, fortepiano). She is married to harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, and they have three children.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The beautiful Noordbroek organ

On our day of recording in Noordbroek, we finished up the last 3 small pieces in short order, then spent an hour recording the Youtube video linked here. Dongsok amused himself with 3 different camera angles. I just kept playing! The piece is Bach's beautiful chorale prelude on Herzlich thut mich verlangen. What a wonderful way to end my time with this amazing instrument. In the week I was here, I grew to love the organ tremendously. The Bach piece sums up my feelings perfectly.

Later, a fun dinner with our Noordbroek hosts, Peter Westerbrink and Lenore Lub, who have both been so kind and helpful to us at a fish restaurant in Groningen. The next morning, we were up & in the car early, back to Schiphol where I went home, and Dongsok went to Germany (to see more organs, for a few days, before playing with REBEL.)

Here's the link on Youtube to the Noordbroek video Dongsok made:
Gwendolyn Toth plays Bach on the Schnitger organ in Noordbroek

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Visit to Norden, Germany

Today Dongsok and I, together with our friend Willem van Neck, visited the magnificent and unusual Arp Schnitger organ in the Ludgerikirche of Norden in Germany. The organ is unusual because of its placement - it wraps around the corner of two arms of the crossing. There are five divisions: Werk, Ruck Positif, Brust Positif, Pedal, and Ober Positif. The first four speak in one direction (towards the congregation), but the Ober Positif speaks to a different side (towards the main altar). The tuning is a 1/5 comma meantone, which means in theory G# and Ab can be played from the same keys, but nevertheless they do tend to favor one (G#) over the other. The keyboards are short octave (lacking C#, Eb, F# and G# in the lowest octave), although the Ruck Positif and Pedal do have extra keys in the bass for some off those missing notes.

I tried a variety of pieces. Some Bach pieces were fine: in keys like A major, F major, etc. Not ones with high D (organ only goes to high C). Not anything in far keys - no B minor definitely for sure! Bruhns Praeludium in E, surprisingly, was so frighteningly badly in tune that it was unplayable. Buxtehude E minor Ciaccona, however, was fine. Scheidemann, of course, was all fine. Boehm fine too. Very interesting. I expected Bruhns to be perfect. I did not expect the tuning to be so "mean" for this organ.

Some pictures: Willem and I outside the church, me at the keyboards playing, and a short video of a few Pachelbel variations (but, recorded up in the organ loft - so no real idea possible from this of the beautiful sound of the organ in the actual space.)