Bruce Stevens Presents Varied and Polished Performance
On Friday, November 13, guest organist Bruce Stevens presented a varied program of works by Niels Gade, Max Reger, Hugo Distler, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Johann Gottfried Walther, Johann Ludwig Krebs and Johann Sebastian Bach. His program was developed around the theme “The Leipzig Connection.” The excellent program notes provided by the artist opened with this summary paragraph: The ancient trade and university city of Leipzig, first mentioned in 1015, played a role in the lives of all the composers represented in this evening’s program. Some were born there; some attended the city’s university and/or music conservatory; some lived and worked there for a period of time; and some visited to engage in music-related activities. All were influenced by the Heldenstadt (Hero City) where the peaceful demonstrations that began in 1989 led to the disintegration of the East German communist regime and the ensuing reunification of Germany.
Mr. Stevens’ program was carefully planned to present contrasting tonal styles, variety of tempi, and length of pieces presented. The works of Niels Gade and Hugo Distler were likely less familiar than were the com-positions by Reger, Schumann, Brahms and Walther. Perhaps the first hearing for many in the audience, Mendelssohn’s Allegro, Chorale and Fugue in D Minor (1844) is the most substantial of the “new” Mendelssohn works “discovered” by American musicologist Professor William A. Little and published in 1987. One could consider Mr. Stevens’ choice of concluding his program with the Bach Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542 an “act of bravery!” The fugue is relentless and poses a challenge to any performer which Mr. Stevens met with aplomb and skill. Mr. Stevens’ tasteful registrations, mature and musical performances left the listeners with a sense of satisfaction of a program well-presented. The program was especially suited to the Maurine Jackson Smith Organ, designed, fabricated and installed in 2004 by the Rudolf von Beckerath Orgelbau of Hamburg, Germany. At the University of Richmond in Virginia, Mr. Stevens performs and teaches on a 1962 von Beckerath organ, one of the early instruments the company exported to the United States.
Bruce Stevens is active as a recitalist in the U.S. and Europe and has performed recitals for 21 annual national conventions of the Organ Historical Society, for several regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists, and for national conventions of the American Institute of Organbuilders. After receiving music degrees from the University of Richmond and the University of Illinois, he moved to Europe for three years of organ study, first in Copenhagen with Finn Viderø and Grethe Krogh and then in Vienna with Anton Heiller. Mr. Stevens was a finalist in the AGO organ performance competition as well as in other competitions held in Los Angeles and Fort Wayne. He has recorded seven discs for Raven Recordings, including a series of CDs devoted o Josef Rheinberger’s organ sonatas played on various historic American organs. He is Instructor of Organ at the University of Richmond and director of Historic Organ Study Tours (HOST), which he founded to further the study of historic organs throughout Europe.
This program was the second program in the 2018-2019 Southern Nevada Chapter AGO’s Organ Recital Series. A few more than 100 people attended the recital in Dr. Rando-Grillot Recital Hall in the Beam Music Center on the UNLV campus.