Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Lionel Rogg Organ Recital
Royal Festival Hall 2 December 2004 and
RoggFest Royal Academy of Music March 2006

Johann Sebastian Bach Fantasia in G major; Chorale preludes Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland & Vor deinen Thron; Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel Hoch; Passacaglia & Fugue, BWV 582
Nicolas de Grigny from the Gloria of the Mass
Franz Liszt Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, S.180
Lionel Rogg Meditation on B.A.C.H. (2000)

Lionel Rogg returned to the RFH organ after many years and talked with Andrew McCrea in a pre-recital interview which was well structured and unfailingly fascinating. He is more concerned with 'intuition' and enjoyment than academic research. He has no time for theory unless he finds it 'necessary' to himself as a performer.

He does not listen to his youthful Zurich/Metzler recordings of Bach, which influenced a whole generation of British organists. They achieved remarkable sales that would be impossible nowadays; Lionel Rogg regards them now as "just a snapshot" of his playing at the time.

He was interested in Walcha's recordings, not on account of his intrpretations, but because the historical organs fired his enthusiasm to continue his post graduate studies in organ rather than piano. Rogg's . He admired the Silbermann organ in Arlesheim, which he used for his stereo recording; the instrument 'breathes' and the acoustic is ideal.

Lionel Rogg said that he admires the RFH organ, despite its having an electrical action; it is "not too brutal, a little vague, which I like". With "strength of will" you can make an organ sound as you wish. He gave short shrift to current beliefs that Bach should be played non-legato, reminding us that Johann Sebastian had been rediscovered by 19C. romantics, Mendelssohn etc. He demonstrated at the piano how Bach's suspensions create tension and have to be resolved legato, otherwise their meaning is destroyed. He relishes in his favourite composer "the endless succession of suspensions, like an endless stream (Bach means stream)".

About his own prolific composing, Lionel Rogg said that he has taught himself to compose in many styles, but "intuition is my guide". He has written an eclectic series of Hommages, including the Meditation on B.A.C.H. which he included in his recital before ending with the last of the Eighteen chorales. He develops his works from private improvisations (he does not improvise in concerts) and likes to combine strict counterpoint with freedom. He had transcribed Brahms and Bruckner (whose orchestral music sounds well on the organ) but is not greatly interested in the majority of 19 C organ composers. He worships J S Bach, but has been influenced also by Liszt.

In the recital which followed, Lionel Rogg selected registrations which were overall quieter than my frequent experience of the organ at RFH. There was occasional instability of rhythm, but the effect of his playing as a whole was absorbing and it was a privilege to hear this famous veteran, vigorous and clearly in excellent health, once again.

Lionel Rogg Discography at http://www.lionelrogg.ch/
J.S.BACH Complete Organ Works played on the Silbermann organ in Arlesheim
Harmonia Mundi HMX 2907283 (12cds)

RoggFest Royal Academy of Music 20-22 March 2006

A 3-day concert series (free, no tickets required) featuring Lionel Rogg as both performer and composer celebrates the 70th birthday of "an iconic presence on the international stage and in recordings for over 40 years".

Concerto and Song Monday 20th March 6:00pm Duke’s Hall

Lionel Rogg
Concerto for Organ and chamber orchestra (world premère)
Zwei Marien-lieder for soprano and organ*
Incantations for percussion and organ**
Kisetsu no iro, kisetsu no oto (Cantata on 17 Haikus) for soprano and ensemble (UK première)

Lionel Rogg organ
Pippa Goss soprano
Alexander Eadon organ*
David Pipe organ**
Gerry Cornelius conductor

A rewarding afternoon spent at RAM (Matthias Dammann's esoteric but fascinating lecture on hadn enjoyable early evening concert launched this tribute to one of Switzerland's most famous 20th C musicians. The organ concerto is a recently revised work dating from c. 1953, when the composer was 17 and patently under the influence of Hindemith. The beautiful slow movement was unaltered, but the outer ones have been extended with 'reworking of some clumsy passages'. The scoring is for a small group of strings with flute, oboe, bassoon, celeste and glockenspiel, and Lionel Rogg found some sparkling registrations for the delightful solo part. A welcome addition to a limited repertoire which could have an ongoing concert life.

Two student organists took to the console for other examples of Rogg's varied compositions. Incantations for Japan (1993) lacked its final movement 'with the percussionist free to improvise on all kinds of exotic instruments'; does RAM not have a suitable supply? The Marienlieder were delivered with lovely tone by Pippa Goss, who also introduced to UK in Japanese Rogg's 17 Haikus, pithy images taking us through the seasons.

My impression is that Rogg may not be an important 'overlooked' composer (and perhaps would not consider himself one) but is well deserving of this in depth exposure, which could not have happened in this country save for the enterprise of RAM. The remaining early evening concerts today and tomorrow (at St Marylebone Parish Church, opposite the Academy) will fill out the picture of Lionel Rogg as organist and composer and are recommended to those within range.


Lionel Rogg Organ Recital
6 p.m. 21st March Marylebone Parish Church (Free, no tickets)
Sweelinck Fantasia cromatica
Frescobaldi Toccata quarta (Book 2); Toccata quinta (Book 2)
Lionel Rogg Toccata per l’Elevatione and Toccata sopra i pedali from ‘Omaggio a Frescobaldi’
JS Bach Passacaglia and Fugue
in C minor BWV582; Wir glauben all an einen Gott BWV709
Mozart transcr. Rogg Overture, The Marriage of Figaro
Lionel Rogg The Four Elements (Hommage à Takemitsu)

RoggFest: Final Concert 5 pm 22nd March St Marylebone Parish Church (Free, no tickets required)
Lionel Rogg, David Titterington, Ourania Gassiou, Eleni Keventsidou, Aleksandr Nisse, David Pipe and Arnfinn Tobiassen organ
Pippa Goss soprano
Lionel Rogg La Cité Celeste;
Pièce for Oboe and organ;
Arcature: Apparition, Evocation and Finale;
Laudes Creaturarum for soprano and organ;
Hommage à Duruflé


© Peter Grahame Woolf