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Duo Organists' U.S. Debut to Set Church Bells Ringing

August 28, 1990|KENNETH HERMAN

From Ferrante and Teicher to the Labeque sisters, duo piano teams have always been popular attractions on the concert circuit. But touring duo organists are rare birds. But at 8 p.m. Thursday in Point Loma's All Soul's Episcopal Church, Austrian Johann Trummer and Filipino Armando Salarza will play a concert of 18th-Century music for two organs. This concert is the first on the duo's six-city North American tour that will take them up the West Coast to San Francisco and Seattle and as far east as Boston.

Thursday's program will mark their American debut, but they are used to taking their two-organ show on the road.

"We've toured in Austria and have performed this music in Manila," explained Trummer, who is dean of the church music department at the Graz Conservatory in his native Austria.

"When we played in Rome," Salarza added, "we even did a program of music for three organs. When we went to Manila, we repeated the concert with two organs and a harpsichord."

Music for multiple organs is itself a rarity because a church or concert hall is fortunate to have even a single pipe organ worthy of concert performance. In order to present this unique program at the Point Loma church--which boasts a large Baroque-style organ of recent vintage--a smaller chamber organ with just a few ranks of pipes has been brought in.

The most significant collection of music for two organs is a set of six solo concertos written by the 18th-Century Spaniard Antonio Soler, who, like Trummer, was a Roman Catholic cleric. It was not unusual in Soler's time to find in Spanish cathedrals two organs built facing one another on either side of the high altar. Such an arrangement can even be found today in the Mexico City cathedral, which was patterned after Spanish models. Trummer and Salarza will perform two of Soler's concertos on Thursday's program, as well as a Sonata for Two Organs by Johann Christian Bach.

The 24-year-old Salarza, now a graduate student at the Vienna Musikhochschule, was sent on scholarship to study under Trummer in Graz.

"I started to play organ at age 9, when I played the bamboo organ in my home city of Las Pinas," said Salarza. "I had already studied piano for two years."

The unique Philippine "bamboo organ" is an instrument of some note among musicologists and a popular tourist attraction because of its unusual construction. Unlike most organs, which are built of many ranks of metal pipes, the Las Pinas instrument was constructed almost entirely of native bamboo pipes under the direction of an early 19th-Century Spanish missionary. When Salarza finishes his studies in Europe, he will return to Las Pinas, an industrial suburb of Manila, to perform and teach.

Because every location on the duo's concert tour presents not only different instruments, but a different configuration of the two organs--duo pianists always find two concert grands in the same facing position--performance preparation requires a certain flexibility.

"It's not that difficult to master the problem," said Salarza, "when I practice, I just imagine I am in a big, reverberant cathedral."

"But it does help if the two organs are not too far distant apart in the room," added Trummer with a professorial footnote to the observation of his optimistic student.

Lots of pops. Though the San Diego Symphony's SummerPops season still has another two weeks remaining, the orchestra has begun to tout its WinterPops offerings. Last week, executive director Wesley Brustad announced that the season's first WinterPops program, Nov. 9-10, will be a Gilbert and Sullivan potpourri with the San Diego Master Chorale under the baton of regular guest conductor Carl Hermanns. Originally scheduled as a Rodgers and Hammerstein concert, the symphony changed its mind and turned to the ever-popular Gilbert and Sullivan canon when the Rodgers and Hammerstein score rentals turned out to be a bit pricey.

The final WinterPops program on April 26-27, 1991, however, will still be devoted to the composers of "The Sound of Music" and "Oklahoma!" Other WinterPops concerts include a holiday program Dec. 14-15 and a return engagement of P.D.Q. Bach on Feb. 1-2, 1991. It is difficult to miss the Brustad touch in the programming for the December WinterPops concert. Besides caroling and orchestral excerpts from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker," that program will feature "a hilarious 20-minute short film with Laurel and Hardy selling Christmas trees in Southern California!"

Zen tennis. It turned out to be the sound of one racquet swinging at the La Jolla Music Society's annual SummerFest tennis tourney last Monday morning at Tennis La Jolla. Usually a popular adjunct to the chamber music festival, the tennis tournament this year fizzled when only one musician showed up to compete. Violinist Cho-Liang Lin, always a formidable tennis opponent, left town the morning of the tournament, and society executive director Neale Perl, who had intended to play, was holed up in the society office signing checks. Perl said he is considering replacing the annual tennis matches with either a golf tournament or a surfing competition. Canasta, anyone?

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