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His Last Show Was Unplugged


Less than two pages into German organist Heinz Wunderlich's recital in 1983 at Crystal Cathedral, lightning struck. Literally.

"The lightning hit a transformer and knocked out all power in the neighborhood for 12 hours," recalled Frederick Swann, the Garden Grove cathedral's music director. "Wunderlich had played maybe a minute . . . and we had to send everybody out into the darkness. We couldn't reschedule. He had a ticket back to Germany the next day."

Now Wunderlich is back to finish what he started. And he's back with reinforcements, in the form of Nelly Soregi-Wunderlich (his wife of 12 years) and her 1734 Brescia violin, the "Pablo Maggini." He will, of course, play the cathedral's Hazel Wright Organ, the third largest fully operable organ in the world.

His wife will join him for Josef Rheinberger's Overture in G minor and Wunderlich's own Invocatio "Dona nobis pacem." Solo organ works on the German program include Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548, Max Reger's Fantasia and Fugue on B-A-C-H, Op. 46, and Wunderlich's Sonata on the Psalm Jonah.

The 77-year-old, Leipzig-born Wunderlich can boast some intriguing connections with at least two of those composers.

He studied organ at the Leipzig Hochschule fur Musik with Karl Straube, conductor at Leipzig's St. Thomas Church and, according to Wunderlich, a "good friend" of Max Reger. "He gave all of Reger's first performances," said Wunderlich, reached by phone at his hotel earlier this week before a recital in Oceanside.

In 1958, Wunderlich was invited to become organist at the St. Jacobi Church in Hamburg. "Bach applied for that same position," Swann noted. "In fact, he wrote his G-minor Fugue for the position--but he didn't get it. Wunderlich did get it, but a little bit later in history." The instrument Wunderlich used in Hamburg was the Arp-Schnitger organ made famous by Bach scholar (and Nobel Peace Prize-winning medical missionary) Albert Schweitzer.

Wunderlich, now retired from his Hamburg posts, variously describes his own music as contrapuntal, 12-tone, serial and post-serial. "I'm very connected with [Hungarian composer Gyorgy] Ligeti," he said. Both musicians taught at Hamburg's Hochschule.

Soregi-Wunderlich, 64, continues to teach at the Hamburg Hochschule and to direct its chamber orchestra. She also concertizes extensively on her own. Because of their respective instruments, joint recitals with her husband have been something of an artistic departure; they've produced two compact discs together.

"We wanted to play together, but we really had to look for pieces written for organ and violin," Soregi-Wunderlich said. "What we found were very well written. It's not a usual combination. But people really like it."

* Who: Organist Heinz Wunderlich and violinist Nelly Soregi-Wunderlich.

* When:Friday at 8:15 p.m., following carillon recital at 7:40 p.m.

* Where: Crystal Cathedral, 12141 Lewis St., Garden Grove.

* Whereabouts: From the Garden Grove (22) Freeway, exit at The City Drive and go north to Metropolitan Drive and turn left. Turn right on Lewis Street; cathedral is on the left. From the Santa Ana (5) Freeway, exit to Chapman Avenue west, head to Lewis Street and turn left.

* Wherewithal: $6-$8.

* Where to call: (714) 971-4000.

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