Margaret Martin Kvamme

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Reviews of Sevenfold Gifts (Albany Records, 2007)

Margaret Martin Kvamme here presents a creative program featuring sets of variations by seven diverse composers. The centerpieces of the program are Mendelssohn's Sonata No. 6 and J. S. Bach's Passacaglia, BWV 582. Ms. Kvamme plays the Mendelssohn variations in an animated manner, while delivering a well-paced performance of the Bach. The program opens with Theodore Morrison's The Gifts of the Spirit... each of the seven well-crafted, appealing variations reflect a different gift or fruit of the Spirit as described in I Corinthians 12 and Galatians 5. Emma Lou Diemer's "Puer nobis" is from her Seasonal Psalms. Ms. Kvamme captures Diemer's driving energy in this spirited performance. Margaret Vardell Sandresky's Introduction and Variations on Lift High the Cross demonstrates the composer's highly personal, dramatic style... Pamela Decker wrote Home, Suite Home to demonstrate the various tonal departments of the organ. The movement Flutes for San Francisco is a mild-mannered, wistful piece... Florence Beatrice Price was the first African American woman composer to gain national recognition. Her substantial set of variations on Peter, Go Ring Dem Bells demonstrates her command of a variety of styles, from Southern gospel harmonies to a French toccata. Ms. Kvamme is a solid performer with ample technical facility and fine musicianship...This is a well-conceived and enjoyable program.   
 
– The American Organist

All of the pieces on this program involve the art of variation... The instrument is a two-manual, 23-rank tracker organ built in 1889... with some tonal changes and additions in 1987-8 by Steuart Goodwin. As heard on this recording, the tone is extraordinarily beautiful: warm yet clear, with an excellent blend of registers. As one might expect from a relatively small instrument, the sound is understated, but for the most part Margaret Martin Kvamme has chosen a program that suits the instrument. Her playing is intelligent and especially sensitive to the lyrical qualities of the music....I found the weight of tone convincing even in the more vociferous passages of the Mendelssohn Sixth Sonata and the Bach Passacaglia... I would recommend this to anyone looking for an interesting program well played on an exquisite instrument.           
 – American Record Guide


 

The “sevenfold gifts” of this recording are the seven individual sets of variations on pre-composed tunes…

 …played beautifully by a sensitive and creative artist.

We often assume that an organ recording will begin with a showpiece that lets the organ burst out of your speakers at the first chord. How refreshing to hear a more introspective work that evolves more slowly and gently to begin a recording, as if this recording were detaching the listener from the secular into the world of a sacred space.

 … again shows the beautiful clarity and sound and singing quality of the organ. It is a pleasure to hear such beautiful voicing of individual stops.

 Pamela Decker’s Home Suite Home is another set of five variations, which introduces the various families of organ tone; principals, flutes, strings and reeds… the San Francisco variation refers to a type of jazz associated with that city, and at the same time bears a very subtle resemblance to a rather post-Duruflé kind of language.

The set of variations by Florence Beatrice Price… is a real catalog of various styles. Everything is here, from a simple chorale-like setting, to a theatre-styled variation, to a short character piece to a French-styled Widor/Vierne symphonic French toccata!

 The two well-known works on this recording are Bach’s monumental Passacaglia, BWV 582, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Sonatas, op. 65 … this reminds this reviewer of just how flexible an instrument of 18 stops can be to bring these masterworks alive under the hands of an artist such as Ms. Kvamme.

 What an inspiring recording of excellent playing on a fine instrument by a sensitive and musical artist. Give yourself a gift by getting these sevenfold gifts from this recording by Margaret Martin Kvamme.

The Diapason