Maestro Leif Bjaland led a superb sextet of trumpets and trombones, tympani, and the outstanding organist Joseph Ripka, in a program featuring works by Richard Strauss, Gabrieli, Johann Sebastian Bach, Gaston Litaize, Jeremiah Clarke, Connecticut native Charles Ives, Henry Purcell, Charles Widor, Marcel Dupré, and Eugene Gigout.John Charles Thomas was terrific as he channeled Maurice Andre on piccolo trumpet in Clarke’s famous tune, “Prince of Denmark March.” Jen Hinkle was amazing on bass trombone! The brass section also included Gino Villareal and Scott McIntosh on trumpet, and Scott Cranston and Marshall Brown on trombone. Tymapnist/percussionist Peter Coutsouridis rounded out the WSO’s ensemble.Organist Ripka magisterially essayed Bach’s iconic “Toccata and Fugue in D minor,” literally shaking the building with thundering bass produced by the church’s McManis Organ.The church was filled with over 200 enthusiastic listeners, who offered several standing ovations throughout the concert in honor of the wonderful musicianship.
Getting three or more organists to agree on anything is often akin to pulling hen’s teeth — it just don’t happen. However, on Friday, the 17th of this month, there was universal agreement that we had been treated to an extraordinarily fine organ recital by Joseph Ripka.Flawless and seemingly effortless technique, great musicality, sensitivity and command of performance practices, and the ability to make the printed page come alive were all present in abundance. Mr. Ripka is also the kind of organist who can get the very best out of the organ on which he is performing. Judy Connelly, resident musician, and all present agreed that the organ sounded at its very best. One almost had to pinch oneself to be reminded that we were in Winchester, not New York or Boston or some such august venue.We must thank Jesse Ratcliffe for “discovering” Joseph. Last year he was researching performances of one of his big recital pieces on Naxos, an on-line library of 75,000 CDs (yes, this number is correct, seventy-five thousand) to which large libraries and music schools subscribe. (You and I could also subscribe for a mere $15,000, +/-.) Of the six or seven performances to which he listened, Ripka’s was undoubtedly the best. Additional research about the performer was done, and the rest is history. We must also thank Dan Miller, Daniel Hannemann, Judy Connelly, Gloria Harris, Heather Ankerbrand, Pat Byers and others for helping to make Ripka’s visit here a success.It was truly a wonderful evening of music making.
This time of year the concerts in churches all over town pick up steam: it’s a holdover from the days when Advent was a way of keeping the peasants out of trouble until the final Saturnalia-style blowout at the end of the year. Sometimes the result is festive overkill. Last night at St. Thomas Church, Joseph Ripka of Calvary Church in historic Stonington, Connecticut played a concert that was just the opposite, a welcome antidote to all that pomp. Airing out the church’s smaller, more Northern European-toned gallery organ, his program featured works by baroque and pre-baroque composers especially suited to that instrument.He began with a carefully paced, somewhat wary take of Sweelinck’s Chromatic Fantasy, which actually owes its brooding quality to an artful sequence of minor chords rather than to much of any sort of chromatics. Sweelinck’s contemporary, German composer Johann Steffens’ Veni Redemptor Gentium maintained the soberly Teutonic ambience, which brightened considerably with Abraham van der Kerckhoven’s memorable, strikingly more modern-toned Fantasie in D Minor. Buxtehude’s Mit fried und freud ich fahr dahm (BuxWV 76) is a typical period piece, a simple theme and variations that kept the stately expanse of counterpoint going: it only remotely echoes the composer’s intense, chromatically-fueled, paradigm-shifting passacaglias and fugues. Ripka finally pulled out all the stops for a rousing, majestic take of Bach’s Fugue on Meine Seele erhebt den Herren. What a delightful and counterintuitive way to close out the year at this long-running, perennially high-quality series of recitals.
Prize-Winner Ripka Offers Magic on Sumptuous Taylor & Boody Organ: Multiple prize-winner Joseph Ripka has no trouble transcending the organist’s accustomed invisibility as his young career continues to unfold. He opened with a pair of extravagantly expressive secular works by ever-surprising Dieterich Buxtehude, Präludia in C & a, then redefined the very same idiom theme with Georg Böhm’s restless, terse Präludium in a. Three preludes in a row made for gripping listening, not monotony. Full registrations and restrained ones succeeded one another, hinting at the firestorm to be unleashed when later scores called for the big guns. Böhm’s winsome Partite: Jesu, du bist allzu schöne strolled among the gentler stops, save for modest reed fire toward the end, with such suave ease that the lightning stop and manual changes visible on screen were an intriguing contrast with the unruffled superficiality of the variations.Mr. Ripka’s poignant unfolding of Bach’s Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr, BWV 662, made his subsequent forthright leap into our era the recital’s turning point, with one of Marcel Dupré’s Trois préludes et fugues, Op. 7. In playing the third in this seminal set, cast broodingly in the key of f, he scoured the many foundation stops in search of half-resolutions and emotional chiaroscura. He concluded with five brash, extrovert, clash-permeated broadsword iterations of the Victimæa Paschali by contemporary Parisian composer Thierry Escaich. Mr. Ripka is a player with a gift for dramatic rhetoric and constant registrational inspiration. He put the Chapel’s very fine acoustics to unusually effective use, an additional source of delight.
I liked very much all his playing: excellent technique, great musicality, very good knowledge of the different styles of the organ repertoire, I am sure that he will have a great career!
...profound musicianship, powerful and solid technique, lyrical sound quality, intelligent sound balancing, natural flow of music, great stylistic range...
Joseph Ripka is an impressive musician who plays with authority, enthusiasm and a sure sense of style. An excellent communicator, he was a worthy winner of the recent Dublin Organ competition.
Joseph Ripka was a featured artist on the 2010 Guilmant Organ Recital Series at the First Presbyterian Church in New York City. Mr. Ripka’s delightful program, “20th-Century French Masters”, featured works by Litaize, Escaich, Tournemire, Barié, Dupré and Vierne.Mr. Ripka is a superb musician and his artistry transcends the instrument. One is immediately aware that Mr. Ripka is a performer who is in control of all aspects his art. Mr. Ripka’s beautifully created phrase structure, inspired and appropriate registrations, and deep understanding of the all the compositions, gave life to his recital and delight to the audience. One looks forward to hearing Mr. Ripka again and again!
I also rise in recognition of Joseph Ripka, an internationally recognized and award-winning organist…Mr. Ripka is this year’s winner of the Dublin International Organ Competition and was the 2008 winner of the San Marino/Elizabeth Elftman National Organ Competition.