Organist David Schelat Features Bach & Original Works on Gabriel Kney Organ

Market Street Music Artistic Director and Organist, David Schelat
Organ concerts aren’t usually a big attraction, but David Schelat drew a respectable crowd to his Market Street Music Festival Concert on Sunday, October 23, 2016 at First & Central Presbyterian Church on Rodney Square in Wilmington. 

Schelat took the audience on a wonderful journey from Bach to Schelat in a program that demonstrated not only his musicality and virtuosity, but also the breathtaking capabilities of the church’s Gabriel Kney organ — the only one of its kind in the mid-Atlantic region.

Schlelat devoted the first half of the program to works by J.S. Bach, believed by many to have been the greatest composer in the history of Western music. Indeed, the selections here amply demonstrated that Bach was much more than a mere mathematical counterpoint machine — which is why he is accorded such importance by composers of the Romantic era and beyond.

The concert opened with a performance of Bach’s most recognizable work, the Toccata & Fugue in D Minor (565). The church nearly seemed to shrink under the mighty sounds of that infamous opening motif. Schelat turned in an energetic yet deliberative reading, revealing details of this intricate and powerful work which are usually glossed over in more frenzied renderings.

Schlelat then offered three chorale preludes from the Schubler, Leipzig and Orgelbuchlein (Little Organ Book), which represent the summit of Bach’s sacred music for solo organ.

Some of the pieces were very familiar, like the Schubler chorale prelude Wachet auf or Sleepers Awake, BWV 645. Schelat’s gentle reading of the beautiful melody of this simple Lutheran hymn revealed the quiet sanity of Bach.

Likewise, Schelat’s understated approach to the chorale prelude from the Orgelbuchlein O Mensch, bewein dein Sunde gross, BWV 622 brought out not only the pain and regret in the opening of the piece but also highlighted the curious serenity and mystery in the music.

The Leipzig selection Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, BWV 655 offered a nice contrast to the previous two. Its infectious rhythms and lighter texture made the music a joyous, swirling experience.

Schelat bookended the section with the quietly monumental Prelude and Fugue in B Minor, BWV 544, one of Bach’s more mature essays in the genres and a fitting complement to the pyrotechnics of the opening Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.  The second half of the program featured more modern fare, opening with Hindemith’s rarely performed Sonata I. Schelat delivered Hindemith’s sparse textures with clarity and articulation. The rhythms were crisp yet never mechanical, giving the reading an invigorating sense of purpose.

By contrast, Vierne’s diaphanous Clair de Lune, Opus 53, No. 5 seemingly dissolved metrical rigidity, producing an almost ethereal quality while the organ sang the deeply affective melodic line.

Schelat concluded the program with one of his own compositions, an organ sonata in three movements: Folk Song, Sarabande and Allegro. The short melodic piece was written in 2011 for colleague Michael Brill who premiered it in France. Most interesting was the first movement — Folk Song — which featured the melody played in the petals accompanied by arpeggiated harmonies in the keyboard. 

See www.marketstreetmusicde.org.