All this political talk of “low energy” is in sharp contrast to the weekend we had with organist Greg Zelek — definitely high energy! On Friday night, I invited the members of the AGO Executive Board for a “meet and greet” party and luckily I had nearly the whole day to prepare for it. The menu was what we call in Hawaii “heavy pupus,” — small bites that add up to a meal.
Greg was the life of the party! He could well have been named Gregarious Greg! He made a point to speak to everyone at the party and to ask about their organ background. I was somewhat interested to find out that Greg’s immediate family was not musical (his parents are both lawyers), but that his grandfather was in spite of not having formal lessons. One of his remarks fascinated me: “Either you have a musical gene or you don’t.” Obviously, Greg has the musical gene!
Also I was quite taken with his observations on the Juilliard experience after six years of studying there: since a new work must be learned for every weekly lesson, what Juilliard teaches you is how to manage your time.
At age 24, Greg says that his life is just about ideal, in that he has a church job which permits him to take leave in order to play concerts. (He is the Music Director and Organist at the Episcopal Church of St. Matthew and St. Timothy in New York City).
Here’s a quick slideshow of the “heavy pupus:”
Sunday’s concert started off with a bang with Greg playing Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor — but this was no ordinary, boring performance. It was fast, driving and kept you on the edge of your seat! The program was:
Toccata and Fugue in d minor (Bach)
Benedictus, op. 59, no. 9 (Reger)
Partita retrospettiva IV. Finale alla solfeggio (Karg-Elert)
Messe de la Pentecote IV. Communion (Messiaen)
Trio Sonata No. 5 (Bach)
Liebestraum No. 3 (Liszt)
Final, op. 21 (Franck)
I was especially impressed with all the colors that Greg brought out on the Aeolian-Skinner organ. I somewhat got the impression that he was like a kid in a candy shop and took a bite of everything in sight! I was a little surprised to hear the zimbelstern for the last part of the Reger Benedictus— but it actually worked as a segue to the Karg-Elert.
Giving a nod to his Cuban heritage, for an encore Greg played a thrilling transcription of “Malaguena,” including the melody played very fast in pedal octaves.
What fun we had this weekend!
P.S. It was the first-ever organ recital for my visiting nieces Vivian, Clarissa and nephew Daniel as well as for their mom, Trudy, and they were all dazzled and enjoyed it very much!