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Velvet Revolution

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The History and Scope of Velvet Revolution

Velvet Revolution, the summation of a significant strand of my life’s research, performance and teaching, documents the solo organ music of Czech composer Petr Eben (1929-2007), and explores its importance as a vehicle of hope, faith and patriotism.This endeavor grows from decades of study, performance and teaching a still under-represented body of literature, all of which benefited from years of collaboration and study with Mr. Eben. 

Equal parts creative activity and research, its six CDs, recorded on Indiana University’s two renowned concert hall organs by the builder C.B. Fisk, are augmented by companion essays providing context for the creation and significance of each work. The project’s final element is an innovative teaching video addressing the fundamental question, What do we need to know about the composer, his life, aesthetic, and musical language to decipher the music in order to play and/or teach it with poetic insight, technical control and a convincing musicality?” This video will be available on this website Spring 2024.

Volume One, recordings 1-3:  issued October, 2022
Volume Two, recordings 4-6: Spring, 2024

Aknowledgement

This recording project was made possible through the generous support of Indiana IU Presidential Arts and Humanities Research, Creative Activity, and Scholarship of Teaching Grant and Indiana University-Bloomington’s Office of the Vice President for Research.

Distribution by the European record label Brilliant Classics offers an international platform for its reception.

Volume 1

Companion Essay

“Throughout the distinguished career of Czech composer Petr Eben the organ maintained a position of honor. As he said to me, the instrument “ . . . was always pure joy . . . the dearest instrument to me, full of festivity.” A self-proclaimed Romantic, Eben never failed to place his prodigious compositional technique at the service of the music.” …

Petr Eben and Janette Fishell, Scarritt Graduate School 1983
Petr Eben and Janette Fishell, Scarritt Graduate School 1983
Janette Fishell with composer at the Eben Residence, Prague 1999
Janette Fishell with composer at the Eben Residence, Prague 1999
Velvet Revolution, Volume 1

Longlisted for the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik

 Named one of the best and most interesting new keyboard releases of the last quarter of 2022, it was recognized for its artistic quality, repertoire value, presentation and sound quality.Read More: https://www.schallplattenkritik.de/bestenlisten/longlist/longlist-1-2023

Velvet Revolution, Volume 1

Online review in Orgel Nieuws (in Dutch)

Velvet Revolution, Volume 1

★★★★★

“The first disc presents Eben’s early works, and it is his first published work – Sunday Music from 1958 – that contains Eben’s most enduringly popular piece, the moto ostinato. Here we experience it in context: the Scherzo of a very individual organ symphony riddled with angst, composed 14 years after Eben was incarcerated as a child by the Nazis. As with the pieces written in the following decades, it flies in the face of Soviet censorship with its religious connotations. Disc two contains the colourful programmatic work Faust for Organ – a bewitching flight of fantasy with its drunken songs and cruelly comic dances. On the third disc we find Job for Organ (1987): a tale of suffering, faith, and salvation. Given Eben’s earlier struggles, the attraction to the Book of Job is understandable, and perhaps what makes this – and all the music here – so effective is the way everything speaks with such emotional honesty. The musical journey is enhanced by sensitive narration of verses from the Book of Job between movements. Fishell’s superlative performances are grounded in years of collaboration with the composer, and it is hard to imagine a better vehicle for this music than the Fisk organ at Indiana University, which speaks with such clarity and authority in glowing acoustics.

By critic: Rupert Gough

More Info: https://www.rhinegold.co.uk/choir_organ/petr-eben-velvet-revolution-complete-organ-music-vol-1/

Velvet Revolution, Volume 1

Online review at Classic Music Daily

“When the Czech composer Petr Eben died in 2007, he was renowned and performed the world over as a composer for choirs and organ. Nevertheless, 15 years on, this album inaugurates the first attempt at a complete survey of his output for the organ – an output so rich and individual that it has come to define a late 20th- century sound for the instrument as characterfully as Marcel Dupré achieved some six decades earlier. Eben’s individuality as a composer may be traced in part to the influence of the environment in which he was brought up, the Renaissance town of Český Krumlov. This background shaped his humanist mission for art, a conviction arising perhaps from his wartime internment at the concentration camp in Buchenwald. Nevertheless, a deep faith also burns within large-scale cycles such as Job, which battles with matters of life and death in a richly chromatic language, evidently informed by the composer’s own formidable gifts as an improviser. Alongside Job, the first volume of this projected integrale presents the monumental Faust cycle for organ, which tells the story of Goethe’s antihero in nine vividly illustrative pieces, including an Easter chorus, a drinking song, a Witches’ Sabbath and finally a sublime epilogue. Eben first came to international attention as an organ composer with the Laudes composed in 1964: the stern, archaic and magnificent quality of these hymns has proved adaptable to organs across the world and interpretations by countless organists. 

In Janette Fishell, Eben’s music for organ finds a supremely dedicated interpreter of international experience and technical finish. As professor of organ at Indiana University, she is recognised as a leading scholarly authority on Eben’s organ music, the subject of her doctoral dissertation; she produced the first study of his organ works in English. Subtitled ‘Velvet Revolution’, this complete survey will be illustrated by a series of online films about Eben’s life and work; Fishell supplies authoritative annotations to her own performances on this album, which will make essential listening for all students and enthusiasts of 20th-century organ music.”