Thomas Trotter * * * *
at Symphony Hall
Review by David Hart
Organ music with added visuals is not a new idea, although it can be surprisingly effective when done imaginatively. This collaboration between Thomas Trotter and visual artists Kathy Hinde and Susan Sloan was certainly interesting to look at, and more importantly sounded terrific.
Trotter’s playing was awesomely impressive throughout, and the surround-sound electronic creations of Peter Batchelor, used to link items in the first half of the programme, were brilliantly conceived and powerfully exciting.
In terms of matching appropriate images to specific sounds, however, or offering some sort of visual interpretation, the results were less persuasive.
Arvo Part’s Annum per Annum worked quite well, with its shots of organ pipes representing a fixed theme viewed from different perspectives, as Part does musically with his cantus firmus; and a 14th century Estampie, crisply articulated by Trotter, was suitably illustrated by stylised catacombs, although they hardly reflected the music’s vitality.
Trotter gave a superb account of Messiaen’s nine-movement La nativite du Seigneur, with registrations that made the Klais organ sound as Gallic as a Cavaille-Coll. Visually though it was all tedious New Age secularism – hands in water, flowery symbolism and slow-motion dancing – rather than a credible response to Messiaen’s essential Christianity.
The most successful fusion of sound and image came in Ligeti’s ground-breaking Volumina, a work that more than any other exploits noise expressively. Here, Trotter’s virtuosity – hands and arms as agile and precise as a wrestler’s, registration thrillingly engineered – was convincingly enhanced by abstract shapes and textures projected on to the three screens like a giant oscilloscope. With even larger screens the impact would have been totally overwhelming.