U.S. organist Carpenter bends rules of performing

Mon Sep 16, 2013 4:23pm EDT
 
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By Michael Roddy

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - Flamboyant American organist Cameron Carpenter wants to wrest organ music from academics he says play solely for the initiated, and bring it back to the people.

Wearing a floral print shirt for the first half of his concert, and a spangled white T-shirt emblazoned with the motto "Love Everything" for the second, Carpenter, 32, set the annual Beethoven Festival in Bonn ablaze this past weekend.

His adaptations of the overture to Bernstein's "Candide", the scherzo from Tchaikovsky's Symphony "Pathetique" and a version of Chopin's "Minute Waltz" which he plays with his feet - his spangle-heeled black pumps scurrying over the organ's foot pedals like a marionette on speed - had the audience cheering.

The musician also improvised on themes from three Beethoven symphonies and the piano piece "Fur Elise" for the recital in the composer's birth city.

"The organ is actually the ultimate example of a public instrument ...it can play to the greatest number of people at the lowest cost," Carpenter told Reuters during the interval.

His performances, including such crowd-pleasers as playing entire passages on foot pedals, or adapting the American standard "Stars and Stripes Forever" for the organ, are sometimes criticized as "showmanship".

But his admirers laud him as the Liszt or Paganini of the 21st century.

Carpenter hopes his unorthodox approach to music, and a dress sense many would describe as daring, may convince young people to see the world of music as sexually inclusive.   Continued...

 
American organist Cameron Carpenter performs during the 2013 Beethoven Festival in Bonn's Telekom Forum September 14, 2013 in this handout provided by Beethovenfest Bonn. REUTERS/Barbara Frommann/Beethovenfest Bonn/Handout via Reuters