Orgel's Beethoven proves masterful
By Jim Lowe, Staff Writer - Published: October 24, 2010
BURLINGTON — Shelburne pianist Paul Orgel delivered a masterful performance of Beethoven sonatas Saturday at the University of Vermont, where he is on the faculty. From the opening "The Tempest" (No. 17) Sonata, Opus 31, No. 2, in d minor, it was clear that Orgel was comfortable with this deeply powerful music. Without marring the workÕs classical structure, he delivered its dramatic contrasts with power but finesse and beauty. Orgel's rubato, a slight exaggeration of the rhythm for musical effect, was natural and effective, and his lines sang.
Orgel is one of Vermont's most important pianists performing solo recitals, in chamber music and as soloist with orchestras. In addition to his duties at UVM, he is on the faculty of the Green Mountain Music Festival there in the summer, and he directs the Humanities Concert Series at St. Michael's College in Colchester. He has also released a number of recordings, including the solo recital "Music from the Holocaust" (Phoenix USA) and, in collaboration with Montpelier flutist Karen Kevra, the Grammy-nominated "Louis Moyse: Music for Flute & Piano"(New World).
Orgel's Beethoven is muscular and passionate, as well as sensitive, all qualities important to the "Titan" and most human of composers. Orgel's technique is of a very high level and allows him to do pretty much what he wants to with this music. All is accomplished with warmth and beauty of sound.
In the Sonata No. 26, in E-flat Major, Opus 81a, "Les Adieux (Farewells)," Orgel used his sensitivity to advantage. Although the end of the opening Allegro seemed a little rushed, the slow movement, Andante espressivo, was hauntingly beautiful, and the final movement, interestingly marked Vivacissimamente, was completely joyful. Joyful as well as playful were the qualities of the Sonata No. 25 in G Major, Opus 79. Orgel's singing lyricism predominated in this sonata, which was unusually without any of BeethovenÕs usual sturm und drang.
Orgel's performance of the grandest sonata on the program, No. 31 in A-flat Major, Opus 110, was certainly fine, but he proved the least comfortable here. The performance, as before, was powerful and sensitive, but his rubato sometimes felt uncomfortable, even forced. Still, he delivered the finale with real grandeur. Admission to the concert was free, thanks to the Buckham Fund of the UVM English Department. A large number of students was among the capacity crowd.