MUSIC REVIEW : Van Driel: Blown Away by Crystal Cathedral Organ


The Crystal Cathedral’s Hazel Wright organ--with 16,412 pipes and 268 ranks, the second largest fully functional organ in existence--dangles the promise of Gargantuan power to those who dare.

Friday night, Dutch organist Jan Pieter van Driel seized the opportunity to unleash the instrument’s sonic potential with no apparent thought about whether his experiments suited the style or historic period of the music.

Works from the late Renaissance through pre-Classical eras astonished through the same inventive use of multi-antiphonal registration as large-scale, romantic pieces. Never mind that technology of the earlier periods would not have permitted such couplings and that therefore the results could hardly have approximated anything the composers might have had in mind.

Still, while relishing the myriad choices before him, Van Driel offered plenty of careful delineation of voicing and phrasing in a varied program comprised largely of music that is rarely--if ever--heard here. Sweelinck’s Toccata No. 16, Flemish composer and organist Abraham van den Kerckhoven’s “Cornetfantasie” in D minor and the Fourth Sonata by C.P.E. Bach all emerged as dialogues between the great organ in front and the balcony organ behind.


Of these, the “Cornetfantasie,” for which Van Driel read a copy of the original manuscript, shone as a little-known example of early Baroque style, its florid cornet solo soaring over a less obtrusive polyphonic accompaniment.

However, as in much of his playing on this occasion, the continuity of the composition suffered interruptions by frequently fluctuating tempos and rhythmic inconsistencies.

Van Driel’s real bent seemed toward more grandiose Romantic and 20th-Century works, particularly those of his mentor, the late Flor Peeters. The Belgian organist’s difficult “Veni Creator” Variations impressed by sheer harmonic and registrational dimensions. His far-from-tranquil chorale, “Now Rest Beneath Thy Shadow"--which was played at the composer’s funeral in 1986--served as the final encore, following a massive Toccata by Jan Nieland.