Mark Gresham | 12 JUN 2022
This past Friday evening, Dr. Jens Korndörfer performed a “Farewell” recital at First Presbyterian Chuch of Atlanta, where he has been the Organist since September 2012 and Director of Music and Organist since 2015.
The recital is a “farewell” to Atlanta and First Presbyterian because Korndörfer reached a new milestone in his professional career when earlier this year nationally-ranked Baylor University in Waco, Texas, appointed Korndörfer as its incoming Associate Professor of Organ. He will begin directing their organ program in August, teaching private lessons, and presenting one organ-related seminar per term.
It’s not Korndörfer’s first academic appointment, as from 2014 to 2019, he taught first at Agnes Scott College and, since 2017, has been directing the successful rebuilding of the organ program at Georgia State University.
Korndörfer grew up in Nuremberg, Germany, and studied at the Hochschule in Bayreuth, Paris National Conservatory CNSM, and Oberlin Conservatory. He also spent one year (2005/06) as organist-in-residence at the Concert Hall Kitara in Sapporo, Japan. Before arriving at First Presbyterian, Korndörfer earned his Doctor of Music at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.
In October 2013, Korndörfer contacted Johannes Klais Orgelbau in Bonn, Germany, to develop the renovation program for First Presbyterian’s sanctuary organ. The Klais/Schleuter organ was completed in 2018. (Click here to download the stop list.)
The program began boldly with the grand gestures that open the “Allegro” movement of Charles-Marie Widor’s Symphony for Organ No. 6 in G minor, Op. 42, No. 2. Then two more staples of organ repertoire: “Cantabile,” the second of 3 Pièces pour grand orgue by César Franck, and the “Introduction und Passacaglia” from the Organ Sonata No. 8 in E minor, Op. 132. by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger.
Louis Vierne “Feux follets” (“Will-o-the-Wisps”) from the Pièces de fantaisie, Suite No. 22, Op. 53 (1926), a quiet piece of elusively eerie harmonies and rapid, flighty figurations, offered a fine example of the era’s Franco-Belgian school of organ playing. Then the music turned heavier with “Improvisation. Allegro con brio” from the Organ Sonata No. 2, Op. 60, by Max Reger.
Up to this point in the program, Korndörfer had been playing single movements from great multi-movement organ works, alternating between massive and less massive selections. However, that changed as the concert came to its final numbers.
Medley from “The Lord of the Rings” drew upon impressions drawn from the film score music of Howard Shore (“Concerning Hobbits/The Shire,” followed by the “Rohan” theme) and the song by best-selling Irish solo artist Enya, “May It Be.”
The final work in the printed program was Charles Ives’ Variations on America, a spunky and challenging piece even for contemporary organists. The composer himself had described playing the pedal work in the final variation as being “almost as much fun as playing baseball.”
An encore brought the program full circle: the famous “Toccata” from Widor’s Symphony for Organ No. 5 in F minor, Op. 42, No. 1, concluding the evening with brilliance and joyous vigor. ■
- Jens Korndôrfer: jenskorndoerfer.com