From Bavaria to New York

The organist Raphael Attila Vogl

Raphael Attila Vogl
(Photo: Christian Haasz)

For four Sundays each season, the world’s most famous organists perform a matinée at the Philharmonie Berlin, often joined by members of the Berliner Philharmoniker. In early October, Raphael Attila Vogl will make his Berlin debut.

The organ is not necessarily the first instrument that leaps to mind when musical instruments are discussed. Some people believe that all organs sound the same, or even think that the organ repertoire is bland. Raphael Attila Vogl sees things differently.

Raphael Vogl does not conform to the stereotypical image of an organist. Aged 27, he looks more like a model or a fitness trainer than someone who plays ostensibly spiritual music. Born in Lower Bavaria, he started taking piano lessons at the age of six, and added organ lessons five years later; when he was thirteen, he received guidance from Ludwig Ruckdeschel, the organist of the Passau Cathedral, who became his mentor.

Delicate sounds and complete pandemonium

By then, the teenage musician was already addicted to the “queen of instruments.” “The amazing thing about the organ is that it encompasses the entire spectrum of human hearing – from infrasound to ultrasound,” Vogl explains in an interview with Phil, the Berliner Philharmoniker’s magazine. “You can be using the softest stops, which sound lovely and delicate, and then switch and create a complete pandemonium.”

Eventually, he began to feel confined in Bavaria. After completing his bachelor’s degree in Regensburg, Raphael Vogl applied for a place in the master’s degree programme at the renowned Juilliard School in New York and was promptly accepted. He is the first German organ student in over twenty years to make the leap to the Hudson River. Grammy Award winner Paul Jacobs, whose fame extends far beyond the organ world, is his teacher.

“Raphael Vogl is an exceptional young artist,” Jacobs says of his student, “who immediately connects with his audience through his elegant musicianship and inventive programmes. In addition, Raphael has a keen sense of color and an excellent memory. If the organ is the ‘queen of instruments,’ then Raphael Vogl is its young prince.”

After passing his master’s exam, he decided to stay in New York and enroll in the Doctor of Musical Arts program. Additionally, he has been giving concerts in both Europe and the United States for a long time. Wherever Raphael Vogl performs today, he is warmly received. Observers comment on the passionate virtuosity, the daredevil impetus, and the youthful power of his interpretations; they are said to be breathtaking and compelling. It is therefore unsurprising that in recent years he has won several first prizes in international competitions.

For his debut at the Philharmonie Berlin, Raphael Vogl will be joined by Wenzel Fuchs, the principal clarinettist of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Together they will perform a program that also showcases Raphael Vogl as an arranger. The main work will be Max Reger’s famous Mozart Variations, which the Berliner Philharmoniker presented a few weeks earlier in their opening concert for the season, and which Raphael Vogl will perform in his own organ arrangement. Do you think that organ repertoire is bland? See if this concert changes your mind.

Oliver Hilmes

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