“The queen of instruments”

The organists of the Philharmoniker’s organ series

(Photo: Heribert Schindler)

The organ of the Philharmonie can replace a whole orchestra. Thanks to its more than 88 registers, it can be used to create very different combinations of sound and colours. Especially when such virtuoso performers as Thomas Ospital, Johannes M. Michel, Vincent Dubois, Ken Cowan and David Briggs, the five organists of the Organ concert series sit at the console. They do not just elicit sounds from the instrument, but create a symphonic universe on it. The organ is rightly called the “Queen of Instruments”.

Film music

The philharmonic series starts with a rising star of the scene: Thomas Ospital, originating from the French Basque country and whose teachers included Olivier Latry and Thierry Escaich, is considered one of the most exciting organists of our time. At the age of only 25, he succeeded Jean Guillou as the titular organist of the church of Saint-Eustache in Paris. Following his Philharmoniker organ debut in 2017, Thomas Ospital now appears for the second time in this concert series – as a brilliant improviser, providing the musical accompaniment to Robert Siodmak’s classic silent film Menschen am Sonntag. The film takes viewers to the Berlin of 1929 and follows a group of young people, shows their everyday experiences, their flirtations, their pleasures and disappointments.

With support from the Philharmoniker

Two of the organists appear not only as soloists, but also with some support from the ranks of the Philharmoniker: the matinee with Johannes M. Michel, director of church music at the Christuskirche in Mannheim, which takes place in the run-up to Christmas, is given special festive splendour through the participation of the Brass Ensemble of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

An unusual musical duo is formed by the Canadian organist Ken Cowan and Noah Bendix-Balgley, 1st concertmaster of the Berliner Philharmoniker. The interplay of organ and violin requires a special feeling for a balanced sound between the two instruments which they demonstrate in, among other works, Sergei Rachmaninov’s Vocalise op. 34 No. 14 and Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane.

The art of transcribing

Vincent Dubois, titular organist of Notre Dame in Paris, plays a “blockbuster” of the organ repertoire: Franz Liszt’s Prelude and Fugue on the Chorale Ad nos, ad salutarem andam. The atmosphere of the salon and coffee house is created when, together with the accordionist Marie-Andrée Joerger, he performs Gabriel Faure's Dolly, Astor Piazzolla's tango La muerte del ángel and Richard Galliano's Opale Concerto. The conclusion of the concert series is the organ matinee with David Briggs. The Englishman made a name for himself by adapting the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, Franz Schubert and Anton Bruckner for organ, and in a concert with the theme The Art of Transcription, he presents his own and others’ adaptations of instrumental works from the Baroque to Modernism.

Thomas Ospital
(Photo: Philippe Quaisse)
Johannes M. Michel
(Photo: Christuskirche Mannheim)
Vincent Dubois
(Photo: G.Garitan)
Ken Cowan
(Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)
David Briggs
(Photo: Michael Hudson)