Gregor Antes plays Bach

My comments to this Video

As a physicist I am used to experiment with matter and non-living systems. When the experiments are well prepared, you normally get decent answers. But this time the subject of investigation was myself. let's go back in time a bit:

Still a little boy, I always admired professional musicians playing in an orchestra or as soloists. In my family I adored my mother and my uncle Marius Meng (at the same time a gynecologist and professional conductor, who also founded his own Symphony Orchestra). They played the piano with such a high degree of professionalism that, after my first disappointing attempts to touch the piano keys, I absolutely refused to ever go to piano lessons.

Nearly half a century later, after a successful professional life as a physicist and development manager in Laser Optics Applications, I came back to one of my hidden dreams: to take an active part in music. After years of sound recording activities in many concert halls, producing CD’s, DVD-Audio’s and DVD-Video-Documentations, I started to document the work of young professional pianists from all over the world, attending the MasterClasses in Engelberg (Switzerland) of our dear family friend Alexis Weissenberg. It became clear to me that good piano playing myself was now out of my reach. Hovever I was always intrigued by the sound and the technical features of big church organs.

So I asked myself: would I ever be able to decently play some major organ works e. g. of J. S. Bach? In the Monastery of Engelberg the biggest church organ of Switzerland would just be a few footsteps away. This was the great temptation.

To start the experiment, I just went to a music store to buy scores of organ works of Bach, because I did not want to "waste" my training time with anything less. The next thing was to learn to read the "notation-secrets” and to find out suitable “fingering” techniques. Then, as I was not happy at all with the "synthetic" organ sounds of ordinary electronic keyboards, I installed electronic sample-players in my laboratory. Finally I asked organists of three different church pipe-organs for the permission to "sample" most of the single and combined sounds of "their" instruments. These sounds had to be carefully looped and otherwise treated in the computer before I could load them to the sample players. At the end there were three Keyboards stacked on top of each other and a Pedal for “feet exercises” waiting for my first trials. So I was happy to realistically play the sampled organs in the privacy of my home without any critical audience. There I started rehearsing one piece at a time, note after note, bar by bar, again and again. Finally I played without a score. After that I felt prepared to experiment with a real church organ.

The rehearsal session in this video documented some years ago and edited in 2007 is the result of not more than half a years self-training, starting from virtually zero. The recording was not intended to be published. Recently I rediscovered the Hi-8 videos in my collection and found them quite interesting, even though not in DV-quality. In the meantime, the interior of the Monastery's church had been renovated. So I have included some newer video backgrounds of the prestigious church and of the intimate “intestines” of the organ - never shown to visitors, equivalent to the volume of a three-story building and comprising over 9600 pipes and 137 registers. You easily get lost in this labyrinth (physically and musically)!

My performance is far from being perfect. I was quite nervous while playing in the big church for the first time. In October the air temperature was quite low causing my legs to tremble. But finally I managed to overcome my fear to eventually play wrong notes “full steam”! I hope people praying in the church have forgiven me. After the performance I even heard some small applause from below. It was a great personal experience and an incentive to try to play other organ works. In short, quite a successful experiment.

To me, sitting in the “cockpit” of an organ and playing music is like navigating over a virtual soundscape. The thrill is similar to what I felt on my first solo flight as a pilot in an airplane high above the landscape - and after the safe touch down.

Play or download the Video-Clip: "Jumping into a Music Adventure":

click or drag-and-drop to playlistStreaming Flash Video-Clip (reduced to 480x384px, 44,1kHz Stereo 700kB/s).

click or drag-and-drop to playlistmpg-Clip (reduced to 352x240px, 48kHz Stereo - 113MB) or

click or drag-and-drop to playlistQuickTime mov-Clip (reduced to 320x240px, 48kHz Stereo - 87MB).

Gregor Antes

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