Twynham warms the cathedral with his own recital


IN A PERFECT BALANCE of light and sound, the silver glow of a February dusk lit the stained glass windows and gold lights warmed the inside of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen yesterday as Robert Twynham gave his first organ recital in two years in his Cathedral Concert series.

For the next 70 minutes, the cathedral's music director for 30 years sat at the rear loft console and turned the organ pipes into an instrument that fascinated an audience of more than 200. With their backs to Twynham, they could concentrate on the pure sounds and disappearing outside light. They weren't disappointed on either count.

Twynham's spirited playing produced a hymn of praise to God (Bach), the sounds of blackbird, thrush, robin and nightingale (Messiaen), splashing falling waters (Durufle), a miniature symphony for one instrument (Hindemith), richly colored textures Franck) and variations of the famous 12-note French Christmas carol "Noel Nouvelet" (Dupre).

When the red-sweatered Twynham ended the program, the audience stood, turned and applauded with great vigor. For his part, the musician, composer, choir director, scholar and a man who has brought 750 concerts of all kinds to the cathedral since 1967, bowed and waved cheerfully.

As a young student at Peabody in the early 1950's, Twynham had studied under the French composer Olivier Messiaen in Paris and is acknowledged as an authority on the composer influenced by Indian music. He played Messiaen's "Song of the Birds" masterfully, with each bird having its separate organ registration against Hindu rhythms. The cathedral became a bird house for eight intruiging minutes.

Twynham reached another crest with his intense playing of the majestic yet mysterious "Sonata I" by Paul Hindemith, a four-movement, 18-minute work of great contrasts. Maurice Durufle's Scherzo and Cesar Franck's Choral in A Minor were short pieces chocked full of rushing tempos. Dupre's version of the Christmas carol, 11 variations each with several copies of the tune, was well played, if too much of a good thing.

A prolific composer, Twynham has written many commissioned works, some with his wife, poet Eileen Twynham. In the two years after Vatican II, Twynham composed new music Mondays and Tuesdays, printed the music on Wednesdays, rehearsed on Thursdays and performed on Sundays. He continues writing liturgical music and directs Cathedral choirs of men, boys and women.

His Cathedral Concert series continues at 5:30 p.m. next Sunday with the Baltimore Camerata of flutist Ellen Finklestein, cellist Donald Watts and pianist Frederick Minger playing Hindemith's Sonata for Flute and Piano. The 24th season's 29 concerts end May 26.

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