Do Yourself a Big Favor by Including It on Your Next Recital

In the American Organist, October 2014, Rollin Smith wrote a fantastic review of one of Pietro Yon’s pieces that I’ve always loved. It’s so much fun and fits perfectly with all kind of situations, summer concerts, patriotic holidays, memorial and remembrance days, or simply as an engaging encore. Thank you, Rollin, for telling the AGO about this!

PIETRO YON: American Rhapsody. Michael’s Music Service. Available from Michaelsmusicservice.com., $14. Pietro Yon is remembered as the composer of “Gesu Bambino” and his melodic and easy mass settings were ubiquitous in Catholic church choir lofts before the liturgical changes brought about by Vatican II. Yon was a successful recitalist throughout the 1920s and ’30s, more so after he was instrumental in having Kilgen organs put in Carnegie Hall and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, subsequently dedicating Kilgens in practically every Catholic church in the country. He was a virtuoso, as his player organ rolls bear witness, and he was acclaimed as a fine teacher as certainly his posthumously-published Organ Pedal Technic testifies. His organ music was popular during his lifetime and his 1918 “Humoresque” L’Organo primitivo is still heard from time to time. The American Rhapsody is a potpouri from a time when organ recitals were played to sold-out paid-admission houses and, yes, to less sophisticated music lovers than today. I have to admit that when I played this at the Brooklyn Museum in the 1970s, the audience all but stood on its chairs and threw programs in the air, shouting itself hoarse. This is an audience piece par excellence and you will be doing yourself a big favor by including it on your next recital — you really won’’t need to play anything else! After the initial four pages of “Maryland, My Maryland,” otherwise known as “O Tannenbaum,” comes an Allegro marziale of the Civil War song, “Tramp, tramp, tramp. The boys are marching.” This is followed by an Adagio (with much Vox Humana and Echo Organ) setting of “Deep River,” which is followed by the scherzo, “Dixie,” played in the pedals. (Here’s where they really get restless!) “Hail! Columbia” works up the finale with an easy sixteenth-note Pedal ostinato and you can either end here or, for an alternate ending, go into the “Star Spangled Banner — effectively sung by all present. The American Rhapsody is not beginner’s material, but it will make a modest player sound like a virtuoso and certainly win friends for the organ recital.

Rollin Smith
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