American Guild of Organists Convention: Nashville, TN.

A recital on the last afternoon of a convention full of musical highlights poses unique challenges for any performer, as “convention fatigue” sets in and many choices compete for convention-goers’ few final hours together. Additionally, on this particular Friday afternoon, the temperature had climbed to 102 degrees. Ahreum Han overcame all of those challenges and more, and more, and played an absolutely thrilling recital.

The program opened with Jean Demessieux’s dramatic Te Deum, Op.11. Han negotiated its technical difficulties with ease. J.S. Bach’s Trio Sonata in G, BWV 530, was perfectly suited to this performer and the Beckerath instrument, and Han played with flawless memory, quiet elegance, and exuberant joy.

She provided an energetic performance of Mozart’s Fantasy in F Minor, K. 594 (composed for a musical clock). Her programming of Guy Bovet’s Hamburger Totentanz, with quotes from The Tales of Hoffmann, “Für Elise,” and The Flying Dutchman, elicited appreciative chuckles from the audience.
The meditative and mysterious introduction (depicting “a graveyard at midnight”) of Reger’s Choral Fantasy on Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme was played with lyrical sensitivity. As “the dead are gradually awakened,” multiple statements of the chorale in various voices, combined with virtuosic compositional and playing techniques and Han’s expert registrational changes, built excitement until the suddenly quiet and slow chorale statement “representing God’s blessing.” Han’s nimble hands and feet were further put to the test in the joyous fugue, and when the chorale melody finally reappeared, transformed by the surrounding material, she had earned our rapt attention. The work’s triumphant closing chords hand barely finished when the audience stood as one, rewarding a fabulous performance with shouts of “Brava” and enthusiastic applause.

By Jan Kraybill