Organist Gail Archer Releases A Russian Journey Album Today
Internationally renowned concert organist and recording artist Gail Archer releases her eighth solo album A Russian Journey featuring works by 19th and 20th Century Russian composers including members of the Russian Five and their successors. Featuring hidden Russian gems from the organ canon, A Russian Journey enthralls listeners with Archer's musicality, sensitivity, and visceral quality. Starting this fall, Archer celebrates the album release with an international concert tour at some of the world's finest churches. (Complete tour schedule below.)
In 2013 and again in 2016, Archer traveled throughout Russia performing in small halls in Tomsk, Perm, and Kislovodsk, to name a few. "The audiences at every concert were full to overflowing and the devotion and respect for classical music in Russia was utterly remarkable," explains Archer. These recent trips sparked an interest in organ music by Russian composers which she admittedly was unfamiliar. "I invite listeners to take this Russian journey with me, as I am confident that they will be inspired by the depth and beauty of this music, as I am."
The Five, also called The Russian Five or The Mighty Five-a group of five Russian composers including César Cui (1835-1918) and Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) featured on the album-who in the 1860s banded together to create and influence the creation of music that conveyed the ideas of Russian culture. This distinct Russian style of music was inspired by Russian poetry, literature, and folk melodies. The CD opens with works by Cui: Prelude in G Minor and Prelude in A Major, and closes with Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, a cornerstone of Russian program music.
The Five were succeeded by their students, a less energetic generation including Sergei Ljapunov (1859-1924) and Aleksandr Glazunov (1865-1936). The album includes Ljapunov's gentle yet complex Prelude in Pastoral Op.54 followed by Glazunov's Prelude and Fugue in D Minor Op.98 reminiscent of Russian Orthodox male choirs.
Bookending the recording are works by 20th Century composers Sergei Slonimsky (b.1932) and Alexander Shaversaschvili (1919-2003). Like his predecessors, Slonimsky has done extensive research on the Russian folksong tradition. The Tocatta on the program is one of only two of his organ works. Shaversaschvili's Prelude and Fugue "has an introspective and poignant opening melody that attracted me," explains Archer. The dynamic arch of the work begins at a quiet whisper and grows to a full, powerful organ at the conclusion.
About Gail Archer Gail Archer is an international concert organist, recording artist, choral conductor and lecturer who draws attention to composer anniversaries or musical themes with her annual recital series including Max Reger, The Muse's Voice, An American Idyll, Liszt, Bach, Mendelssohn, and Messiaen. Ms. Archer was the first American woman to play the complete works of Olivier Messiaen. Time Out New York recognized the Messiaen cycle as "Best of 2008" in classical music and opera. Her recordings include A Russian Journey, The Muse's Voice, Franz Lizst: A Hungarian Rhapsody, Bach: The Transcendent Genius, An American Idyll, A Mystic in the Making (Meyer Media), and The Orpheus of Amsterdam: Sweelinck and his Pupils (CALA Records). Ms. Archer's 2017 European tour took her to Germany, Italy, the British Isles, Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. Highlights include St. Nicholas Church, Stuttgart, Germany, Church of San Domenico, Palermo, Sicily, the Temple of the Renaissance, Bryansk, Russia, the Philharmonic Hall, Khmelnytsky, Ukraine, and the Basilika Mariaska, Gdansk, Poland. She is the founder of Musforum, an international network for women organists to promote and affirm their work.
Ms. Archer is a college organist at Vassar College, and director of the music program at Barnard College, Columbia University, where she conducts the Barnard-Columbia Chorus. She serves as director of the artist and young organ artist recitals at the historic Central Synagogue, New York City.