Reviews of Liszt and Scheide: Raven OAR-350

American Record Guide

On this decidedly out-of-the ordinary disc, Kathleen Scheide's playing of the three Liszt pieces is almost 100% pleasing -- rhythmic, original, colorful in registration, and at times exciting and quite emotional.  I say "almost" because she draws the 16' manual stops too often for my taste; these impart a murky opaqueness to the music.  Her handling of rhythm and tempo in the big, chaconne-based Weinen, Klagen is markedly free.

Who can argue with her playing of her own compositions?  And attractive organ pieces they are, mostly, a welcome addition to contemporary repertoire.  That ubiquitous tune, 'Amazing Grace', forms the subject for a winsome chain of variations (1994).  What a daunting task to write a convincing piece on such a folksy, down-home tune!  Set for Organ (1991) is a three-movement work incorporating forms traditionally favored by organ composers:  chorale prelude, toccata, fugue, passacaglia.  The tonal language is more avant-garde than in the variations: in fact, III is a witches' cauldron of unrelieved dissonance.  Gnostic Incantation (1989) seems to me both the most original and appealing of Miss Scheide's three works, an important and captivating composition that is imaginatively conceived for the organ.

The organ in the Mission Church, Boston, is difficult to categorize.  The original 1897 Hutchings -- a fine, valuable instrument in its day -- has been rebuilt and fundamentally altered in character.  Nevertheless, it is a versatile and beautiful instrument, with many of the old stops intact, in a resonant acoustical setting.  Raven's recorded fidelity is superb.                    -- MULBURY

Journal of the International Alliance of Women in Music 

A successful marriage of the 19th and 20th centuries occurs on the 1995 Liszt and Scheide CD featuring organ works performed by Kathleen Scheide on the magnificent three-manual, 1897 George S. Hutchings and Sons organ in Boston's Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  This review will address only Scheide's original compositions.

Scheide's set of ten Variations on Amazing Grace (1994) begins with the organ's lush string stops presenting the well-known melody in a modern harmonization with mostly fifths in the left hand.  Variations two through four feature the delightful Flute 4' in various combinations with the strings.  In the final five variations, Scheide moves through several keys, shifts meters and increases both the sound and the exuberance: the organ's reeds, mutations and pleno shine brilliantly until the end.

Scheide's Set for Organ (1991), although less tonal than the previous work, opens with "Proem," a mostly diatonic movement.  Scheide combines rhythmic and melodic elements in the final measures of the movement so that the concluding sustained chords lead directly into "Choralis," a chorale prelude.  The movement's cantus firmus is played on a color stop in the left hand, while two-measure ostinati accompany quietly in the right hand and the pedal.  The gently shifting entrances of these two voices provide the musical activity against the melody, while the sighing motifs in the right hand add a poignancy to the movement.  "Omnium gatherum" consists of a short, brilliant toccata, a brief fugue, a second full-organ toccata and a closing passacaglia.  In the final portion, Scheide creates a counterpoint of themes and motives from the first two movements with an occasional appearance of the B-A-C-H theme.

Scheide's final composition on the CD, Gnostic Incantation (1989), is virtuosic and complex, with shifting meters, polyrhythms, heterophony, some double pedal, and exoticism that is expressed through augmented seconds and a drone.  Although the work is not based on Byzantine chant, the theme evokes that style.  Each of the three variations becomes more intricate in the weaving of exotic countermelodies that lead to the closing fugue.

Scheide's playing on this recording is exciting, musical, precise and technically skillful -- a fine combination of artist, instrument and composer.  Educated at the New England Conservatory of Music and the University of Southern California, Scheide has given recitals throughout North America and Europe.  She is based in San Diego and concertizes under the management of Ruth Plummer, Artist recitals, Los Angeles.  The CD is available from Raven, Box 15000, Richmond, VA 23260.
                         -- FRANCES NOBERT