Last Monday, Jan 25, world-renowned German organist Stefan Kiessling performed a brief Taylor Time concert at Memorial Chapel. The concert concluded his eight-day residency at Union.
According to an interview with Arts co-editor Avery Novitch ’16, Kiessling got his start on the piano and harpsichord, taking lessons from an organist. Slowly, his parents grew irritated with Kiessling for not practicing enough, and his mother suggested he try out the organ instead.
Now, he performs concerts at churches and cathedrals around the world.
This past week, Kiessling took residency at Union to give a series of lectures and concerts, free to the campus community.
Kiessling was introduced to Union three years ago by Music Professor Diane McMullen, who invited him over for a weeklong stay. Since then, he has made annual appearances to share his knowledge with the campus.
In addition to his career as a musician, Kiessling is also a computer scientist and mathematician. One of his projects is a program that determines what sort of sound would occur from a given combination of stops on a pipe organ (the organ registry).
In a lecture at Union, he explained how mathematical algorithms played a role in his musicianship, and how they can help others improve their playing.
Kiessling also gave a cultural seminar on Leipzig, one of Germany’s most populated cities. Another talk focused on passacaglia, a seventeenth-century Spanish music composition technique that continues to bear influence on modern music.
Following his lectures, Kiessling performed two organ concerts, each with a different program. On Sunday, he fingered selections of Bach, Mendelssohn, Reger, and Frank Martin at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church on Nott Terrace.
For his Memorial Chapel concert, he performed selections of Bach, Buxtehude and Leidel.
His set encompassed Johann Sebastian Bach’s solo repertoire, including a violin concerto transcribed in C major for the organ. He also showcased a 17th century passacaglia, scribed by Dieterich Buxtehude.
Midway through the concert, Kiessling got up to guide the audience through a brief chorale prelude, “Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn” (“Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God”).
Then, he concluded with Wolf-Günter Leidel’s lively Toccata delectatione. Toccata is derived from the Italian word for “touch,” and is performed lightly tapped.
After the concert, Kiessling appeared at a reception in Beuth House to mingle with his American fans.
Per the concert program, Stefan Kiessling is an Assistant Organist at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany.