Reviews

Compositions

It is a Good Thing to Give Thanks unto the Lord by Stuart Forster, SATB (divisi) and organ, English text Psalm 92: 1, 2, 4, and 5. This anthem is a thrill to recommend by this fine Australian born composer. Music director and organist at Christ Church in Cambridge, MA since 1999, Forster consistently composes useful service music that is creative and thought provoking. Filled with changing meters in the keys of D, G, and C Major, it creatively offers challenging tessituras for all voice parts on imaginative counterpoint and brilliant harmonies. There are moments in this anthem that are bell-like in nature, creating a celebration of thanks for our existence. This composer understands the voice. The use of thoughtful music writing between men and women are quite engaging. The a cappella sections are composed homophonically and ring off the page. These harmonies are balanced between effective unisons and bold accompanied passages that are at times bone chilling. The text painting and text versification are skillfully employed with great sensitivity and power. The independent organ part adds to the celebration that this anthem captures with radiant joy. This Psalm setting is a must for the accomplished mixed chorus and organist.

stuartaforster.com can be found on line. Paraclete Press, PPM10317, $3.70 [Spectrum Music, Dec 2013]

 

O Taste and See, by Stuart Forster, English text, Paraclete Press, PPM00514, SATB a cappella. A communion anthem set to a text from Psalm 34:8, I first encountered this beautiful anthem when Sir David Willcocks conducted this graceful motet as part of the second New England Youth Choir Festival in 2002 at a dinner party after the concert. All of the adult artistic participants fell in love with this piece as Willcocks guided us through this fine contemporary motet. It is filled with sensitive text painting and sensual feeling so appropriate to the interpretation of the text. The anthem can be used in a general service situation as well. This fine anthem has received numerous performances, including the Washington National Cathedral and the American Anglican Musicians Convention. Scholarship, excellent compositional skills and sensitive choral writing make this piece a must for the choral library where effective literature is so important to your service planning. Difficulty rating 3-4. [The Choral Room]

Stunning! This piece is a wonderful addition to the collection of works on this text (RVW, Bruce Neswick, etc). Its linear concept is almost chant-like yet the resulting vertical harmonies are warm, lush and beautiful. Highly recommended! Robert Lehman, August 19, 2007

… this setting of Psalm 34:8 is full of intricate, close harmonic writing in all four parts. The lines, although mostly step-wise in   motion, are not without challenge. The final result is a graceful but   involved work for the accomplished ensemble. Cross Accent, August 2005

Performance and Recordings

“Forster is a skillful transcriber; his transcription of the complete New World Symphony of Dvořák has met with great success. Here he offers three other transcriptions… In each of these, Forster demonstrates his skill at translating the essence of the music from one idiom to the other, making the transcriptions sound idiomatic to the organ. His dexterous command of the large instrument is reminiscent of that of his former teacher Thomas Murray. The instrument itself is ideally suited to this kind of music, and Forster elicits a multitude of colors to match every phrase, including the various percussions. From the softest whisper to the sumptuous strings, flutes, and foundations, to the blare of the big reeds and the glory of the full organ, these are compelling performances. Throughout, Forster’s broad musicianship and technical mastery produce a gratifying musical experience. His performance of Hancock’s Toccata, which closes the program, is particularly brilliant; Uncle Gerre would be proud! Forster is clearly at home on this grand symphonic instrument, which shines under his capable command. Performer, music, and instrument combine to make this a highly enjoyable recording.”   James Hildreth, The American Organist April 2014

“Forster revelled in the virtuoso pedal work and idiomatic deployment of the organ’s soundscape…. Stuart Forster can be pronounced, without hesitation, a lofty star in the organ fraternity.” The Canberra Times [Australia]

“Forster brings solid technique, a rich sense of musical idiom, and creative exploration of registration possibilities to his performances.”       The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians, October 2009

“…an astonishing performance, carefully and lovingly prepared, and brilliantly executed. Breathtaking is the word.” Piporg-l [Internet]

“Forster’s arranging certainly works…. This young artist knows his instrument and his music.”       The Richmond Times-Dispatch [U.S.A.]

“Stuart Forster is one of Australia’s most accomplished younger organists…. Stuart Forster’s performance … is truly virtuosic and of compelling interest throughout.”          OHTA News [The Organ Historical Trust of Australia]

“…Stuart’s playing excels with countless smooth crescendi and diminuendi and meticulous registration changes that take the dynamic level from one notch up or down with ease.”        The Sydney Organ Journal [Australia]

“I wouldn’t have missed this experience for the world! The transcription is masterly, its performance quite splendid…. This is orchestral playing of the highest calibre.” The Organist’s Review [England]

“To say that music, player and instrument fit together well is akin to saying that Gustav Mahler wrote some nice pieces for orchestra! … musicality shines through, this is virtuosity used in the service of the music not vice-versa.”     The Organ Club Journal [England]

“It is not possible to convey on paper the aural excitement that this performance generates.”       Organo Pleno [Australia]

“I couldn’t help but be impressed by the quality of Stuart’s playing….So “easy” did it sound when just listening to the recording that I didn’t realise how difficult it really was.”   The Sydney Organ Journal [Australia]

“…a thrilling presentation of the romantic/orchestral organ at its finest…. every aspect receives our Highest Recommendation.”     Theatre Organ [U.S.A.]

“nuanced and powerful playing”      The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians, March 2011

”The Schoenstein organ handles all this effortlessly, with a tremendous dynamic range and wealth of colour. … strongly recommended.”     Organ Australia, 2009

Other Internet reviews:

I have aired his CD on “Orgelwerke” and it is excellent!! The artist, musical selections, instrument and the superb acoustics of Holy Rosary Cathedral in Toledo — all add up to place this recording in the “must have” category in one’s library.

I remember thinking, when Stuart first played the last movement there: “This is not possible. No one could possibly catch everything played by a huge orchestra with just ten fingers and a couple of feet.” It was, there and here, a great astonishment, but, with all that, a performance of great beauty, and I have to add, sensitivity, a requirement of the fact that this movement is quite sectional, and there are many changes of mood. The whole thing was breathtaking, and we all made our approval loudly clear, as Stuart left the stage for intermission.

Tonight’s was a wonderful performance, deft, precise, and full of fun.

Conducting

First review of Vesper Light:

This CD is a compilation of live performances from choir tours to the great cathedrals of New York and Washington, as well as St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue, and is being used to generate funds for a forthcoming tour to England. … this CD has the refreshing quality of live performance, not an edited recording session. And since the venues vary from track to track, the microphone placement changes as well; but the integrity of the musicianship of Stuart’s excellent forty-voice Evensong choir remains consistent. Founded only ten years ago, this choir has quickly worked to put itself “on the map.” Although not a strict Vespers per se (Mass movements are included and there is neither a Magnificat nor a Nunc dimittis), there are some rarely recorded works such as Philip Moore’s All wisdom cometh from the Lord and Robert Lehman’s Preces and Suffrages which are a delight to hear. Again and again, Stuart and the choir demonstrate wonderful musicianship coupled with a passion for what they are doing.        — Jonathan Dimmock, The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians (December, 2010)

Forster displays his enviable skills as an organ soloist in Bach’s Schmücke dich, played with sensitivity of phrasing and tasteful embellishment, and Vierne’s Final from Symphonie No. 1, given an invigorating, energetic reading. Forster’s skill as a choral leader is equally impressive. The choir consistently performs at a high technical and artistic level, exhibiting exemplary vocalism and stylistic integrity… sterling renditions of this sacred repertoire. Stuart Forster and the Evensong Choir of Christ Church are highly worthy practitioners of the Anglican cathedral tradition. This recording is well worth acquiring. James Hildreth, The American Organist (February, 2017)

Book

Stuart Forster’s book Hymn playing: A Modern Colloquium is a balm to the running sore of bad hymn playing.

This stupendous work is a real labour of love and the distillation of his doctoral dissertation.

Not a word that you hear in everyday speech, the word ‘Colloquium’ often has academic overtones. But there is no trace of ivory tower, remote and removed from practice. Dr Forster’s eleven contributors (ten American and one Aussie) are very much hands-on practitioners: slaving at the coal face of their consoles. Here is much value, forged by masters through trial and error with congregations great and small. Far from being a dry-as-dust academic tome, the book is like the dinner party conversation, sometimes even delightfully gossipy in tone. Packed full of anecdotes about the great and good from Simon Preston, George Guest and, most interestingly, Sir George Thalben Ball, whose piston settings at the Temple Church feature in the appendix.

This volume must now be the bible for every single organist! It is essential, fascinating reading and should be compulsory for students. Exhaustive, scholarly, gossipy and chatty, it will be seen as a milestone in the resurgence of hymns this century. Stuart Forster and his venerable team of organists have done the organ world, musicians and congregations worldwide an enormous service in producing this book. Bravissimo, Dr Forster!

Ross Cobb The Sydney Organ Journal March 2014 [excerpt]

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