In June 2009, University Organist Dr. Robert Huw Morgan embarked on a year-long series of recitals in honor of the 25th anniversary of the majestic Fisk-Nanney organ in Stanford’s Memorial Church. The programs consisted, quite simply, of the complete works for organ by another career organist, Johann Sebastian Bach. The Stanford Music Library is pleased to present streaming audio of these fourteen recitals through our website.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) built an early reputation as one of the greatest organists and organ experts of his time. He performed on many of the most important organs in Europe, giving public concerts as well as providing evaluative examinations of newly-built instruments. He composed prolifically for the organ, leaving a remarkably varied and inventive body of literature of the highest caliber, ranging from intimate chorale preludes to variations on well-known works of other masters (Vivaldi, Corelli, Ernst) to grand preludes and fugues.
The Fisk-Nanney Organ is named after organ builder Charles Fisk and longtime Stanford University organist Herbert Nanney. It was the last instrument that Fisk worked on (the Gloucester, Massachusetts company, founded in 1961, remains active today). Charles Fisk’s initial scholarly pursuit was in nuclear physics, and at one point he worked for Robert Oppenheimer at Los Alamos Laboratory as a technician on the detonator team for the Manhattan Project. Fisk’s studies led him from Harvard to Stanford, where his interests shifted to the traditional (non-electro-pneumatic) mechanics of the organ. An apprenticeship with Redwood City organ builder John Swinford led to further study in the Ohio workshop of noted organ builder Walter Holtkamp, Sr. The company, CB Fisk Inc., flourished, constructing instruments for concert halls and churches in cities across the US and in other countries including Switzerland, Japan, and Korea. Details on the history and construction of the Fisk-Nanney Organ (Fisk’s “Opus 85”) can be found on their website.
Dr. Robert Huw Morgan joined the Stanford Department of Music in 1999 and is currently the Stanford University Organist and Director, University Singers and Memorial Church Chorus, and Lecturer in Organ. A native of Wales, he studied at Cambridge University, and in 1989 became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists. Doctoral study followed at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he received two DMAs (Organ Performance and Orchestral Conducting). Dr. Morgan has toured extensively as soloist, accompanist, and conductor.
Thanks go to Jon Manton (Archive of Recorded Sound) and Geoff Willard (Media Preservation Lab) for preparing the streaming audio files for this site.