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Organist favors musical mix

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For his concerts, organist Richard Elliott is a fan of mixing up musical styles.

Richard Elliott, principal organist at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, performs next Sunday in Albuquerque.

Richard Elliott, principal organist at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, performs next Sunday in Albuquerque.

Elliott’s eclectic programming for full concerts is based on his experience giving half-hour recitals in Salt Lake City as principal organist of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Many attending those short recitals have never been to a classical or sacred music performance. Hence, the eclecticism.

“If you don’t like this, wait till the next piece. It’s bound to appeal to you,” Elliott said in a phone interview.

Following that idea, he will be offering listeners a musical mix for his June 7 concert at the Cathedral of St. John in Downtown Albuquerque.

There will be music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Wagner, a William Albright ragtime piece, and Elliott’s own fantasy based on several George Gershwin tunes. The Bach is the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, one of his longest works.

“I like it because there’s not only a lot of variety and the contrast of the three movements. And it shows Bach’s cosmopolitan character – the influence from outside of Germany, especially the Italian influence,” Elliott said.

“And also the Adagio I think is one of the most beautiful slow movements Bach ever wrote. I’m surprised it is not arranged for other instruments.”

The Mozart is the Fantasia in F minor. And like the Bach piece, the Mozart fantasia has a great deal of variety.

“It’s sort of a rondo form and in the center is a beautiful Adagio in A-flat major that contrasts with the outer sections of the piece that alternates between French overture movements and very short fugue sections,” Elliott said.

Written for mechanical organ, he is playing a transcription by 20th-century organist Marcel Dupre.

Also, on the program is Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries.”

Most of Elliott’s concertizing is in the United States but he also has performed in Israel and this summer he will perform in Germany.

Probably the foremost reason he likes going out to do concerts “is the chance to bring my music to other people who cannot come to Salt Lake City,” he said.

Another reason is the chance to be heard on different organs: “If you’re a violinist, you are playing your own violin. But for an organist, it’s a joy to play a variety of instruments in often beautiful settings. I often feel enriched by that experience.”

The concert, which is part of the Friends of Cathedral Music Series, is Elliott’s first in New Mexico. He said he’s excited to play at the cathedral, which has the largest pipe organ in the state.

Since 1991, Elliott has been one of three full-time organists at the Mormon Tabernacle and since 2007 he has been its principal organist.