Mark Steinbach performs Messiaen’s La Nativité

Sunday, April 11, 2021


Please note: this event will premiere on Brown University’s YouTube channel. The direct link to Mark Steinbach’s recital is

Mark Steinbach, University Organist and Senior Lecturer in Music will perform Oliver Messiaen’s La Nativité du Seigneur, Neuf Méditations pour orgue (The birth of the Lord, Nine Meditations for Organ), on the Hutchings-Votey pipe organ of 1903 in Sayles Hall, Sunday April 11 at 3:00pm. The recital will be broadcast virtually. The premiere of La Nativité took place February 27, 1936 in Paris with three separate performers, each performing three movements. Steinbach will perform the work in its entirety. This composition pre-dates the composer’s legendary Quartet of the End of Time (1941), but already displays Messiaen’s experiments with Greek and Hindu rhythms, color, timbre, modes of limited transposition, and birdsong, which all play important roles in his ouvré.

About Mark Steinbach

Mark Steinbach is University Organist, Curator of Instruments, and Senior Lecturer in Music at Brown University, where he teaches applied organ lessons, music theory, and seminars on such topics as Olivier Messiaen, and performance and analysis. Mr. Steinbach concertizes and teaches frequently throughout the United States and Europe. A passionate advocate of new music, he premiered compositions of Brown composers Eric Nathan and Wang Lu at Notre-Dame de Paris and Berlin’s Nikolai-kirche in summer 2016. He appeared in music festivals in Dresden, Berlin, and other venues in Germany in 2017. He performed solo recitals at festivals in Freiberg Cathedral, Rötha, Görlitz, Weimar, and Aosta Cathedral in summer 2018. He presented a class at the 2018 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists on Healthy Practice Technique.

Mr. Steinbach has performed for the National Conventions of the American Guild of Organists, the Organ Historical Society, the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, the International Organ Festival at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, the Courmayeur, Bolzano, Storici Organi della Valsesia, and Picena international organ festivals in Italy and organ festivals in Berlin, Halle, and Lüneburg, Germany. He performed the world premiere of Daniel Pinkham’s “Odes” at the American Guild of Organists Regional Convention and the U.S. premiere of Nico Muhly’s “O Antiphon Preludes” at Brown University. Mr. Steinbach has been featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” performing on the 1640’s English cabinet organ in Wickford, Rhode Island, the oldest church organ in use in the United States. Mr. Steinbach served as Organist and Choirmaster of historic St. Paul’s Church in Wickford, Rhode Island for 23 years, building a substantial multi-generational music program.

Mr. Steinbach earned the bachelor of music degree from the University of Kansas. As a Fulbright scholar he studied with Peter Planyavsky in Vienna, Austria. He earned the master of music and doctor of musical arts degrees from The Eastman School of Music where he studied organ with David Craighead and harpsichord with Arthur Haas.

Mr. Steinbach’s critically acclaimed CD Organ Works of Anton Heiller (Loft) has been featured on America Public Media’s Pipedreams and The Organ Loft. Mr. Steinbach has adjudicated several organ competitions, including the American Guild of Organists National Young Artists Competition. His recent recording “Glass and Bach in Dresden” on the 1755 Silbermann organ in Dresden is expected to be released in 2020.

About the Sayles Hall Organ

The Sayles Hall Organ was a gift in 1903 of Lucian Sharpe (class of 1893) in memory of his parents. The Latin inscription on the organ’s oak case reads,“Parentibus et Academiae Pignus Pietatis” or “to (my) parents and the academy, a token of devotion.” For many years, the student body had been extremely vocal about wanting a pipe organ. In his annual report of 1902, President Faunce referred to a new organ for Sayles Hall as “one of our greatest small needs.” Following the lead of Symphony Hall in Boston, Vassar and Yale, the University contracted with the Hutchings-Votey Company of Boston. To receive the organ, which weighed about 25 tons, the old gallery in Sayles Hall was replaced by a new one with a projecting center, under the direction of architects Stone, Carpenter, and Willson. The Hutchings-Votey Organhas three manuals, with fifty-one speaking stops, more than three thousand pipes, wind reservoirs,and over on hundred miles of wiring. The swell and choir organs are enclosed in separate swell boxes.

At Commencement in June 1903, the opening recital was performed by eminent Belgian organist Chevalier Auguste Wiengand, who was then the Sydney Town Hall Organist. In 1924, Mrs. Lownes endowed an annual organ recital known as “Edgar J. Lownes Memory Day,” a memorial to her late husband. In 1949, the organ received its first complete renovation,which involved the installation of a new console designed by the Schantz Organ Company. The organ fell into a state of disrepair in the 1980’s after hurricane water damage. The latest renovation of the instrument was undertaken in 1990 by the Potter-Rathburn Organ Company of Cranston, RI. By the 1950’s, the trend of much of the organ world was the replace, rather than restore or repair, and many fine instruments were lost. Fortunately the Brown organ is still sounding forth and is now the largest remaining Hutchings-Votey organ.

Adapted from Encyclopaedia Brunonia, Martha Mitchell, and the Brown Alumni Monthly, May 1903