Organ Recital: Monte Maxwell cover

Organ Recital: Monte Maxwell


Organist Monte Maxwell has played for diplomats and national leaders from around the world, and now he performs for you! Hear this outstanding virtuoso on a wide-ranging program. This matinee recital includes the best of organ music—from Wagner to Bach, Widor to Bizet, Vierne to Yon and far beyond as Maxwell showcases the William J. Gillespie Concert Organ’s stunning palette of sounds, often adding his own twist to classic arrangements.

NoteStream NoteStream

NoteStreams are readable online but they’re even better in the free App!

The NoteStream™ app is for learning about things that interest you: from music to history, to classic literature or cocktails. NoteStreams are truly easy to read on your smartphone—so you can learn more about the world around you and start a fresh conversation.

For a list of all authors on NoteStream, click here.

Read the NoteStream below, or download the app and read it on the go!

Organ Recital: Monte Maxwell

Organ Recital: Monte Maxwell


Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Fanfares from Parsifal

arr. Virgil Fox

Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

Suite from Carmen

arr. Monte Maxwell



Toreador Song

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542

Pietro Yon (1886-1943)

Humoresque "L'organo Primitivo"

Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937)

Andante Cantabile from Organ Symphony No. 4, Op. 13

John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)

Stars and Stripes Forever

arr. E. Power Biggs


Monte Maxwell (b. 1963)

A Military Salute

Alexander Russell (1880-1953)

The Bells of St. Anne de Beaupré from St. Lawrence Sketches

Mitchell Bell and Timmy Maggs, handbell ringers (from The All-American Boys Chorus)

Carol Williams (b. 1962)

Major Something, Non Fat Latte! Op. 4

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

To the Evening Star from Tannhäuser

arr. Monte Maxwell

Louis Vierne (1870-1937)

Finale from Symphony No. 6, Op. 59

The Pedals and Pipes series is generously sponsored by Valerie and Barry Hon.

Fanfares from Parsifal


Though Wagner wrote almost exclusively opera-or, more accurately, unique music-dramas of his own conception-the immense scope of his ideas and his sound are well matched to the grandeur of the organ. An atmosphere of majestic solemnity pervades his opera Parsifal, which occupied the composer for 25 years, almost until the end of his life. It combines Christian tradition with tales of the Arthurian knight Percival and his grail-quest. Described by Wagner as a drama to consecrate the stage, it conveys a sense of holiness, majesty and the suspension of time.

Lithograph of Act 1 of the 1875 premiere production of Bizet's Carmen in, by Pierre-Auguste Lamy

Suite from Carmen


Is Carmen the world's most popular opera? Statistics notwithstanding, there is something about it that puts it ahead of all others in its familiarity and fascination.

It's the one we've all grown up with, the one whose melodies we're most likely to hear in the schoolyard or as elevator music. Its frank depictions of sex and violence among the lower classes shocked early audiences, and its intensely dramatic music has attracted instrumental arrangements for violin, piano and guitar quartet, among others.

Monte Maxwell brings the full breadth of the organ's resources to bear in his arrangement, which depicts the brooding "fate" theme of the opera's prelude; Carmen's seductive habanera, a traditional Spanish dance; and the heroic “Toreador Song,” the opera's great baritone aria.

English: Portrait of J. S. Bach seated at the organ, 1725. Author unknown.

Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542


Bach's greatness is universal, but organists can rightfully claim him as one of their own. About one-third of his surviving compositions are for organ, and he is credited as one of the instrument's greatest masters.

This Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, designated the "Great" G minor to differentiate it from BWV 578 in the same key (the "Little" G minor), can be dated to around 1720, when Bach was 35, though the fantasia and fugue sections are thought to have been composed separately, years apart.

The glories of its intricate contrapuntal writing are built around a Dutch folk tune; in form, it presents itself in the familiar prelude-and-fugue arrangement. Acceptance of the year 1720 as the date for this masterly composition reinforces one of music history's most dramatic ironies: that the magnificently gifted Bach, for all his accomplishments, wrote some of his most famous works as unsuccessful job applications.

The Brandenburg Concertos are perhaps the best known, but this Fantasia and Fugue were probably composed as part of his audition process for an organist position he sought in Hamburg. In this case, it seems, a committee of eminent examiners chose Bach for the job, but he had to decline.

Pietro Alessandro Yon, 1918

Humoresque "L'organo Primitivo"

PIETRO YON (1886-1943)

This sprightly composition is the best-known work of Pietro Yon, an Italian-American organist and composer. Born in the Piedmont section of Italy, Yon studied in Milan and Turin and at the esteemed Academia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, and was an organist at the Vatican before making his career in the U.S. There is nothing "primitivo" about this brief humoresque, which makes the organ seem to dance on its toes.

Charles-Marie Widor, between 1885 an 1910.

Andante Cantabile from Organ Symphony No. 4, Op. 13


For many organ composers, including Charles-Marie Widor and Louis Vierne, a "symphony" could be a work for organ alone, rather than full orchestra—a technical distinction accorded no other instrument.

But then, no other instrument has the sonic resources of the organ, which can emulate so many different sounds in the orchestra and in nature through the adjustment of its stops.

Born in the French city of Lyon to a family of organ builders and players, Widor studied music with his father and later in Brussels. He eventually settled in Paris, achieving pre-eminence as an organist and winning the admiration of Charles Gounod. Though he also composed operas and ballets, only his works for organ-including 10 organ symphonies-remain in the active repertory. The toccata from his Symphony No. 5 is frequently excerpted, including in the movies.

John Philip Sousa, photo by Elmer Chickering c 1900.

Stars and Stripes Forever


The strains of this inspired composition by America's beloved "march king" are embedded in American culture, yet somehow with each hearing it rouses us anew. Stars and Stripes Forever is a patriotic tradition with all the brilliance of a fireworks display.

Standard arrangements for orchestra or marching band keep entire ensembles busy with virtuoso playing. The trick for any soloist tackling a transcription on a keyboard instrument-as Vladimir Horowitz famously did in his piano version-is to capture it all with just two hands. Here, Monte Maxwell does so in a spectacular arrangement by the celebrated American organist E. Power Biggs.


A Military Salute


In addition to being one of America's most distinguished organists, soloist Monte Maxwell is also a composer and arranger. A Military Salute reflects his two decades of service at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, where he is Chapel Organist and Director of Chapel Music and the Midshipmen Symphony Orchestra.

The Bells of St. Anne de Beaupré from St. Lawrence Sketches


Alexander Russell, a son of the American South, was born in Franklin, Tennessee, where his father was a Presbyterian minister.

He received early musical instruction from his mother and confirmed his musical gifts at Syracuse University, then went to Europe for further study—including with the French organist and composer Charles-Marie Widor.

After early success as a concert pianist, Russell made his mark in a long and distinguished tenure as organist, composer and professor of music at Princeton University. Works such as St. Lawrence Sketches demonstrate the depth of his calling to the king of instruments, taking full advantage of its imitative capabilities; this selection evokes the chanting of a choral procession and bells tolling in the distance.

Major Something, Non Fat Latte! Op. 4


If we needed further proof that virtuosity and fun are not mutually exclusive, Carol Williams provides it here. A native of Wales, Williams began private musical instruction before she could read English.

Her specialization in organ studies began at the Royal Academy of Music, where she was a pupil of the distinguished organist David Sanger for five years. In a career that has taken her all over the world in organ performances, Williams' work has always combined serious achievement and philanthropic concerns with a sense of fun that is reflected in the title of her sprightly Major Something, Non Fat Latte!

At least one other Williams composition and three entries in her discography contain exclamation points, though what they are doing there is a matter of interpretation. For a "major something," this selection is rather brief. But like a good nonfatlatte, it is amply frothy.

Richard Wagner in 1871 by Franz Hanfstaengl.

To the Evening Star from Tannhäuser

RICHARD WAGNER (1813–1883)

This ravishing song from the 1845 opera Tannhäuser is a rare moment of intimacy in Wagner, whose music is more often monumental and flows in a manner that is difficult to excerpt.

With its poetic, introspective legato line and wide vocal range, the aria is a test for any baritone-a poetic expression of chaste love in a drama that explores the dichotomy between man's longing for God and the lure of sexual attraction.

The character who sings it, Wolfram von Eschenbach, was an actual historical figure-a great medieval poet whose epic Parzival was a primary source for Wagner's Parsifal. Unlike the conflicted Tannhauser, Wolfram has sublimated his carnal desires and here addresses his admiration to the heavens.

Finale from Symphonie No. 6, Op. 59

LOUIS VIERNE (1870–1937)

Louis Vierne was almost blind from birth, but his musical gifts were discovered at a very early age, when he was heard at the piano keyboard picking out the notes of a Schubert lullaby he had just heard.

It did not take long for him to demonstrate his sensitivity to the organ's capabilities; he proved himself able to command the instrument's mechanical complexities even when he could not see them. He composed using oversized staff paper, later transitioning to Braille musical notation; to perform at the organ required a great deal of advance preparation to acquaint himself with the keyboards, pedals and stops he could not see.

Despite these trials, he maintained an active career as a composer and soloist, playing over 1,700 organ concerts. As chief organist at Notre Dame de Paris he held one of the most prestigious organ posts in France and even toured the U.S. to raise funds for the restoration of the cathedral's instrument. He died playing it in concert in 1937.

Monte Maxwell - Guest Artist

Monte Maxwell - Guest Artist

Monte Maxwell, Chapel Organist, Director of Chapel Music and the Midshipmen Symphony Orchestra, began his service at the United States Naval Academy in 1997. Maxwell, a native of San Angelo, Texas, earned his bachelor of music degree from Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, studying with Emmet G. Smith. He was then invited to study at the Curtis Institute of Music with John Weaver where he received an artist diploma, Curtis' highest degree.

Maxwell earned his master of music degree from the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, also studying with John Weaver. While studying in Philadelphia, Maxwell was an associate organist at the John Wanamaker Store, playing the famed six-manual organ, the largest playing organ in the world.

At the Naval Academy, Maxwell serves as the principal organist for the Protestant and Catholic services as well as playing for weddings, memorial services, funerals, and performances throughout the year. He commands the five-manual, 268-rank organ in the main chapel, which has recently undergone substantial enhancement under his direction and design.

His additional responsibilities include working with the Protestant and Catholic Chapel Choirs, the Protestant Chapel Chorale, the Men's and Women's Glee Clubs, and conducting the annual winter musical theater productions as well as the Naval Academy Midshipmen Symphony Orchestra. He oversees the annual Chapel Organ Concert series, which features guest performing artists from across the United States. He has also served as the Chairman of the Naval Academy Music Department and Director of Instrumental Activities.

Maxwell's annual All Saints' Day Organ Concert has become a staple of the Naval Academy and greater Annapolis cultural community. The standing-room-only event drew some 3,000 people into the Naval Academy Chapel in 1998, breaking all records in attendance for any event throughout the Chapel's history. Due to the popularity of this event, the Academy now offers two ticketed performances of this concert each year.

He has performed in the United States, South America, Eastern and Western Europe and Canada, and is an active member of the American Guild of Organists. In his free time, Maxwell is an avid roller coaster enthusiast and a member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts.