For the fifth instalment of this highly successful series of concerts that has been running for ever since 2009, Pál Mácsai and László Fassang have discovered some astonishing American organ stories from the first half of the 20th century. Unusual tales, anecdotes and legends connected with pieces of music, instruments, composers and performers are spiced with curiosities from the history of the organ. The point of departure on this occasion is the cinema organ, which enjoyed enormous popularity in the America of the 1920s. Pianists used the instrument to excellent effect to provide musical accompaniment to silent films as its pipes could not only conjure up a huge variety of timbres but, thanks to built-in percussion instruments, were also able imitate all manner of sounds from a ringing telephone to a locomotive whistle. The life of the inventor of the Hammond organ contains enough stories to fill several evenings. One thing is certain about Laurens Hammond, he had a brilliant mind. At the age of just 14, he had already designed an automatic gearbox for automobiles. By 24, he had ensured himself a living with the invention of a silent spring-driven clock. He later set up a clock factory, developed his own version of the 3D technology used in cinemas, and helped the US Army with numerous inventions during the Second World War. At the time of his death 40 years ago, Hammond left behind a total of more than 100 patents. In 1933, he purchased a used piano that he stripped down to just the keyboard. He then reassembled it into what would become the Hammond organ, on the one hand offering a cheaper alternative to church organs in a time of global economic depression, and on the other – decades later – bringing new colour to the popular music palette. So there will certainly be stories to tell, and plenty of tunes to be played and heard. Presented by: Palace of Arts
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