Adam J. Brakel
ADAM J. BRAKEL
The spell-binding and masterful performances of Adam J. Brakel have led to his being compared to Liszt, Gould, Bernstein, and Paganini. National Public Radio in Florida hailed him as “An absolute organ prodigy, with the technique and virtuosity that most concert pianists could only dream of…He is the Franz Liszt of the organ.” He graduated from Duquesne University in 2006 as an organ student of John Walker and David Craighead. While at Duquesne he served as Associate Organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh. He then enrolled at The Juilliard School in New York City and was appointed Assistant Organist at the Church of Saint Ignatius Loyola on New York’s Park Avenue. Further studies took him to Toulouse, France, and then to the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore where he completed his master’s degree and Graduate Performance Diploma in 2011. At Peabody, he studied with Donald Sutherland and visiting guest professor Dame Gillian Weir. Brakel took top prizes in the Albert Schweitzer Organ Competition, the Reuter/Augustana Arts Undergraduate Organ Competition, and the Gruenstein Memorial Organ Competition, among others. He currently serves as Director of Music at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida.
His most recent performance review:
Fort Smith is fortunate to have the Mary McDonald Music Series, which has featured many first-rate organists in the past. However, never before have we heard the musical depth of organ music on display Sunday [April 23, 2017] by Adam J. Brakel. He is the cutting edge of young organ virtuosos, and just now coming into his full power. There seems to be no limit to his ability. He performed everything from Bach to Liszt to Mendelssohn to a piece composed by Andrew Fletcher specifically for Brakel 12 years ago while he was an undergraduate. The audience responded enthusiastically to his high energy and athleticism, which he pours into the instrument. In addition to his performance skills, Adam Brakel is a formidable arranger and transcriber. He ended the concert with an unlikely selection, the Mendelssohn/Liszt/Horowitz/Volodos Wedding March, which he arranged and transcribed for organ. Adam Brakel is more than a performer and more than an arranger. He genuinely cares about the music, and strives to play music as it was meant to be played. Brakel demonstrated this careful attention to the music itself in his opening selection, Liszt’s Präeludium und Fuge über den Namen BACH. Despite the recognized extreme difficulty of the piece, Brakel’s effortless performance of the piece is perhaps one of the numerous reasons he is called the Liszt of the organ. Consistent with his philosophy, this program was not about his performance, it was about the music. This willingness to put the music first is an attribute that makes Brakel’s virtuosity even grander. He is down to earth in his musical presentation. He makes even the most esoteric of organ pieces accessible to the audience. His encore piece, a deeply spiritual arrangement of Amazing Grace, demonstrated his ability to read the audience and respond with sensitivity. (Tim Hess, Dean, Fort Smith, Arkansas Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, April 2017.)