Civic Music welcomes elite organist Prieto Ramirez for Weidner Center concert

GREEN BAY — The pairing of one of the world’s most dynamic concert organists and the magnificent, 3,702-pipe Wood Family Organ promises a memorable evening of music at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts, 2420 Nicolet Drive.

The concert featuring Spanish-born Raúl Prieto Ramírez is presented by the Brown County Civic Music Association as the season opener of its five-concert classical subscription series for 2018-19.

General admission tickets, available at the door, are $25 for adults, $10 for students 18 and under, and $15 for members of the American Guild of Organists.

Formerly of Barcelona, Ramirez has been based since January in San Diego, Calif., where he is organist in residence for Balboa Park’s renowned Spreckels Organ, the largest outdoor musical instrument in the Western Hemisphere. Hired after an international search that included audition concerts by the finalists, Ramirez was lauded for his technical excellence, expressive musicality, and charismatic performance skills. He is known for being one of the few top-tier concert organists who perform from memory.

The program for his Green Bay concert will open with the intense and richly layered Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 541, by Johann Sebastian Bach.  He will follow with the Allegro movement from Charles-Marie Vidor’s Symphony VI in g minor Op. 42 No. 2, which premiered in 1879 at the Paris World Exhibition. The third selection, Rhapsodie Op. 7 No. 1 by Camille Saint-Saëns, was inspired by the composer’s deep affection for French culture and folk music.  The final piece before intermission will be a Franz Liszt orchestral work transcribed by Ramirez and conveying passion, sensuality and dramatics:  Mephisto Waltz No. 1 ‘Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke’ (The Dance in the Village Inn).

The second half of the program will be devoted to the Liszt masterpiece,  Fantasia and Fugue on the chorale “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam” (Latin for “Come to us, to the waves of salvation”). The operatic work begins with dark drama, shifts to quiet contemplation and energetic lyricism, and concludes with a triumphant coda.

Prominent among many career milestones for Ramirez was appointment in 2006, at the young age of 27, as the first organist in residence for the Auditorio Nacional de Música (the national concert hall) in Madrid. He went on to found Spain’s most successful organ festival, the International Organ Festival of Barcelona, where he continues as artistic director. His global schedule regularly takes him to major festivals and concert halls throughout Europe and North America, and he wins critical praise for performances described as “awe-inspiring” and “electrifying.” His first two compact discs, on the Brilliant Classics label, were recorded at Milan Cathedral in Italy and at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona.

Organist Jeff Verkuilen, a Green Bay business person and Civic Music board member who helped arrange the visit of Ramirez to Wisconsin, says the concert will be a celebration not only of the artist’s singular talent but of the quality of the Weidner Center and its Casavant organ.

“It’s a phenomenal instrument,” Verkuilen says. “It’s a rarity – a blessing – to have a pipe organ of that magnitude and quality in a community the size of Green Bay. We’re proud to give people a chance to hear it played, and to hear it played by such a talented performer.”

Following the organ concert at the Weidner on Oct. 12, the Brown County Civic Music series will return to its traditional venue at Holter Auditorium, Green Bay West H.S., for its next three concerts:  vocal ensemble Cantus, Saturday, Nov. 10; the Siberian Virtuosi string ensemble, Friday, March 22; and Vienna-based crossover quartet Janoska, Thursday, April 4. The season finale, on Saturday, May 11, returns to the Weidner with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, special guest Catherine Lan and that evening’s musical centerpiece, the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2. Information on purchasing a season pass, $80 for adults and $25 for students, may be found at or by calling 920 338-1801.