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Digital Presentation

Streaming Apr 22 – May 22, 2023

UMS Live Session: Christian Schmitt, organ

UMS celebrates 130 years of Hill Auditorium’s Frieze Memorial Organ with virtuoso Christian Schmitt and this digital-exclusive performance.


Charles-Marie Widor “Meditation” from Symphony No. 1 in c minor
Jean Langlais Etude for Pedal Solo No. 7, “Alleluia”
Fritz Lubrich, Jr. “In der Abendstille” op. 24.3
César Franck Choral No. 3 in a minor

About the Artist

Christian SchmittSince his debuts with the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle and at the Salzburg Festival, Christian Schmitt has become one of the world’s most sought-after organists. Last season, he was “Artist in Focus” of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich where he inaugurated the new organ at the Tonhalle with conductor Paavo Jarvi. Schmitt recently debuted at Walt Disney Concert Hall presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, performed with the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim, and recorded Hindemith’s Chamber Music No. 7 with conductor Christoph Eschenbach. He has recorded two CDs for Deutsche Grammophon, and his 2013 recording of Widor’s organ symphonies won a 2013 Echo Klassik, Germany’s major classical music award. Schmitt is on the faculty at Codarts University Rotterdam. He studied organ in Paris, in Boston, and in Saarbrucken and is the principal organist of the Bamberger Symphoniker.

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About the Frieze Memorial Organ

The Hill Auditorium organ, named in honor of Henry Simmons Frieze, a professor of Latin and the founding president of UMS, is the focal point of the auditorium’s unique parabolic interior totaling an impressive 7,599 speaking pipes; it was one of the first great organs to rely on electrical connections from its keys.

Twelve of the organ’s ranks date back to when it was built by the Farrand & Votey Company of Detroit in 1893 for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago where some 27 million people traveled to see what was widely regarded as one of the greatest musical instruments — and certainly one of the largest — ever constructed. On the fair’s last day, Clarence Eddy himself wrote of the organ that “musically, it is worthy of rank among the few great organs of the world, while from a technical standpoint, it occupies a supreme position.”

For many years before the Columbian Exposition of 1893, Henry Simmons Frieze had argued for the installation of a first-class organ on the campus. A fine amateur organist, pianist, and conductor, Frieze launched student bands and choral clubs and introduced organ music to the daily chapel services. He persuaded the Regents to appoint the first professor of music.

After a few months in storage and while the country was in the midst of a financial depression, U-M Professors Francis Kelsey and Albert Stanley designed a public appeal that raised funds to purchase the grand instrument. Combined with the sale of tickets to a grand inaugural concert, the organ was moved to University Hall at the University of Michigan in 1894.

On December 14, 1894, before a full house, Professor Kelsey declared that the organ was to be named in honor of Henry Simmons Frieze. The organ was played in University Hall for nearly 20 years until 1913, when it was once again disassembled, moved a couple of hundred yards to the north, then re-installed on stage at Hill Auditorium. Frieze believed the shared experience of music was essential to a liberal education and to community life, and students agreed. Now, the organ is available to the University of Michigan students and faculty for teaching, practice, and performances to continue celebrating the beauty and diversity of the instrument.

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