Lukas Hasler, a rewarded organist, composer and social media star, had us fall in love with this magnificent instrument and it’s sound by sharing his daily life with organs on his popular Instagram profile.
Mordents Magazine:When did the organ catch your attention and what made you decide to give it a try? Was it a smooth experience?
Lukas Hasler: I started playing the organ when I was 10 years old. I was fascinated by the incredibleness and tonal flexibility of the instrument so I switched from piano to organ. In the beginning, I still had private tutors before I switched to the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz in Austria where I started studying at the age of 16.
MM:Tell us about your practice routine both at home or at the venue when you have the real organs.
LH: I don’t really have a practice routine. Some days I practice up to 8 hours at home and at university, on other days it’s much less. Especially when I’m on tour, you have to be very flexible with the practice times because you always come across new instruments in different settings.
MM:You also graduated with a master’s degree in cultural and media management at the University of Hamburg. What are your thoughts on how it’s going to help you in your organist career?
LH: My master’s degree in cultural and media management is certainly of help when it comes to planning, marketing, and contract negotiations. However, I have to say it’s always learning by doing.
MM: When you are on a tour and play on different organs, how long does it take you to get used to a new organ and all of the registration and the sounds of the new space?
LH: It always depends on the size of the organ and the space I play in. Usually, I have one day to prepare before the concert takes place. So it’s a pretty fast adaptation to a new instrument.
LH: And how different is playing in a cathedral or in a concert hall? What do you prefer?
LH: The main difference between a concert hall and a cathedral is acoustics. In a church, the reverberation is usually much longer than in acoustically dry concert buildings. This affects the tempo of my organ playing. It always depends on the repertoire, but I’d say I like both venues the same.
MM: Which venue caused your most favorite performance? Tell us about how you felt?
LH: I had two venues that caused the most favourite performances in my career so far. The first one at the cathedral of Los Angeles and the other one at the Philharmonie of Volgograd in Russia. The reason why these concerts have remained in my memory is the audience – they had been greatly affected by the music and the atmosphere was unique due to the special circumstances. I won’t forget these evening events.
MM: Is playing the organ getting more popular among young people? And are they coming to listen to your performances?
LH: Especially in Russia young people have a great affection for classical music. In my opinion, the organ is becoming more and more popular with younger people. The audience at organ concerts is noticeably younger, there are more and more people under 30. Many of my young followers on Instagram and Facebook come to my organ concerts because they saw my advertisement there. So I really have to say social media has another great impact on this development.
MM: What are the best and the worst parts of being an organist?
LH: The most exhausting thing for me is the time difference between the concerts when touring. Quite often you sit on planes for several hours between concerts and then have to adjust to a completely new instrument. That often demands a lot of energy and flexibility from you. On the other hand, I love meeting new people, places, and instruments and dive into foreign cultures. That is what makes my life so exciting.
MM: You are a composer, too. Tell us about “A portrait”. What’s the story behind it?
LH:“A portrait” is my debut album which I recorded two years ago. It is a journey of my musical preferences and an excerpt of programmes, that I enjoy presenting at concerts in Austria and abroad. My great admiration for Johann Sebastian Bach, the father of the instrumental genre “Prelude and Fugue”, is reflected here in the selection of pieces. As a result, works by Marcel Dupré and Franz Liszt are also played, which follow Bach’s musical tradition. Reflecting on the title of the CD, I have included short improvisations between the pieces on the chorale “Now thank all God”. These evocations span the spectrum from baroque to romanticism to contemporary and they are my personal splash of color in the programme of this CD.
MM: Who are your favorite organ composers?
LH: I don’t really have THE favourite organ composer but I adore Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy with his six sonatas for organ and of course Johann Sebastian Bach who is the most famous organ composer of all time.
MM: Share with our readers some not-so-popular yet magnificent organ compositions?
LH: There are some wonderful treasures in the modern organ repertoire. I am thinking, for example, of Thierry Escaich and his “Cinq versets sur le Victimae Paschali”. I can also observe that more and more young organists are composing great pieces for organ or writing wonderful transcriptions for the instrument.
MM: Do you have any hobbies?
LH: As an Austrian, I always try to go skiing in winter. In summer, I like mountain biking a lot and hiking in the mountains. I also extended walks. That’s where I get energy for new projects.
MM: What kind of music besides classical do you enjoy?
LH: I listen to all genres of music. From classical to jazz to pop. It is important to know what is going on in the music world.
MM: Tell us about your upcoming concerts and plans?
LH: Well, due to the pandemic my World Tour 2020 was postponed or partially canceled. Concerts in Australia, China, USA, and Europe would have been planned… For this year there are still some gigs planned, mainly in Europe and maybe also a tour in the US, if the health situation allows.
MM: Oh, and the last one: Are there any initiatives for organ shoes to be less ugly? 🙂
LH: LOL! I’ve been asked several times whether I could design “cooler” organ shoes. Maybe something will happen in the future. It is important that you feel comfortable in the shoes you use to play the organ, but of course, the look also plays a role. I advocate more colour! Organists have to be even more courageous in this regard!