Atlanta Life and Culture

The AJC Features Team spotlights arts previews, reviews, profiles, news features and breaking news on Atlanta's cultural and life scene.

Flashy organist guesting this week with Atlanta Symphony; principal bassoonist departing

Organist Cameron Carpenter, one of the more glittery guest artists ever to play with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, begins concerts with the ASO on Thursday in Symphony Hall. The Julliard-trained musician is a controversial figure in the classical world, affecting a Mohawk-style haircut and dressing like a rock star, sometimes in tank tops that show off his gym-rat muscles and in Swarovski crystal-embellished heeled shoes that might have sent Elton John into a jealous rage back in the day.

But it's Carpenter's new instrument, the portable, digital International Touring Organ, intended to free the pipe organ from the confines of churches, that has been attracting attention lately.

"So how does it sound?" New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote when Carpenter premiered the instrument, made by Massachussets organ builders Marshall & Ogletree in an Alice Tully Hall concert last March. "Quite terrific."

Check out a YouTube video from Sony Classical promoting the organ and organist (who clearly adores the camera and the spotlight), which begins with Carpenter stripping off his shirt in slo-mo, that has drawn some hilarious public commenting.

Jun Märkl conducts the ASO and Carpenter in a program of works from French organ composers Messiaen, Poulenc and Saint-Saens.

8 p.m. Thursday; 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $24-$99. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-733-5000,

Principal bassoonist departing ASO

Keith Buncke, who was selected as the ASO's principal bassoon last year at age 20 while still a junior at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, has been named principal bassoon by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Buncke, who auditioned for the ASO last season and joined the orchestra this season after the nine-week musician lockout, told that the labor strife was not his main motivation in seeking the Chicago position: "The main reason for taking this audition was because the CSO is the CSO, and a position like this opens up just a few times in a lifetime."

However, he added in Mark Gresham's interview for the website: "I think the ASO’s instability is a factor when looking at similarly ranked orchestras such as Dallas and Houston. Of course, the instability is always a factor. One would always prefer to be a part of a thriving orchestra, but it seems people are more likely to leave the ASO for other historically similar orchestras than say, 10 years ago."

During the lockout, ASO principal flute Christina Smith served as guest principal flute for the Chicago Symphony during a European tour. Smith, who remains with the ASO, is scheduled to guest again with the Chicago orchestra at Carnegie Hall from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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The AJC Features Team spotlights arts previews, reviews, profiles, news features and breaking news on Atlanta's cultural and life scene.