Felix Hell was 7 years old when he first heard the
music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Prelude in C major from
Well-Tempered Clavier, played by his father on the piano
during a holiday gathering. The chords and notes he heard
that day instantly captivated the young Hell, like a sailor
called by a siren.
"I was just absolutely fascinated by its sound, never
having heard classical music before. I heard this piece,
having no idea it was Bach, and I was just blown away,"
said Hell, a graduate student at
said, 'Hey, Dad, I would like to learn how to play it.' He
told me, 'You are going to have to take lessons, learn all
the notes, and maybe one of these days you'll be able to
play it.' I said, 'That would take way too long. I'd like
to play it right now.'"
During the course of three days, the determined Hell
taught himself to play the song down to the last note. A
career was born.
Fourteen years later, the German-born Hell's love of
Bach has not waned. In fact, you might say it's
Hell, who took up the organ at age 8 and has performed
all over the world, will this week give a four-day,
10-concert marathon performance of the complete organ works
of Bach. The first concert will be at 2 p.m. on Friday,
Nov. 3, in the Peabody's Leith Symington Griswold Hall, the
location of all 10 performances.
The prolific German composer Johann Sebastian Bach
(1685-1750) was a renowned virtuoso organist, teacher and
an expert in organ construction and design. He composed
more than 250 works for the organ.
Donald Sutherland, who is coordinator of Peabody's
Organ Department, said that Hell, like Bach, is a gifted
musician, a dynamic performer and one who certainly does
not lack in ambition.
"For someone his age, just taking on learning all of
Bach's organ works would be a huge undertaking, but to be
taking on a marathon performance of these works is
definitely unusual," Sutherland said. "He really is a
brilliant performer. He has flair and a little bit of
showbiz, but it's not at all shallow. Rather, he's a very
thoughtful and careful musician who has a maturity well
beyond his years."
Hell said that he was inspired to do a marathon
performance of Bach's organ works by the other musicians
who have done so. He said he also wanted a reason to
challenge himself and learn the entire catalog, which has
long been an ambition of his.
Each performance will contain a diverse and
representative collection of Bach's organ pieces, Hell
said, so that those who go to just one concert will get a
true sense of Bach's musical gifts. Those who go to all 10
performances might be among the lucky few to receive one of
a limited number of stickers that read "I've been to Hell
The performance times for the Bach marathon are
Friday, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 4, at
2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 5, at 10 a.m., 2
p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Monday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m.
Tickets for each performance are $18, $12 for seniors
and $10 for students with I.D. Discounts are available for
the purchase of three or more concerts by calling the
Peabody Box Office at 410-659-8100, ext. 2.