The Success Stories

Three questions to Jens Korndoerfer, Bavarian organist in Montreal

Jens Korndoerfer, CIOCM 2011
Jens Korndoerfer at the 2011 Montreal International Organ Competition - © Bonnie Nichol

The Bavarian organist Jens Korndoerfer, currently completing his Ph.D. at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, distinguished himself by winning the 2nd prize as well as the Franz-Liszt-Award at the Montreal International Organ Competition in October 2011.

In 2008 already, Mr. Korndoerfer had won the 3rd prize at the same Competition, which is held every three years and has 16 young organists below 35 years old musically confront each other on some of the city’s best instruments. The international jury awards several prizes, among which a series of solo concerts, a career management contract, a CD record under ATMA Classic label, as well as generous scholarships.

3 questions to Jens Korndoerfer :

How important is it for you as an organist to participate in the CIOCM and win an award? How do you prepare for such an event?

On the one hand, being compared to organists of the same age and being evaluated by a jury encourages you to give your best; on the other hand, winning an award at a prestigious international competition such as the CIOC means a lot of publicity and helps boost your career.

Like in sports, preparation begins long before the competition itself: first you choose your repertoire (I did this about a year ago), then of course you practice, and eventually – in the last months before the competition – you play some of that repertoire in concerts which serve as a “stress test”. Immediately before and during the competition there is relatively little time to familiarize oneself with the instruments to be played, so I prepared myself mostly mentally for the three assessment rounds.

Is there a difference between the North American and the European organ community?

In the US the American Guild of Organists (AGO) constitutes a big, powerful organization (nearly 20.000 members!) which not only provides organists with a platform for exchange but also lobbies and represents the organists’ interests – unfortunately, there is no comparable organization in Europe.

Historically, it was already in the Middle Ages that the history of the organ begins in Europe, and of course a lot later in North America. Still, from the middle of the 19th century there have been significant events in the history of organ building on both sides of the Atlantic which took place almost simultaneously, like the development of industrially produced organs at the end of the 19th century (some of which assumed gigantic proportions like the Wanamaker Store organ in Philadelphia, which was constructed in 1930 and boasts 28,500 pipes: it is still the largest organ in the world) or the renewal of the baroque organ and its aesthetics in the first half of the 20th century.

What are your plans for the future?

I shall finish my PhD within the next year [2012] at McGill University, so I am already looking for a job – my aim is to get a position as Chair of organ at a conservatory in Germany or North America. I will also play several concerts next year (in Germany, France, Norway and Canada, among others), give lectures and master classes (at the University of Bayreuth and at the AGO National Convention in Nashville, TN), and I organize a study trip through Southern Germany for American organists.

Learn more about Jens Korndoerfer: www.youtube.com/JensKorndoerfer


Addendum, 2012:

In August of 2012, after completing his Ph.D. studies at Montreal's McGill university, Jens Korndoerfer accepted the position of organist at the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, GA. The First Presbyterian is located in Atlanta's Arts Center right next to the Atlanta Symphonic Orchestra's concert hall, and boasts two organs (Möller/Zimmer, IV/105 et Klop, II/15), a harpsichord and many Steinway pianos, as well as its own music school and concert program, and has its own permanent choir conductor.