Iveta Apkalna has a mission: she wants to win over concert audiences and classical music lovers to what has been called the queen of all instruments but is still considered less glamorous than, say, the piano or the violin. “The organ,” says the Latvian-born musician, “is a wonderful speciality in the wide world of music. No other instrument confronts you with such challenges. It demands strength and the use of your whole body.” At the same time, though, it places the musician in a special artistic situation, Apkalna explains: “The organist is actually a conductor because he has to coordinate many timbres and things. It’s no wonder that Mozart called the organ the queen of musical instruments.”
I want to demonstrate that, in addition to church music, there is wonderful organ music for the concert hall.
– Iveta Apkalna
Iveta Apkalna can’t imagine a life without music. She has known that she wanted to be a musician since she was a little girl. She learned to play the piano at the age of five; ten years later, she added the organ. Until the age of 23, she devoted herself intensively to both instruments, completing her education with honours in both at Riga Conservatory. After a piano exam in London, she studied organ in Professor Lohmann’s master class at the State University of Music and the Performing Arts Stuttgart – on a DAAD scholarship.
“I’m very grateful to the DAAD,” says Apkalna, “because I absolutely wanted to study with Professor Lohmann, and I’ve studied very intensively and learned a great deal.” She feels encouraged to work as an independent artist. “I have the greatest respect for church organists. Their performance is impressive, but I’ve always known that I wanted to play in concert halls. I love these events, and the contact with the audience. And I want to demonstrate that, in addition to church music, there is wonderful organ music for the concert hall.”
Apkalna has since become an international star with a great deal of stage talent, performing in churches and concert halls across the globe, collecting awards and distinctions. Her recordings have also made a splash: in 2005 her third CD, entitled Himmel und Hölle (Heaven and Hell), won her the coveted Echo Klassik Award in the category Instrumentalist of the Year. She was the first organist ever to win the prize. She won her second Echo award in 2008 – jointly with David Orlowskys Klezmorim – in the category Classics Without Borders for the CD Noema.