University of Pittsburgh
March 12, 2006

Pitt Music Prof. "Transplants" Mozart Operatic Theme to the Organ To Celebrate 80th Birthday of Organ Transplant Pioneer Thomas E. Starzl, Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery in Pitt's School of Medicine

With "Mozart Transplantation for Organ," organ virtuoso Robert Sutherland Lord salutes "Father of Transplantation" Starzl with an improvisation on
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PITTSBURGH-University of Pittsburgh Professor Emeritus of Music Robert Sutherland Lord has "transplanted" a theme from a Mozart opera to the pipe organ to celebrate the 80th birthday of organ transplant pioneer and faculty colleague Thomas E. Starzl, Distinguished Service Professor of Surgery in Pitt's School of Medicine, who last month received from President Bush the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific honor.

For "Mozart Transplantation for Organ," Lord performed an improvisation on the duettino "La ci darem la mano" (translated literally, "We will give to one another our hands") from Mozart's Don Giovanni on Pitt's Heinz Memorial Chapel Organ March 3 for the recording microphones, and that recording was played as a surprise for Starzl at a by-invitation-only birthday celebration March 10 in Pitt's Alumni Hall. Limited-edition CD copies of the recorded performance were distributed the next day to Starzl's professional colleagues, both from Pitt and around the world, who were attending a Pitt scientific symposium in his honor. The work can be heard on Pitt's Web site at http://www.pitt.edu/news/060313starzl.html.

Mozart-who also is being feted this year at celebrations of a landmark birthday, his 250th-is Starzl's favorite composer. The preeminent transplant surgeon mused at the 1987 International Organ Transplant Forum, "How much more complete might the world have been if Mozart had been treated with renal transplantation instead of dying of glomerulonephritis at the age of 35?"

Lord's seven-minute work culminated with a musical salute to both the University of Pittsburgh and Mozart's close personal friend and professional colleague Franz Joseph Haydn by inserting next to the Mozart theme the music Haydn composed for the Austrian National Anthem, whose melody Pitt has adopted for its Alma Mater.

The concept for "Mozart Transplantation for Organ" originated with John Harvith, senior associate vice chancellor for news and magazines in Pitt's Office of Public Affairs. The work was commissioned by the University of Pittsburgh's Offices of the Chancellor and the Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences and the Pitt School of Medicine Department of Surgery. The CD was provided courtesy of the Pitt Office of Public Affairs. The recording engineer was Riccardo Schulz.

"When first asked to record an improvisation for Dr. Starzl on a theme by Mozart, I was taken aback on two counts. What can one do when dealing with a composer of such genius? At the same time, what can be done that is a worthy presentation for one of Pitt's most distinguished people?" Lord said.

 

"After reviewing many Mozart symphonic themes, I decided that an opera melody would be better," he continued. "At the same time, I wanted something that would be familiar to the general listener. 'La ci darem la mano' from Don Giovanni was my choice.

 

"A good improvisation must be spontaneous, but at the same time, it requires some preparation, especially with regard to musical form," Lord went on to explain. "In technical terms, I chose an ABA form. The introduction uses motives from the Overture to Don Giovanni followed by the duettino itself, in which the rake Don Giovanni does his utmost to seduce the naïve peasant girl Zerlina. That forms the A section. The duettino ends with a contrasting folklike melody that is the basis of my B, or middle section. First, there is a sustained drone suggestive of a bagpipe accompanying a folk dance. A short fugue follows. The main melody (A) returns triumphantly played by the feet in the pedal division of the organ. Growing out of this melody-a musical surprise-is the familiar Haydn melody that is used as the Alma Mater for the University of Pittsburgh. Thus, we end with a personal touch honoring Dr. Starzl's many years of unforgettable service to this University," he concluded.

Known to many as the "Father of Transplantation," Thomas E. Starzl performed the world's first successful liver transplant in 1967. In 1980, he brought the field a huge step forward when he introduced the antirejection medications antilymphocyte globulin and cyclosporine. When, in 1981, Starzl joined the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, he refined this approach, which soon became the accepted transplant regimen for patients with irreversible liver, kidney, and heart failure. During Starzl's first year at Pitt, 30 liver transplants were performed, launching the University's liver transplant program-the only one in the nation at the time-and invigorating the University's heart and kidney transplant programs. That year also spawned more than 25 years of major advances by Starzl and Pitt researchers, the impact of these still evident today. Principal among these advances was the development of the anti-rejection drug FK-506, first reported in 1989, which markedly increased survival rates for all types of organ transplants; allowed, for the first time, successful small intestine transplants; and, because of fewer side effects, greatly improved the quality of life of children.

Today, Starzl, as a Pitt professor and director emeritus of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, remains active in research, exploring the use of animal organs in order to address the critical shortage of human organs for transplantation, seeking to understand the mechanisms of immune tolerance by mapping the relationship between donor and recipient cells, and developing new therapeutic strategies that aim to free patients of the need for life-long immunosuppression.

Robert Sutherland Lord, who joined the Pitt faculty in 1962 and was granted emeritus status in 1999, has served as Pitt's University Organist since 1962. The recipient of M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in music history from Yale University, where he studied with eminent music historian Leo Schrade, he pursued advanced studies in organ and improvisation in Paris with legendary French composer-organist Jean Langlais (1907-91), with whom he enjoyed a close friendship. Lord is a recognized authority on the music of Charles Tournemire (1870-1939), Jean Langlais' teacher and a student of Cesar Franck. The latter three composers were all titular organists in Paris at the Basilica of Sainte-Clotilde, where Lord has given several organ concerts. Lord, who, at 75, has thus far performed more than 160 concerts on the Pitt campus, continues to concertize in the United States, Great Britain, and France. He has been invited to play in June 2006 at the Piccolo Spoleto Music Festival in Charleston, S.C.

 

The pipe organ in Pitt's Heinz Memorial Chapel is the gift of The Howard Heinz Endowment. It was built in 1994-95 by the Reuter Organ Company of Lawrence, Kan., and codesigned by David Salmen of the Reuter Company and Robert Sutherland Lord. It is the third organ to serve the chapel since its opening in 1938, with 4,272 pipes (73 ranks) and three electronic pedal stops.

 

"The Heinz Memorial Chapel organ not only speaks with authority, it matches the splendor and beauty of the stained glass," Lord commented. "It surrounds the listener in sounds from quiet flutes to brilliant French and English reeds. And towering 90 feet above the transept floor is the stunning English Tuba stop. As one critic wrote at the dedication of the organ, 'it possesses the presence and power to make the stones of the building sing!'"

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