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Did Ralph Downes Die A Disappointed Man?


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#21 Vox Humana

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 05:55 PM

It therefore comes as no surprise to know that Ralph Downes was well pleased with the result at Gloucester, which really marks the ultimate expression of "English eclecticism," alongside the organs by Walker at Liverpool and Blackburn.

More so than St George's, Windsor? That really has a bit of everything: French shallots to the Swell reeds and Solo Clarion (plus a French Plein Jeu Mixture on the Swell - or at least it used to be); English Shallots for the Great reeds and Solo Trumpet, a spitting Baroque Positiv and a rather English Baroque Chaire, mounted Cornet on the Gt (albeit a fairly horrible one). It really can play everything with some semblance of conviction - except possibly Italian elevation toccatas.

#22 AJJ

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 06:15 PM

No one so far has mentioned the London Oratory as far as I can see. I have a fairly recent recording of everything from Dandrieu to Langlais via Bach and Widor - the whole gamut sounds amazing - all played there with great taste by Patrick Russill. Certainly with 'out and out Downes' characteristics (it was after all his home patch) perhaps this could be said to be the most 'Downes' of the lot. And in a rather nice acoustic too. English eclecticism though? - I'm not sure.

AJJ
"…We can’t criticize the organ for being boring. In such cases it is the organist that is boring. There is no such thing as a boring organ."

#23 MusingMuso

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 08:29 PM

More so than St George's, Windsor?



============================


Not at all, because that is one of the finest examples of the genre.

I'm afraid there were too many to list, but Windsor shouldn't have fallen through the net, considering the good things I have said about it.

MM

#24 pcnd5584

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 08:42 PM

* You/he seem to have omitted from this account (what I was lead to understand were) three subsequent court cases concerning the Gloucester organ. I gather that the cathedral sued both Downes and HN&B, and in turn Downes sued HN&B. In all cases, the claim was that they had not followed specific instructions. Sorry and all, but for the sake of completeness......!


Yes - the omission was deliberate. I was aware of them, but the question was whether or not Downes was happy with the Gloucester organ (not whether the cathedral was happy with it) - the answer is still 'yes'! I think that in his own mind, Ralph Downes was satisfied that the cathedral had been presented with an instrument that was far more musical and better equipped to fulfil its rôle in the changing world than had been the case of the previous instrument. This is not a comment on the previous instrument - simply the impression I gained from talking to Downes.
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#25 MusingMuso

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 08:49 PM

No one so far has mentioned the London Oratory as far as I can see. I have a fairly recent recording of everything from Dandrieu to Langlais via Bach and Widor - the whole gamut sounds amazing - all played there with great taste by Patrick Russill. Certainly with 'out and out Downes' characteristics (it was after all his home patch) perhaps this could be said to be the most 'Downes' of the lot. And in a rather nice acoustic too. English eclecticism though? - I'm not sure.

AJJ



======================

Sadly, although I lived not very far away from the Brompton Oratory for about 4 years, and then lived another 13 years elsewhere in London, I never once managed to hear the organ for myself.

I think, by definition, it should be an eclectic instrument, with a Swell division, but to what extent, I do not know for sure. I've never even heard a recording of it!

A very similar instrument was that for All Saint's, Clifton, Bristol, which makes an interesting comparison with the RC Cathedral organ by Rieger.

In fact, the Bristol area must be unique in having almost perfect examples of all schools, from early English to romantic; to high romantic, and eclectic classical to almost pure neo-baroque.....all within one quite small area.

MM

#26 pcnd5584

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 09:06 PM

... It's when one looks at organs such as St.Alban's, Fairfield Hall, Sheffield Cathedral, Blackburn Cathedral, Liverpool RC cathedral and other notable examples such as Leeds Town Hall, that it is possible to see not so much "baroque revival" so much as "English eclecticism." Surely, is that not a direct result of what it was that Ralph Downes set out to do?

It therefore comes as no surprise to know that Ralph Downes was well pleased with the result at Gloucester, which really marks the ultimate expression of "English eclecticism," alongside the organs by Walker at Liverpool and Blackburn.
MM


This is fair - up to a point. The problem is that this statement has introduced a dichotomy. In a sense, apart from his insistence of grafting French-style reeds onto Dutch-style* flue-work, the Gloucester organ is far more of an artistic unity than many other cathedral organs - and I do know this instrument quite well. The contradiction comes from the fact that, whatever the perceived flaws in such a concept, one of the definitions of 'eclecticism' is "... but selecting and using what are considered the best elements of all systems." Whether one likes or loathes the Gloucester instrument, the fact remains that it is a musical instrument. Granted, it will not make the music of Herbert Howells sound like it did on the 1921 FHW/H&H organ; the inescapable corollary being of course that the old organ could not make the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, for example, sound like it does on the 1971 HN&B/Downes instrument.

I think that the point which I am attempting to make is that, is eclecticism necessarily a bad thing? If the end result is an instrument which is capable of making beautiful sounds - and rendering (for the first time in fifty years) perfectly clear some of the most beautiful music ever written - then is this not a case of the end justifying the means.

I think that in this country today, there is a danger of becoming so rigidly fixated on the letter of the law - or the design - that we have lost sight of a more important truth.

My own church instrument (which I note that you omit from the list, but is arguably more ground-breaking than its big brother in Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral) is, by your definition, an eclectic instrument, yet it is capable of making beautiful music. After about fifteen years' close association with this instrument, I still find new and wonderful sounds. Undeniably it has its flaws; I am aware I am one of about four people in the whole of Christendom who actually likes the chamades. Notwithstanding, I would rather play Bach on this organ than on most other cathedral organs in this country. I am equally certain that you feel that way about your own musical instrument in Saint Joseph's, Keighley, MM.




* Although there are clearly Germanic traits discernable in his schemes, it is fair to say that Downes was more heavily influenced by Dutch instruments.

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#27 pcnd5584

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 09:17 PM

More so than St George's, Windsor? That really has a bit of everything: French shallots to the Swell reeds and Solo Clarion (plus a French Plein Jeu Mixture on the Swell - or at least it used to be); English Shallots for the Great reeds and Solo Trumpet, a spitting Baroque Positiv and a rather English Baroque Chaire, mounted Cornet on the Gt (albeit a fairly horrible one). It really can play everything with some semblance of conviction - except possibly Italian elevation toccatas.


This instrument was not designed by Downes, Vox!* Sydney Campbell drew up the specification, in consultation with Cuthbert Harrison. However, it is fair to state that it was directly influenced by the earlier H&H instruments of the RFH (1954) and Coventry Cathedral (1962). In addition, the Pedal Trombone at Windsor also has French shallots. However, the GO reeds are of normal Harrison treatment - but not voiced on 300mm w.g.! The Swell Mixture was standard H&H practice in the 1960s; as far as I know, it commenced at 22-26-29-33. Coventry and Exeter cathedrals were supplied with similar compound stops on the Swell organs - although that at Exeter has since been altered.

I would agree with you that the Windsor organ is exciting - but Coventry is more so.



* Presumably you are thinking more of it being eclectic, than of it being one of instruments designed by Ralph Downes and with which he was pleased.

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#28 pcnd5584

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 09:40 PM

No one so far has mentioned the London Oratory as far as I can see. I have a fairly recent recording of everything from Dandrieu to Langlais via Bach and Widor - the whole gamut sounds amazing - all played there with great taste by Patrick Russill. Certainly with 'out and out Downes' characteristics (it was after all his home patch) perhaps this could be said to be the most 'Downes' of the lot. And in a rather nice acoustic too. English eclecticism though? - I'm not sure.

AJJ


Not necessarily, Alastair. Having heard it 'live', I thought that the sound was rather thin and insubstantial. Certainly, it does not project particularly well into the building from its position at the back of the choir gallery.

In addition, the size of the instrument was strictly dictated by financial constraints; for example, the case (which is now considered to be an important part of the design of an instrument) was constructed largely of light aeronautical plywood and is really little more than a decorative front*. The scheme is slightly odd on paper. No double reed on any of the claviers. The Swell reeds are an Echo Trumpet and a Vox Humana - no Hautboy or Clarion. The original scheme was subject to some revision and pruning - the Choir Organ lost three ranks and the Swell lost a flue double (Quintadena) and two reeds (Hautboy and Clarion). Hwever, there is one tribute to the tonal ideals of Downes: there is not a nicked pipe anywhere in this organ.

A fascinating account† of the rebirth of this instrument after the disastrous fire is to be found in Ralph Downes' book Baroque Tricks (previously recommended by Paul Derrett), published by Positif Press.



* Even though the two unenclosed divisions are surrounded by reflective baffles.

† pp. 152 - 163.

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#29 MusingMuso

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 10:30 PM

This is fair - up to a point. The problem is that this statement has introduced a dichotomy. In a sense, apart from his insistence of grafting French-style reeds onto Dutch-style* flue-work, the Gloucester organ is far more of an artistic unity than many other cathedral organs - and I do know this instrument quite well. The contradiction comes from the fact that, whatever the perceived flaws in such a concept, one of the definitions of 'eclecticism' is "... but selecting and using what are considered the best elements of all systems." Whether one likes or loathes the Gloucester instrument, the fact remains that it is a musical instrument. Granted, it will not make the music of Herbert Howells sound like it did on the 1921 FHW/H&H organ; the inescapable corollary being of course that the old organ could not make the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, for example, sound like it does on the 1971 HN&B/Downes instrument.

I think that the point which I am attempting to make is that, is eclecticism necessarily a bad thing? If the end result is an instrument which is capable of making beautiful sounds - and rendering (for the first time in fifty years) perfectly clear some of the most beautiful music ever written - then is this not a case of the end justifying the means.

I think that in this country today, there is a danger of becoming so rigidly fixated on the letter of the law - or the design - that we have lost sight of a more important truth.

My own church instrument (which I note that you omit from the list, but is arguably more ground-breaking than its big brother in Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral) is, by your definition, an eclectic instrument, yet it is capable of making beautiful music. After about fifteen years' close association with this instrument, I still find new and wonderful sounds. Undeniably it has its flaws; I am aware I am one of about four people in the whole of Christendom who actually likes the chamades. Notwithstanding, I would rather play Bach on this organ than on most other cathedral organs in this country. I am equally certain that you feel that way about your own musical instrument in Saint Joseph's, Keighley, MM.
* Although there are clearly Germanic traits discernable in his schemes, it is fair to say that Downes was more heavily influenced by Dutch instruments.



=========================


So many valid points, and my apologies for not mentioning the organ "pcnd" plays, which I'm sure is one of the many which would also qualify for a suitably complete list.

Far from suggesting that eclecticism is a bd thing, I would suggest that it was a very good thing, and this is exactly why I began to question the "Larry" Phelps assertion that (loosely) "nothing followed Downes."

Quite the contrary, I think that the general drift of the next generation DID follow the lead set by Ralph Downes, and I'm quite sure that he was not only proved right, but probably died very happy in that knowledge.

As I suggested, I think that Ralph Downes did for Britain what G.Donald-Harrison did for America, but with far fewer organs ever being built in a particularly standard style. In fact, the concept of "Dutch flues" mixed with "French reeds" is not that far removed from "German flues" mixed with "Cavaille-Coll style reeds," which stands at the heart of the American-Classic.

Actually, with great incisiveness, "pcnd" has absolutely hit the nail on the head.

The reason I raised this subject, was not so much to do with Ralph Downes, but more to do with a certain sterility which now appears to have crept in to British organ-building.

The lessons of America make an interesting comparison, for whilst there are many organists and organ-builders who are quite happy to adapt the concept of the "American Classic," even using tracker-action rather than EP action (Peachtree Road, Mr Mander?), the end result is as much eclectic as it is classical.
That is not a bad thing at all, and adaptation is often a comforting experience to all concerned.

However, in America, there was a home-spun offshoot of "classical organ research," which first took as its model the organs of Schnitger, but which has now adapted that style and created something quite new and vital. Unfortunately, it is now 25 years since I spent a considerable time "over there," with the ex-partner and multiple Harvard graduate. So the only experience which can in any way be considered "contemporary" is/was the splendid Fisk organ at Memorial Church, Harvard University Campus.

I would love to go back there to check on progress, and I suspect that this would draw me as much to St.Ignatious Loyala, NY, as to anywhere else.

In the UK, an overwhelming majority of strictly "neo-baroque" and/or "werkprinzip" instruments of any note, have come from overseas organ-builders such as Frobenius, Flentrop, Rieger, Hradetsky, Klais and others. The most notable exception is the New College organ at Oxford, which really did take "Johnny Foreigner" on at his own game, and probably almost succeeded. The organ I play at Keighley is another, but that's only two organs that immediately spring to mind: others being rather scarce.

I'll draw this to a partial-conclusion by making a statement so outrageous, it will probably elicit gales of derisory laughter.

"I would rather accompany Stamford at Haarlem (with registrands), than I would at Blackburn or Gloucester"

Why should I say this?


MM

#30 nfortin

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 10:38 PM

It therefore comes as no surprise to know that Ralph Downes was well pleased with the result at Gloucester, which really marks the ultimate expression of "English eclecticism"...

You must be having a joke. The Gloucester organ plays french 20th century music and german baroque music reasonably well. In that wonderfully soupy accoustic you can produce a limited range of etherial sounds with atmospheric and varied solo flutes. It is a dreadful instrument for "core" english cathedral repertoire from Wesley to Howells and very limited for colourful and sympathetic accompaniment of the psalms. Whilst full organ sounds quite exciting (if to my ears coarse) at the console, particularly if you open both sets of swell shutters (which you're not supposed to do), it is wholey inadequate for leading a full congregation in the nave. There are no solo reeds of any description apart, arguably, from the cremona on the choir which is quite the foulest stop I've ever come across.

Both its admirers and its detractors would agree that it is an instrument which has always polarised opinions. I don't like like very much. I'm happy to agree it has artistic integrity and cohesion in a way that many other organs, much altered over the years, don't have. I just don't think it sounds very nice. Even its fans on this message board tend to agree that its a struggle to get it to accompany evensong sympathetically. Thats just not my definition of eclectic.

#31 Vox Humana

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 10:47 PM

This instrument was not designed by Downes, Vox!* Sydney Campbell drew up the specification, in consultation with Cuthbert Harrison.

Having shared the loft with him for three years I did know that. ;) I was indeed referring to its eclecticism, which I think MM is right in suggesting is Downes's real legacy to the world of organ design.

You are of course right that the Pedal Trombone unit is French. For the sake of completeness, I should add that so too is the Sw Vox Humana (or at least was meant to be - I never thought it a very nice stop).

You are probably right about the Sw Mixture (which is indeed 22.26.29.33). I don't think I ever heard SSC refer to it as a Plein Jeu; I just assumed it was meant to be one because that is rather how it sounds. It is voiced very much to complement the reeds; it is quite unusable with the Sw. flues alone.

I would agree with you that the Windsor organ is exciting - but Coventry is more so.

Not from the console (in my purely personal opinion). Windsor unfortunately loses some of its incisiveness and gains a hint of muddiness down on the floor of the nave; it's not so bad in the choir. Despite their almost identical specifications (Solo organs excepted) Coventry has more slightly integrity than Windsor in that it didn't have to suffer (as far as I know) from having to botch up old sow's ears into silk purses. The main casualty at Windsor is the Great Cornet which really is not very nice. Another is the Solo Cor de Nuit 8'. It's not unpleasant, but you can't help thinking that you'd have got a far nicer stop if it had been made from scratch rather than surgically operating on one of the old Great Open Diaps. In comparison to Windsor, Coventry feels spongy to play, largely because of the detached console and the pipes being separated on either side of the cathedral.

#32 pcnd5584

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 10:59 PM

You must be having a joke. The Gloucester organ plays french 20th century music and german baroque music reasonably well. In that wonderfully soupy accoustic you can produce a limited range of etherial sounds with atmospheric and varied solo flutes. It is a dreadful instrument for "core" english cathedral repertoire from Wesley to Howells and very limited for colourful and sympathetic accompaniment of the psalms. Whilst full organ sounds quite exciting (if to my ears coarse) at the console, particularly if you open both sets of swell shutters (which you're not supposed to do), it is wholey inadequate for leading a full congregation in the nave. There are no solo reeds of any description apart, arguably, from the cremona on the choir which is quite the foulest stop I've ever come across.


Neil, I understand your point of view. Perhaps MM was intending to impute eclecticsim as it relates to repertoire, as opposed to choral accompaniment. In this regard, it is capable of a clear and suitable interpretation of a rather wider cross-section of music than that of the Twentieth-century French and German Baroque.

However, on one point I cannot agree. I have heard the Gloucester organ from the back of the Nave during a big service; the sound of the organ carried well and was quite adequate to lead the singing of the large congregation. I have also heard it whilst standing beside David Briggs for a similar event and it did not appear to be struggling, not was he resorting to extra-large chords or full organ for the hymns, for example. Actually, I thought that the Gloucester organ had a better sound-projection than the H&H instrument of Exeter Cathedral, whose impact in the Nave is greatly reduced as one travels west.

I know that you do not like the Choir Cremona; however, I have used the Swell Hautboy occasionally as a solo stop - and found it delightful. There are several flutes which are quiet enough with which to accompany this register. (I include 4p flutes, played down an octave. If this smacks of subterfuge, I can state that I would have far greater trouble registering Bach on the 1921 H&H at Crediton Parish Church; in fact, I probably would not bother.)

For the record, my own choice for the eclectic organ par excellence is that at Coventry Cathedral. I really do not think that there is any repertoire which cannot be made to sound both suitable and effective on this instrument. I realise that this is a very clear statement and not one with which everyone may agree. Nevertheless, Coventry is one of the most musical, beautiful and exciting instruments which I have ever had the privilege of playing.


Both its admirers and its detractors would agree that it is an instrument which has always polarised opinions. I don't like like very much. I'm happy to agree it has artistic integrity and cohesion in a way that many other organs, much altered over the years, don't have. I just don't think it sounds very nice. Even its fans on this message board tend to agree that its a struggle to get it to accompany evensong sympathetically. Thats just not my definition of eclectic.


Having shared the loft with him for three years I did know that. ;) I was indeed referring to its eclecticism, which I think MM is right in suggesting is Downes's real legacy to the world of organ design.


My apologies, Vox - I had forgotten this salient fact.

I think that I must be tired - never be a music teacher....

;)

In comparison to Windsor, Coventry feels spongy to play, largely because of the detached console and the pipes being separated on either side of the cathedral.


Having played services on both instruments and a couple of recitals on the Coventry organ, I am surprised to read this! I have always found it to be clean and totally responsive to play. Certainly, Coventry has the most comfortable console of any instrument that I have ever played. I rather like the slightly stereophonic effect of the Coventry layout. Thank goodness H&H won the day over the initial siting problem. (Basil Spence had allowed for the shelves - but with no 'depth' behind, since he shared a common mis-conception that organs consist only of the front pipes and the console.... He had to stretch the length of the cathedral, in order to accommodate the entire organ, rather than just the front pipes.)
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#33 MusingMuso

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 11:00 PM

You must be having a joke. The Gloucester organ plays french 20th century music and german baroque music reasonably well.
.


==============================


No joke at all!

Ralph Downes liked it, and as he was the author of the "English Classic," it must be what he had in mind.

Now refer to my statement about preferring to accompany Stamford at Haarlem (not that I ever have).

Why?


MM

#34 pcnd5584

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 11:06 PM

The reason I raised this subject, was not so much to do with Ralph Downes, but more to do with a certain sterility which now appears to have crept in to British organ-building.


I agree, MM. THis has been apparent in both proposed stop-lists and finished instruments for some years, now. It is comparatively easy to forecast (with a reasonable degree of accuracy) the stop-list of a proposed new instrument once certain criteria are established, viz.: builder, size, location, etc.

"I would rather accompany Stamford at Haarlem (with registrands), than I would at Blackburn or Gloucester"

Why should I say this?
MM


I am not laughing, MM. I, too, would be very interested in trying this - although I might prefer to stick to Stanford....
B)
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#35 Vox Humana

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 11:32 PM

I think that the point which I am attempting to make is that, is eclecticism necessarily a bad thing?

I think it depends on what you mean by eclecticism. Strict eclecticism - Cliquot reeds with Schnitger principals/flutes and Harrison strings - is likely to result in an organ that lacks integrity. I think in some respects the H&H at St George's is open to this criticism - e.g. the Positiv really does feel like you're playing an entirely different instrument compared to the rest of the organ. But did not eclecticism make possible the transition to the modern all-purpose organ? - an organ in which everything fits together with integrity and, while perhaps not representing any one school of voicing faithfully, renders all music equally effectively in what you might call the tonal equivalent of equal temperament.

#36 nfortin

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 11:35 PM

[font=Arial]Neil, I understand your point of view. Perhaps MM was intending to impute eclecticsim as it relates to repertoire, as opposed to choral accompaniment. In this regard, it is capable of a clear and suitable interpretation of a rather wider cross-section of music than that of the Twentieth-century French and German Baroque.

I know that you do not like the Choir Cremona; however, I have used the Swell Hautboy occasionally as a solo stop - and found it delightful. There are several flutes which are quiet enough with which to accompany this register. (I include 4p flutes, played down an octave. If this smacks of subterfuge, I can state that I would have far greater trouble registering Bach on the 1921 H&H at Crediton Parish Church; in fact, I probably would not bother.)

Not convinced re. wider repertoire... enumerate!

I know that we're not nessessary as far apart as our basic starting points re. Gloucester would suggest. To be honest I find it a frustrating instrument. 18 months ago I played Stanford Postlude in D on it. Commenting on the organ rather than the standard of my playing, I would say it came over pretty well. When I was practising the local Nicholson's rep (DG) said "what a sound" to which my reply was "perhaps, but not what Stanford had in mind". That just about sums it up.

#37 pcnd5584

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 11:42 PM

I think it depends on what you mean by eclecticism. Strict eclecticism - Cliquot reeds with Schnitger principals/flutes and Harrison strings - is likely to result in an organ that lacks integrity. I think in some respects the H&H at St George's is open to this criticism - e.g. the Positiv really does feel like you're playing an entirely different instrument compared to the rest of the organ. But did not eclecticism make possible the transition to the modern all-purpose organ? - an organ in which everything fits together with integrity and, while perhaps not representing any one school of voicing faithfully, renders all music equally effectively in what you might call the tonal equivalent of equal temperament.


This is a good definition, Vox - close, I think, to my own.

This is also where Coventry scores over Windosr - it really is tonally homogenous. Whether one plays on the Choir, the GO, the Swell or the Solo, all sound as part of the whole. There are no extremes, no 'stair-rod' strings or leathery diapasons; no spitting flutes (even if nomenclature in one or two instances might suggest such) or ponderous basses.

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#38 mgp

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Posted 13 March 2007 - 11:45 PM

[font=Arial]I agree, MM. THis has been apparent in both proposed stop-lists and finished instruments for some years, now. It is comparatively easy to forecast (with a reasonable degree of accuracy) the stop-list of a proposed new instrument once certain criteria are established, viz.: builder, size, location, etc

I agree and surely it should be so. This was true of Father Willis, Arthur Hill, JWW, Aristide Cavaille-Coll, Arp Schnitger, Father Smith, Ategnati, Cliquot etc etc i.e. they had a clear view of their ideals and priorities and implemented them consistently. You ordered an instrument from the builder who made the sort of instrument you wanted. No point in asking builder A to make a 'builder B style' - you'd have got very short shrift!

Seems to me that if there is a problem today it lies more with the client who needs to be a bit less wimpy and take responsibility for saying what they want and finding the builder who can (and has) made such instruments. I realise this is a bit radical - particularly in a thread starting with RD who freely acknowleged that the reason he picked H&H for the RFH was quality of workmanship and in no way their alignment with his tonal ideas!

#39 pcnd5584

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 12:04 AM

Not convinced re. wider repertoire... enumerate!

I know that we're not nessessary as far apart as our basic starting points re. Gloucester would suggest. To be honest I find it a frustrating instrument. 18 months ago I played Stanford Postlude in D on it. Commenting on the organ rather than the standard of my playing, I would say it came over pretty well. When I was practising the local Nicholson's rep (DG) said "what a sound" to which my reply was "perhaps, but not what Stanford had in mind". That just about sums it up.


Fair enough.

For example, I assume by 'French 20th century music', you imply Messiaen, etc? However, it also makes a highly creditable job of music from the French symphonic school (I cite Ian Ball's excellent recording of Vierne's Troisième Symphony). It is virtually ideal* for music from the French Baroque repertoire - d'Acquin, Correte (Gaspard), Dandrieu, de Grigny, Marchand, Nivers, etc. Then there is the French classical school (from the Age of Revolution and pre-Romanticism): Balbastre, Charpntier, Corrette (Michel), Sejan, etc.

More recent composers such as Franck (I cite DJB playing Franck's Deuxiéme Choral at the re-opening recital, in January 2000. I tutrned his pages for this concert and I thought that it sounded superb), Guilmant (I cite John Sanders playing Guilmant's Marche Funèbre et Chant Séraphique) Hindemith, Schroeder, Guy Bovet....

Perhaps what it boils down to is that, if the Gloucester organ has a weakness, it is in the accepted idiomatic interpretation of the organ and choral accompanimental music of Elgar (although whether this is in fact orchestral music, played on the wrong instrument, is a moot point), Stanford, Wood, Howells and the like.



* Save, perhaps, for the omission of a double Tierce 3 1/5p - a stop which I do not think Downes ever specified anywhere.

Pierre Cochereau rocked, man


#40 pcnd5584

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 12:17 AM

I agree and surely it should be so. This was true of Father Willis, Arthur Hill, JWW, Aristide Cavaille-Coll, Arp Schnitger, Father Smith, Ategnati, Cliquot etc etc i.e. they had a clear view of their ideals and priorities and implemented them consistently. You ordered an instrument from the builder who made the sort of instrument you wanted. No point in asking builder A to make a 'builder B style' - you'd have got very short shrift!

Seems to me that if there is a problem today it lies more with the client who needs to be a bit less wimpy and take responsibility for saying what they want and finding the builder who can (and has) made such instruments. I realise this is a bit radical - particularly in a thread starting with RD who freely acknowleged that the reason he picked H&H for the RFH was quality of workmanship and in no way their alignment with his tonal ideas!


Well, I agree, in principle. However, I am still faintly surprised* when I peruse a proposed specification which reads something like this:

PEDAL ORGAN

Open Diapason 16
Bourdon 16
Principal 8
Flute 8
Super Octave 4
Trombone 16
Trumpet 8
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal


GREAT ORGAN

Bourdon 16
Open Diapason 8
Stopped Diapason 8
Principal 4
Nason Flute 4
Nazard 2 2/3
Fifteenth 2
Tierce 1 3/5
Furniture (19-22-26-29) IV
Trumpet 8
Cremona 8
Swell to Great

SWELL ORGAN

Open Diapason 8
Rohr Flute 8
Viola da Gamba 8
Voix Célestes (TC) 8
Gemshorn 4
Open Flute 4
Flageolet 2
Mixture (15-19-22-26) IV
Bassoon 16
Hautboy 8
Cornopean 8
Tremulant

Mechanical action.

My surprise stems, not simply from the un-imaginative predictability, rather from the subsequent copy, which invariably reads: "Consultant: (insert favourite name) ". I fail to understand why someone would pay a third party for designing the above 'instrument' - it took me no longer than the time needed to type the text into this box. I realise that an 'Aubertin' organ (or similar) is not suitable for every church - but surely we can introduce a little more individuality than this?



* Perhaps 'bemused' is a more apposite word.

Pierre Cochereau rocked, man





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