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    Friedrich Sprondel. Grew up in a Orgelbewegung environment with organs by Paul Ott and Flentrop. Interested in everything organ-related from an early age, learned to play the violin. Read Musicology, later a freelance musicologist, journalist, musician, and orchestra dramaturg. Worked with the journal "Orgel International".

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  1. Hello Niccolo, someone got back to me and helped clearing matters up a bit. There are several extended ranks or units: Trumpet 32-16-8-4, Double Open Bass 32-Open Diapason 16-Open Diapason II 8, Bourdon 32-16-8. The first 12 of the 32-foot flues are actually wired Quint combinations. The Trumpet 16-8-4 unit went in when the organ was first installled in 2008 in its original case, the 32-foot octave was added with the later enlargement. The Tuba has its own short chest just between the case and the southern wall of the transept. About what fits, or may fit, into a case, opinions differ quite a lot between organists and builders. The people to ask, I believe, are the builder's service-and-maintenance staff! There is a very readable piece by the late Stephen Bicknell about that, which I will try to dig from the Piporg-L archives. (In short, I guess he would have taken a glance at the oddly-shaped case and quickly left the site.) I tend to feel a bit uncomfortable when seeing a case and having to wonder where it all went. All best wishes Friedrich
  2. Someone from the German Pfeifenorgelforum commented yesterday on how cute the ears looked on the bottom right pipe. Indeed. Best wishes, Friedrich
  3. Fraser has become a staple in the German online organ community over the last one to two years. What I like about him is how he embraces the many facets of the German organ culture, as you can easily see from his many organ portraits. They cover a huge spectrum, including organ reform instruments, your basic seventies or eighties parish church German organ, organs built specially for contemporary music, the pseudo-French giant at Bonn-Beuel and now Gackenbach. I suspect you won't find many colleagues of German origin with such open enthusiasm and relaxed attitude to diverse concepts and repertoire. About Gackenbach, it might be interesting to look here to see how the Nelson was originally installed there, i. e. in its original case and with only modest additions. I guess the original specification might have been along these lines: 8 8 8 8 4 2 — 8 8 8 8 4 8 — 16. The foremost addition seems to be an unenclosed, floating Trumpet division (or unit?) 16 8 4, extended to 32 for the pedal. The Pedal flues might well be extensions of the one Bourdon: plus 12 pipes for the Bass flute, plus 12 wired Quint combinations for the 32-foot. About the “Contra Trumpet” extension, I am a bit out of my wits—perhaps another wired Quint (which sometimes works really well), or they managed to really hide twelve half-length resonators somewhere. As to the enlarged organ, on the builder’s page you can easily spot the new Solo box in the enlarged case, fenced in by the new 16-foot façade pipes. The Solo apparently adopted the Great Mixture and got its own Trumpet; the rationale being perhaps to complement the otherwise over-used floating Trumpet division (or unit). The new Killinger Tuba is hidden behind the enlarged case. On the builder’s page the second 32-foot is listed as “Harmonik Bass” (instead of “Double Open Bass” as it reads elsewhere), and I suspect this is the single Open Diapason 16, available in the Great as well as in the Pedal, with a wired Quint for the lowest 12. There is a very fine recording of the instrument available from Aeolus. It gives a vivid impression of the Tuba (for another one, see here). It really is huge, though at 300 mm still musical, and generous in character rather than brutal. It apparently forced the overall volume level of the recording down quite a bit! All best wishes Friedrich P. S. About the Norwich puzzle, Fraser might have taken a glance at the stamp-sized picture and have mistaken it for King’s College Cambridge. Would have been only slightly less bad, admittedly. P. P. S. It was confirmed to me today from someone in the know: The Open Diapason 16’, Double Open Bass 32’ (and Open Diapason No. II) are the same rank, and the Trumpets 32 to 4 are one unit. The 32-foot octaves are organised as guessed above.
  4. Well, St Stephen’s is a very large and acoustically difficult space, in fact quite cavernous, built from rather porous limestone that tends to swallow up much of the sound energy. kropf knows it intimately, perhaps he could provide some more specific insight. I think it is exactly the kind of space that needs an awful lot of organ, and especially a Great division that can sing out from pole position, if you want to arrive at anything approaching a satisfactory musical experience. I am quite sure that this was the rationale for massaging the huge Great into that very narrow space. I wish I could hear the result as soon as possible – for now, travelling is quite impossible. To me, additionally it is interesting, as I wondered how to “organ” that space from the instant I laid eyes on this organ’s impressive architecture. Back around 1987, I listened to a recital by then cathedral organist Peter Planyawsky. Wonderful façade, ingenious playing, but a sound that was so utterly dull that one wanted to scream. Best wishes, Friedrich
  5. Internally, the organ is laid out quite interestingly. The arch under which the instrument sits has another connection about 5 ft behind the main façade of the organ, a diaphragm arch 5 ft deep and 10 feet high where it connects to the pillars on either side (scroll down on this page to see it during construction of the new organ). This arch, hidden by organ cases for centuries, posed severe acoustical problems for the 1960 organ, as most of the pipework was placed behind it. The arch, needless to say, is indispensable for the statics of the building. Rieger, however, managed to get their 22-stop Great organ between the façade and said arch. They divided it in two major divisions, each on two levels.The basses of either section, C to h, are placed on C and C# chests running front to back on the level of the cornice of the façade. On top of each pair of bass chests sits a treble chest, starting at c' and running sides to centre. The infamous connecting arch sits just behind the treble chests. So the overall layout, left to right, is: Cornice level: basses of Gt I, C / Gt I, C# / Gt II, C / Gt II, C#; upper level: Gt I, trebles / Gt II, trebles. On either side of this six-chest, 22-stop Great are the chests for the smaller pedal ranks, just behind the 32-foot towers (which, incidentally, belong to the Great). On top of the arch, behind the 32-foot towers, are the two Solo boxes, divided C—C#; on either side of the tower space, behind the Solo boxes and equally divided, those of the Swell. Behind the arch, inside the tower space, a large pit houses the larger Pedal ranks. On top of the arch are the horizontal reeds, speaking right across the Great. In the middle of the parapet, there is the Rückpositiv; in the North and South aisles, there are two more parapet façades, masking two additional enclosed divisions. All best wishes, Friedrich
  6. Is it just me, or is there anyone else who also can’t unsee the sleeping monkey king in this curious case? Just wondering. All best wishes, Friedrich
  7. I love this one. A showpiece indeed, if rather an inverted-flamboyant one. https://www.dropbox.com/s/mwu1n68ezbvfb2o/02 Raitio_ Canzonetta.mp3?dl=0 All best wishes, Friedrich
  8. I just found an older comment in another (now defunct) forum in which an organbuilder suggested that the »Terz« approach worked best when applied to the first 24 or 30 notes, from there continuing in pure octaves, so that the beats won’t increase at the former rate. More than one other contributor back then wrote, however, that they tuned individual notes, just by ear, the only condition being that the ranks are positioned sufficiently far apart from each other. All best wishes, Friedrich
  9. In German organbuilding, there is the term “Terzschwebung”, and I understand that this is the most frequent method of celeste tuning. It refers to the tuning process: Both ranks are pulled, and a major third is played; in the sharp rank, the upper pipe is silenced, while in the unison rank the lower one is. Then both remaining pipes are tuned to a pure major third by way of sharpening the celeste pipe. For a flat celeste, the silencing would be done the other way round. That way, the beats per note will increase with the pitch in a pleasant way, and it’s quite easily done. Is this the usual method with British builders as well? All best wishes, Friedrich
  10. In an interview in Orgel International, Olivier Latry repeatedly mentioned Messiaen using his own recordings as points of reference. Apparently, when discussing the music, he sometimes turned to his wife, asking her how again he had done it for HMV’s « Messiaen par lui-même ». So, peculiar as they appear to be when compared to the printed music, he considered them to be of prime importance. On the other hand, he seems to have been very pleased when he witnessed dedicated performers such as Jennifer Bate or Almut Rössler playing his works. Rössler recorded them on three instruments that were quite far from anything he might have been familiar with in France: on the idiosyncratic Rieger of the Neanderkirche, Düsseldorf (everything up to the Mass), on the neo-Schnitger Beckerath of the Johanneskirche Düsseldorf (Trinity meditations), and on the well-known Passau cathedral Eisenbarth (Livre du Saint Sacrement). I believe to recall that all of these performances and recordings were meticulously prepared with Messiaen himself and validated by enthusiastic remarks written on the music and sometimes printed on the LP cover. The only conclusion is that, to Messiaen, the style of the instrument was not as much of importance as the performance, more precisely the intensity and imagination the performers employed to make the music work. Now, this in no way matches his persistent referring to his own Trinité recordings. Apparently, that’s the way it is, and every performer must deal with this in his or her very own manner. All best wishes, Friedrich
  11. In fact, additional to the Guillou recordings (Mussorgsky & Stravinsky, Bach), there are a number of recordings by Ulrich Meldau with orchestral repertoire (Dupré & Demessieux, Bossi, Bartmuß). Gunther Rost recorded one of his Petr Eben CDs there (Job), and there are recordings of light music by Ursula Hauser and of Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s organ music by Livia Mazzanti; David Zinman conducted Strauss’s Festival Prelude there. Apart from the Guillou recordings, however, I consider Keith John’s GEO portrait for priory the most spectacular (Mussorgsky & Alain, Trois danses). Thus, the organ has been well documented in recordings, in which I used to like its bite and expressive power, as well as the unmistakable oomph of its basses. I think it’s regrettable that it has to go, but in part understand the reasons – that organ has always been a soloist with some idiosyncrasies, and probably not the most comfortable of accompanimental instruments. Best wishes Friedrich
  12. First part of the question: As far as I can say, no, they haven’t. It is still up to the builder, consultant and buyer and their mutual relationship to determine specifics such as the use of space in any case, be it new or existing. At some point, the builder might point out that for many reasons he would rather have more space than still more ranks to fit in, and hopefully the consultant will go along with that. As to secure access, I am not sure if there are regulations, but I suspect there are – here a builder might be able to tell more. Second part of the question: Yes and no. Chest layout can of course be done in major or minor thirds, which considerably helps saving space and provides access to some extent without having to resort to walkboards. What usually can’t be done is space saving in the lower range: Where old builders and buyers were completely comfortable with a short or broken bottom octave (starting CDEFGA or CDE, respectively), we expect the full chromatic range throughout, with two to four more large pipes per rank to accommodate. On the chest, they easily account for up to a meter in width. To cope with that, builders in the 19th century set-off large bass pipes, or placed them in or behind the facade, or shared them between ranks (Schulze did this to a large extent, combining Gambas, Salicionals and Diapasons, Hohl Flutes and Stopped Diapasons in the bottom octaves of manual 16- and 8-foot ranks). I often marvel at cases and the respective stoplists, wondering where it all goes. And I admire builders such as Lynn Dobson, who apparently were able to convince their customers not to demand more organ than space will accomodate. Lynn Dobson’s collection of designs, many quite original but with their own internal logic, rarely leaves one wondering how they “did it”. The late Stephen Bicknell wrote several wonderful pieces for Piporg-L on this subject, just to give subscribers an idea of the space needed for an organ of just moderate size. One particularly concise one can be found in the list archives here. He faced the problem on several occasions, and used to be quite self-critical, relating to, among others, an organ built by our hosts which he designed. And his rant concerning St Lawrence Jewry, with its catching bottom-line, is quite legendary among older Piporg-Lers. Best wishes Friedrich
  13. No. 5 is really grand and dramatic, with lots of fire in the first movement and Scherzo and an enormous and well-orchestrated climax in the finale. The second movement, Adagio con espressione, is quite worthwhile as well. My favourite Guilmant sonata by far. Get Michael Schönheit’s recording from the Leipzig Gewandhaus—surprising choice of instrument as it may be, it is incredibly intense throughout. The Morceau de concert op. 24 is a fine piece which works with two subjects and their combination (as do several movements of the 5th sonata). Best wishes Friedrich
  14. The opening recital by Iveta Apkalna can be listened to here (link expires in four days or so). Between pieces, there are interviews (in German) with Apkalna and Philipp Klais. Another Philipp Klais portrait, quite extensive and in German, can be found here, with three decades or so of Klais recordings’ worth included. He comes across as a nice enough chap, though if you compare contents and key phrases between interviews, you notice that he has his talking points well prepared and apparently repeated over and over again. No wonder considering the media coverage of the new hall, which covered the organ quite remarkably. This is free publicity other builders can only dream of, even in the international field. Quite a lot of dynamic compression in the recital recording, I’m afraid, so that e. g. the final chord of Bach’s T, A & F appears to be actually the softest part of the piece! But quite informative otherwise, I think. The organ sounds quite good to me, well balanced choruses and silky foundations, and the basses definitely seem to be one of its many strengths. I am quite keen on hearing it on site, but don’t know when I can make it, given the desperate ticket situation. All best wishes Friedrich
  15. Plug-and-play would be quite improbable, since there are so many variables – or rather, so many ways in which a second-hand rank, without any adapting, may not fit in. What system was the rank voiced on, and what system will have to accommodate it? On what pressure was it voiced originally? Will its speech and scaling support blend with its new neighbours? Maybe there would be a chance if the second-hand rank and your instrument were made by the same builder at approximately the same time, so that the same pipe-makers and voicers might have been involved, the same chest system was used and the same or a quite similar scale sheet be used. Builders like Willis used to produce pipes on an industrial scale and to industrial standards. But as soon as it gets to blend, speech and character, a plug-and-play approach will end up in trouble. Best wishes Friedrich
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