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sprondel

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    Berlin, Germany
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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".
  1. Big organs in small cases?

    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
  2. Luxuriant Adagio

    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
  3. New organ in Hamburg

    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
  4. replacing a single rank

    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
  5. Nave Booster Organs

    Well, I guess the idea of reinforcing singing where the main organ won’t reach singers might be as old as the Ecclesiological and Tractarian movements are. At least according to Nicholas Thistlethwaite (Victorian Organ, p. 310f), it was in consequence of those reforms that organs were banned from musically and acoustically efficient locations into corners, chancels, and triforiums. re Colin's remarks: Thanks for these – very informative, and coming with a good explanation for the coming-about of that monster, the Large Open. With the organ at an acoustical disadvantage from the outset (see above), inventions such as this one, utilitarian but not necessarily musically satisfying, were bound to happen – as was, with the arrival of electric action, the nave organ. Personally, I’d prefer one of those anytime. And yes, a Double on the manuals does not hurt, as I have felt many times when singing in service – indeed, a fairly strong bass tends to help as well. How big then would be the step to having a full organ in the nave, if a small one? Something like 16 8 8 4 3 2 IV, 8 4 4 2 Sesq III 8, 16 (Gt) 16 8 4 16 In Freiburg Minster (G), where the organbuilders had to deal with four acoustically distinct spaces (crossing, chancel, nave, and tower), four full organs were built in the 1960ies (Späth, later replaced by Metzler; Marcussen; 2 x Rieger). The nave organ is the most effective one, as well as the smallest of the four (II/21). Here, the Great has no Double, and borrowing between Great and Pedal is prohibited by the prodigious scale of the Pedal Open 16, which makes it the building’s secret 32'. Nevertheless, it carries the singing very nicely all by itself. The large Rieger is much more beefy, especially since its revoicing in 2000, but not quite as noble and easy on the ears. All best wishes Friedrich
  6. Nave Booster Organs

    That’s most certainly all that’s needed – and a fine organ all by itself it might be! Maybe for its purpose, a rather slow halving ratio wouldn’t be a bad idea, and a 16-foot bourdon wouldn't hurt (if only 12 notes and borrowing from the SD from TC), as it was included in Canterbury Cathedral, IIRC. All best wishes, Friedrich
  7. Most bizarre specifications?

    I believe it was HW IIIrd’s hardly concealed adaptation of Skinner’s stop. Just like his Sylvestrina, which as far as I know is not much different from an Erzähler. Best wishes Friedrich
  8. Most bizarre specifications?

    Is it in fact spelled “Reim”? I’m wondering, because the only builder who ever came up with a similar name was Johann Friedrich Schulze (father to Edmund). In 1847/9, he included a “Riem 16'” in his large organ at Bremen cathedral. The stop was a Bassoon with wooden reeds (in the previously given source, it’s plainly called “Fagott”), an idea which is supposed to have been brought up by cathedral organist Wilhelm Friedrich Riem, after whom the stop was christened. It can't have been terribly successful, as it was exchanged for a more traditional reed in the second half of the 19th century. I am asking because Schulze was to be such a big name in England, and – pardon my frankness – many English writers don't get the German ie/ei (ee/eye) thing right. All best wishes, Friedrich
  9. Priory Records - Great European Organs

    Yes, for commercial CD recordings he adds the flying mic. The permanent installation, as far as I know, goes without them, so as not to disturb the architecture.
  10. Priory Records - Great European Organs

    In Saint-Sulpice, there has been a permanent mic installation for several months now, put in place by Christoph Martin Frommen, sound engineer for the Aeolus CD label. The installation was used, among others, for Fugue State Filmss Widor DVD set. On a regular basis, it's used to capture the auditions. The microphones are mounted on the massive cornices on either side of the nave. All best wishes Friedrich
  11. The superior status of cathedral organs?

    Question 1: Yes, we are. One reason might be that this those instruments are so far apart – too far for many of us to visit and hear in the flesh. Plus, not two large organs are alike, because in most venues individual solutions are required, which makes them even more interesting. And, not least: Large organs often seem more versatile musically than smaller ones – seem, as many Willis beasts or the St Mary Redcliffe dragon are highly specialized in their own ways, and not as open to a larger repertoire than one might think judging by the stoplist only. Second part of the question: No, we shouldn’t. Third part of the question: Yes, definitely. What you never get from a large organ in a large building are real subtleties in speech, voicing and balance. Those can rather be enjoyed in smaller organs and more direct acoustics. It’s those that convey the really fine builder. Mediocre ones can get away with much shoddy stuff if the acoustics are mercifully large. Which answers the last bit of the question: I highly doubt that – if only because you very well can hide mediocricy in a large organ, whereas in a small one you can’t. Question 2: This one gets to a real problem. Large organs are for large spaces, period. 32-foot stops are not for your average parish church, much less for school or home installations. A large organ is another kind of instrument than a middle-range or small one, it poses different problems as well as opportunities and calls for different handling and repertoire. “Organ” really is a collective term for a class of instruments, rather than a single instrument. For example, I lately spent an entirely delightful hour with this CD – all repertoire played on a 4-foot based Italian chamber organ with this spec: 4-4 (flute)-1 1/3-1, the last two breaking; meantone. No 2-foot, no 8-foot. But all on relatively high pressure (64 mm), with energetic voicing. That’s nothing any cathedral organ could give me! The problem with large organs is, they are large machines too, and make themselves felt as such, which in itself is a fascination, just as a large steam engine or historical power station would be. Musically, they clearly have their limitations – more indeed than middle-range ones. On question 3, I will have to ponder a little. But it sounds like a great idea. Only, you could exclusively defend it with results – you will have to listen to those obscure instruments to understand why they were included. Among recent CD issues, this one came to my mind immediately. Pleasure from beginning to end! All best, Friedrich
  12. Franck - quick registration queries

    First question: In Franck’s own organ at Saint-Clotilde, there were a Flûte traversière, a Bourdon, a Gambe and a céleste. I'd expect that the classical Voix humaine registration would be Bourdon, Vh, tremulant. In this case, the Flûte would still be out – perhaps because Franck’s Récit was comparably small and on the lyrical side. I would start with the classical solution (in your case, Lieblich, Vh, tremulant). The Diapason wouldn’t really fit in, as in a Voix humaine registration, one is supposed to hear a reed sound without much else. Second question: No, it never is, except when explicitly called for. All best wishes Friedrich
  13. Priory Records - Great European Organs

    I quite distinctly recall finding, in the early 90ies, my first GEO series CDs offered specially at low-price at the local music shop in Freiburg. Among the first I bought was the Ely one, with Dr. Arthur Wills playing the Guillou Toccata, some Parry, Widor’s Romane and an eight-movement Symphonia Eliensis of his own making. I remember being quite flabbergasted at the sound of the Harrison, as well as at the forceful impact of Dr. Wills’s playing. Furthermore, at that time, British organbuilding and organ music was virtually unknown in Germany, where everyone was still firmly walking West and trying to grasp the French stuff. So this was exciting news to me, and must have been to many. Nowadays, German churches are buying redundant Binnses by the dozen. Whoever collected CDs from the GEO series might have his or her favourites. I can’t quite choose between the Ely one, the late John Scott’s organ sonata disk from St Paul’s (including, entirely brilliant, the Elgar) and Roger Sayer’s Reykjavik programme. Graham Barber’s disk from Coventry is another favourite, not so much for the Karg-Elert symphony, which I never quite got the knack of, but more so for Francis Jackson’s beautiful 4th sonata and Sowerby’s Pageant of Autumn. I believe the series owes much to its first handful of players: Graham Barber, Jane Watts, John Scott, John Scott Whiteley, and Keith John (who, to my ears, always chose the most exciting programmes). Of course there were more, and equally brilliant, players, but these five name seem to have set a standard that radiated through much of the whole series. In which I found surprisingly little repetition in the repertoire, btw. It’s a bit ironic, I think, that it has to end just this year. The last disk is, apart from being quite brilliantly played and recorded, so very distinctly British. Along with the Elgar, it also includes Bridge’s Adagio, Whitlocks “Dignity and Impudence”, and Rawsthorne’s Londonderry Air, as well as both of William Walton’s coronation marches, framing movements from his Henry V incidental music. It’s probably silly by me to see symbolized here the whole mad tragic of 23 June – a Great European Organ, being heard with a programme that seems to belie the title of the very series it concludes. And now look what Stephen Cleobury played, at King’s in 1986, for the very first volume. Other times back then. All best wishes indeed, Friedrich
  14. Youtube

    The smaller organ dates from about the same time as the larger one. It was built in two stages in 1467/1515 by unknown builders, and was rebuilt and enlarged in 1636/7 by Friedrich Stellwagen, one of the most important North-German builders of the era whose main achievement is the large and incredibly beautiful 24-foot organ at St Mary’s, Stralsund, which has been restored around 2000 to its original state. The small organ at St Jakobi is one of the most important landmark instruments in the North. After much enlargement and rebuilding, which included the case (the rebuilt one, incidentally, was drawn once by A. G. Hill), it was restored in 1977 by Hillebrand of Hannover, with reconstruction of the original case and stoplist and slight enlargment of the much tampered-with pedal. The original Subbass, then lost, had been in lead, and at first, the organbuilders couldn’t find lead with the right amount of contamination so that the pipes could actually support themselves. The builders then turned to a church in the Netherlands which got its roof re-leaded, bought the centuries-old lead sheets at a bargain prince, and fashioned the new Subbass from those. The Great sports an almost entirely original chorus of gothic origin, while most of the remaining pipes were built by Stellwagen, except the pedal, which was almost completely new in 1977. Find a stoplist and history (in German) here. Harald Vogel recorded vol. 1 of his complete Buxtehude here. The sound is incomparable – so much depth and sweetness, and a plenum of wonderful blend, balance and control. Best, Friedrich
  15. Mutations - pitches and timbres

    Your remark made me curious, and I inquired with the cathedral organist about the Aliquot. His answer was that he didn’t know the composition, but that it was “exotic and sounds somewhat odd … I do like the peculiar sound of the stop when being played together with other stops.” I then turned to the Klais firm and received an answer right away. The composition is as follows: C = 1' + 8/11' (flat tritonus) f = 8/9' (ninth) + 1 5/11' (same flat tritonus, 16-foot based) + 1 3/13' (must be some kind of sixth, again 16-foot based) cis''' = 3 5/9' (ninth, 32-foot based) + 1 5/11' + 1 3/13' I daresay it was worth the inquiry! And I really want to go and hear it in the flesh. All best wishes, Friedrich
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