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Everything posted by sprondel

  1. I remember a contribution to Piporg-l back from May 2005 (week 3) made by one who was involved in this project; you might want to look it up in the list archives. It might not entirely explain what you are wondering about, but is telling as to what he thought about the special situation of the organ. Best, Friedrich
  2. You are recalling it correctly – almost. The man wasn’t just any trumpeter but head of the City Council’s Trumpeters, Gottfried Reiche. It was he, apparently, who inspired Bach to write such intricate and high-pitched trumpet parts. He died walking home at night one day after a performance of Bach’s cantata BWV 215 in which he took part. The contemporary theory that exposure to excessive smoke (from torches) caused Reiche’s fatal stroke meets with recent research – so it wasn’t necessarily Bach’s writing that smote him. Just for the record. Best, Friedrich
  3. It’s Amiens. The main case was completed in 1429, the Positif was added in 1620 by Pierre le Pescheur. Here the organ is listed as Cavaillé-Coll-Roethinger. Incredibly beautiful architecture. especially the main case is simply spectacular. Best, Friedrich
  4. This is a valid question, and I find it hard to answer. One point that comes to mind is the fact that organ building is, in most cases, a risky line of work. Every organ that is, justifyably or not, discussed as a failure, can put the builder and his companions into serious trouble; the threat or bankuptcy is never far away. Now, if you were given the opportunity to openly criticise an organ, and the builder is an outright hack, then by all means do it. Hacks are still around, if not as many of them as used to be in the heydays of organbuilding around 1900. But then, there are so many workshops working at high risk, putting everything into their work and not expecting much gain from it, to produce a beautiful instrument. If then you find fault with it, what would you do -- go public, or maybe rather discuss the problem with the builder first, giving him his chance to explain himself and put it right? But since there are so many varieties and flavours of organs being built from scratch, and so many different ways of doing a restoration, that quickly you will be within the grey areas of opinion, and of being opinionated. If a debate results, then that is a good thing. But what if not? How many opportunities of open debate do we have in the organ world today, and what is the probability that the debate reaches the non-organic public as well, that might still be impressed by the first utterance of criticism? I still am impressed with the open criticism that was the hallmark of the late Stephen Bicknell. His comprehensive knowledge of organs and organbuilding, combined with his poignant writing, put him into a remarkable position; and the contributors on piporg-l benefited heavily from Stephen’s habit of posting his own lectures and writings before publishing them, and inviting each and every member to come forward with questions and criticism. This combination deeply impressed me: Not holding back criticism, and at the same time inviting being criticised. This went so far as to openly deeming a failure a large organ, in the design and building of which he himself had played a vital role. On the other hand, he could put forward enough well-founded arguments about another organ by a German builder and have the criticism end with the remark: “This isn’t a work of art. It’s an appliance.” I’ll never forget meeting him at a conference in deep US prairie, after the presentation of a new organ that was hailed as the arrival of true English cathedral style in America, and the first words he said were: “Now wasn’t that organ dreadful?”, and the chat that followed made clear precisely why, in his eyes and ears, it was. Reading and re-reading his postings and essays to me is an ongoing source of pleasure and inspiration. At the same time I wonder: Could I put forward as well-founded criticism as that? The answer is, of course, no, I never could. I did not design, or crouch into, as many organs world-wide as Stephen did. Neither did I the impressive kind of research he had to do to put it into his book. Of course, there are other, maybe more subtle or polite, ways of criticism. I remember very well Roger Fisher’s OR essay on the big Birmingham Klais, which you might read as just a knowledgeable presentation of the facts, which it certainly is. On a second glance, I found it to carry a subtle between-the-lines message -- I might be wrong here, but what I percieved was: “These are the facts, this is what the beast is like, and you might need to go out of your way to tackle it. Now it is up to you to draw your conclusions, as a player and as a listener.” There was one emphasis that came closest to criticism -- I paraphrase: “… you will have to take your time trying.” But since there was still a flavour of “… but you might find it worth it”, even that undertone was balanced. So, this is another possibility of intelligent criticism, no less inspiring than Stephen’s. Deep knowledge and a shrewd pen seem to be needed, and in matters organic, both meet just as rarely as in other areas. Best, Friedrich
  5. True, by the exception of the builder who did the rebuilds. It was Puget. He altered the wind system by connecting the high-pressure and normal-pressure parts. This was reverted in the restoration. Apparently, many players and listeners now think it overwhelmingly loud, which could well be a consequence of reinstating the high pressure for the GO trebles and all of the Récit. Best, Friedrich
  6. I have one of those too, at home in Berlin, a Bechstein grand, 2 m long. The serial number says it was made around 1890. It’s lovely and fantastically easy to play. The infamous Berlin winters take their toll, though. The tuner was shocked when the pitch, between spring and late summer, had risen for almost a semitone! He said that the wood was saturated now with humidity, but that this would change later in the year. In Berlin’s continental winters, and under the high ceilings of our c. 1900 flat, the humidity goes quickly below 30 %. Inside the flat, without the aid of a humidifier (by the aid of water basins, hanging laundry, keeping doors closed and temperature around 20°C), I try to keep it around 40 %, which is low already. The tuner loves that piano, and he regularly leaves with a pained expression in his face when he finds it as violently out of tune. He says the soundboard is cracked, and that this did not do so much soundwise -- the soundboard has lost tension anyway in over a century -- but that it accelerated the loss and gain of humidity in the wood, as the coat of varnish was cracked as well. Next winter, it must be a humidifier. I hope the Bechstein will survive as long. BTW, at least two older organbuilders told me about saving organs over the winter, or giving them first aid in dry times, by telling the sexton’s wife to do all the laundry now and hanging it on the loft or even in the organ itself. Best, Friedrich
  7. As I hear them, they provide a valuable, and irreplaceable, colour and intensity that bridges the gap between foundations and full combinations, especially reeds. The pedal mutations give a reedy clarity where bringing in the actual 16' or 32' reed would be overwhelming. Other than the Bombardes, they reportedly work well with combinations on several levels, all below ff. The same is true for the manual reeds and mutations. The chorus reeds, in such a space, need to be heavy-duty; and reeds in French style always are pretty intense, especially in the bass range. Isn’t it good not to have to resort to them for a clear bass? The new Réson[n]ance is planned to have its own full-compass enclosure, so this will be the first Cavaillé-Coll cathedral organ with such a feat. The Crescendo pedal will be made so as to switch between the actual Crescendo and the Réson[n]ance shutters. God knows where they will squeeze the box -- or boxes -- in, but they certainly plan to do it. Best, Friedrich
  8. When I was a schoolboy, I had access to a substantial neo-baroque organ (IV/57) that had a None (Ninth/Neuvième) 8/9' on its Oberwerk. It was part of a all-but-complete series, starting from 2 2/3' Nasat: Waldflöte 2', Terz 1 3/5', Septime 1 1/7', None 8/9'; at the base of all that was a Holzpfeife, narrow-scale open flute with stopped basses, and a Nachthorn (open, large scale).* To describe the effect of the higher harmonics is not easy, of course. The Septime rendered a yellowish green fire, so to speak, to the cornet, having it appear even more intense. The None, of rather soft voicing and narrow scale, did something completely different. It acted as a kind of cooling agent -- glassy and icy-blueish. It still, in its special way, reinforced the unison line. Though not intended to be played with the 1', both together (plus 8+4+Nasat) produced a spine-tingling chill. The 16'- and 32'-foot versions would be 1 7/9' and 3 5/9'. Never heard those in the flesh, only on ND recordings. I think the Engelberg Goll has them too. I have heard others describe the sharp fourth (Onzième) to be of comparable effect, rather cooling than warming the sound, while adding more edge. I have not heard one in action, though. Best, Friedrich * There was a small chorus of 4' Prinzipal, 1' Oktave and Scharf 2/3' IV, an undulating Spillgedackt 8' (narrow flute with cylindrical bodies and conical sliding canisters, closed at the top), an 8' Trompete and a 4' Regal. As of today, the latter became a 4' Trompete, and the Spillgedackt and Holzpfeife changed roles, the latter now being the undulating rank. See full stoplist here. Oh the long afternoons I spent there experimenting, and sometimes even practising …
  9. Interesting indeed. All the more since the Great reeds have their own Sub-octave coupler. Maybe they could be coupled independently? So you could a least play Gt + Sw against Pos + Gt reeds. The Pedal reed situation might be improved by such a move as well. And since my fancy is flying anyway -- maybe there would be space for a twelve-pipe Trombone chest, rather than for a 44-pipe unit, that would complete the reeds in the pedal. Not ideal, but probably better than nothing. Just a thought. By the way, I really liked the term “positivised”. Best, Friedrich Afterthought: Oh yes, it is still on tp action. That makes it all more difficult, of course. An watching the photographs on NPOR makes it appear a really tight fit anyway.
  10. It’s the original Cavaillé-Coll console of 1868, the one that took Vierne’s last pedal point in 1937. Best, Friedrich
  11. Lorenzo Ghielmi makes use of quite substantial, if still chamber-style, instruments in his latest Händel concerto recording, and I quite like the sound which is more serious and grown-up, so to speak. Too much chirping on the organ’s part has marred many a Bach cantata experience for me. Christophe Coin and his Limoges Baroque Ensemble recorded one of the Cantatas that include an organ-concerto movement in a church in Saxony with a fully-grown 8' Silbermann, and that’s another kind of satisfaction altogether. I once read an article about a clever chamber-organ design by Reil that included an open 8' from TG up; the real joker, however, appeared to be an open 4' flute that was designed to go with the chorus as well as with the flutes. The organ was in a full-size cabinet, though, and not for transport. Taking up this idea, I imagine something like this could work as a more full-sounding, transportable continuo organ: Stopped Diapason 8' Open Diapason 8' from TC or TG, Bass shared Open flute 4' Flute 2' Mixture II 2' (+ 1 1/3', middle C 3' + 2') One could even add one rank and one manual and have an echo: Stopped Diapason 8' (shared) Stopped Flute 4' The stopped 8' rank would have to sound not too timid in the bass, but could lose weight when going up the scale, because there the OD could take its share of the unison load. The 4' Flute would need some clever scaling and voicing, of course. Oh to have something along these lines in one’s living room … Best, Friedrich (who has been deprived of any kind of keyboard since 1 January.)
  12. I sincerely hope the Ruhrflöte is a typo! Friedrich
  13. That’s the nasty four-letter word I did want to avoid, but now it’s out in the open … I’m not quite sure about this. I think the overall concept is not aiming at one, but at several ensembles. If all Chamades together upset the overall balance, well, it’s evident what not to do then, isn’t it? I do like the new ones copied from Saint-Sernin, they have a singing quality that the Boisseau Chamades lacked, in my ears. As to the mixtures, I was under the impression that the redistribution left the separate choruses basically intact, reinstating C-C’s exciting GO choruses and moving the neoclassical ones to other divisions. I once was lucky enough to have Olivier Latry sitting opposite of me in a Berlin Hotel, with an MD device on the table and him explaining the origin of the resources and how they are distributed over the organ since 1991. It was admirable how clearly he had mapped that monstrous, to the visitor even chaotic, organ in his mind. As to the mutations once more, is there, in the background, maybe a possibility that liking or not liking them might have to do with national organbuilding traditions? The English tradition never really cherished single-rank mutations, except for composite stops and the chorus Twelfth. Flutey mutations came up with the neo-classical Positives that suddenly sprouted out of the gaps between high-pressure chests of Edwardian cathedral organs. What else could they be than whim, in that context? Who really needed them? It was Claribels against Cromornes, and it rarely worked out, or did it? In the French tradition, as we all know, that was very much different. Mutations were, apart from the choruses, the bread-and-butter of French organ sound almost all the time. There were one or two decades in mid-to-late 19th century, when even Cavaillé-Coll abandoned mutations. He took them up for Notre-Dame again, and not out of a folly, but because he had done extensive research on them and was convinced that they were essentially instrumental in order to make the Notre-Dame organ work in that space. Later French builders saw, or re-discovered, the advantages of mutations as well. Best, Friedrich
  14. A member of the German orgelforum.info just posted excerpts from Anthony Hammond’s book on Cochereau. It appears that, after C-C’s latest work, the organ never actually reached a state that could have been called finished, and that the Cochereau console was never more than a perpetuated interim solution. If there ever was a state that could claim to have some integrity, it was the state from 1991 on -- except for the blatant computer problems, the organ was fully functional and apparently musically sound, if only from impost level on up. If I compare recordings of before and after 1991, it is, to my ears, obvious that the rebuild (re-) introduced much of the C-C sonorities that the organ sadly lacked during the decades before. That being said, a reconstruction of the C-C incarnation of the organ would apparently be hypothetical, as the pipework and mechanism have undergone so may alterations. I don’t know if I would go as far as to call the resonance a whim. I thought Cochereau’s small pedal division -- which is to form the core of the new resonance -- was much more whimsical than a full-fledged, expressive manual division, as it is planned now, would be. I also stand by my opinion that the current titulaires keep proving the usefulness of the mutations every single day. Let’s not forget that it was Cavaillé-Coll's idea in the first place that extensive use of mutations was the way to overcome the challenges of the extreme acoustics. Apparently he did not only think that they would work there, but that the organ could only be successful with the mutations, and would fail without them. What I do not know as well is where they will put the box (or boxes) for that new expressive division. I also don’t get it why anyone could want a console that looks like a toy kitchen, with its light-brown stop handles against a background of identical colour. But I most certainly know that the current titulaires did prove that they do not act on whims, and that their musical judgement is sound (so to speak). Best, Friedrich
  15. Yes, it is! Isn’t that wonderful? :-) Seriously, the titulaires of Notre-Dame have come up with many interesting way to use their unusual wealth of mutations -- in improvisation. I have a fantastic CD of Leguay improvising, making use of many different mutation-generated colours. Furthermore, on Fugue State Films’s Cavaillé-Coll set, there is (on DVD 3, Latry improvisation, at 2'49), a grand passage in Olivier Latry’s improvisation where he creates, aided by solid-state off-unison coupling, extremely colourful out-of-tune sounds on manual I that accompany, aided further by the sostenuto, a sombre Voix humaine duet on the Récit. It’s a dream, of a behind-the-looking-glass quality, to listen to -- apt to make ponder anyone who used to eschew the marriage of solid-state technology and traditional production of organ sounds. Best, Friedrich
  16. Being a German concertgoer, I sometimes think: How could anyone play such wonderful music on such a fine instrument without any ears, or with so little in between them? After listening to the BBC stream, I can only say I'm with Karl Bernhardin Kropf in this. The playing is splendidly free and expressive, and also very stylish in the application of ornaments and rhythmic tension. Played in this manner, the music just makes the organ sound exciting. The accompaniment (Probably FaCh + Principal + Doublette), fairly neutral in itself, nicely balances the treble-heavy solo voice (my guess is SW OD II + Principals 4 + 2, + Trumpet), which in itself gains much brilliance from the ornamentation. It’s fire and ice, in a way. It’s good. Best, Friedrich
  17. What about Guy-Ropartz’s ? Best, Friedrich
  18. Leonardo Ciampa thinks that »O Traurigkeit« was intended to be part of the collection of organ chorales Brahms put together at the end of his life, being planned in two sets of seven each. He put together an interesting hypothesis about that here. And yes, the »O Traurigkeit« pair is marvellous. Best, Friedrich
  19. On Friday last, I attended my first organ recital here in California. We moved here on January 1, and I was glad to learn that there was one scheduled February 1, with exquisite repertoire: all of Bach’s trio sonatas, played by Stanford university organist Huw Morgan on the large Fisk in Memorial Church. Apart from that bold program, it was Huw Morgan’s plan that no registration would sound twice, so that the audience – some 200 people – was able to hear the Fisk-Nanney organ with 18 different combinations. Though I cannot recall each one of them, and did not have a stoplist sheet at hand, what I can say is: they were all fascinating. E. g. the G major sonata: Vivace on three wonderfully warm and distinct 8' diapasons; Lento with a sweetly-singing short-length reed; Allegro with diapasons 8-4-2, a vivid Sesquialtera and equally clear pedal. The last piece of the evening, the finale of the C major sonata, will stick in my memory for a long time: two full diapason choruses over 16' pedal with 8'-reed. No chamber music any more, but what wonderful organ music! The organ case sits between the two cases of the Murray-Harris organ, high up, its central tower almost touching the ceiling. It is a characteristic Charles Nazarian design: well centered, quoting historical elements while fancifully updating them, dissolving the block of the case in many interesting, well-balanced parts. The organ, famous for its double-temperament mechanism (some well-temp plus 1/5 comma meantone), was planned by Charles Fisk, Harald Vogel, Manuel Rosales and Herbert Nanney, and completed in 1985, two years after Charles Fisk’s death. There is an abundance of bold, warm, singing colour, but no complete pedal organ, only a Bourdon 32-16 and a Posaune 32-16-8; probably out of space considerations, the rest sounds either in the Great or in the Pedal (or is coupled to the latter), with the 16' Principal borrowed*. As concerns the trio sonatas, this worked convincingly. I will be back for some more, so I will listen and keep you posted. Huw Morgan played very well. Tempi on the quick side, but always with wonderfully singing phrasing and clear articulation. In his virtuoso attitude and musicality, he reminded me of his teacher, Nicolas Kynaston. The warm presence of the tone in the space of Memorial Church brought these qualities to full bloom, and they were not diminished by a very few glitches when the recital ran late (I believe all of Paganini’s 24 in one night would be an appropriate comparison). What music, and on what an organ! I’ll definitely be back. E. g. for Nigel’s recital on April 10. Looking forward to it! Best, Friedrich * If you look at some central-German designs from Bach’s time, a pedal like that is not at all unusual; e. g. here.
  20. I'd say an organ is bad if it has shortcomings that can't be fixed at a reasonable effort. Bad, rough or incomplete voicing can be redone. Wrong scaling is worse, but pipework could be replaced. Bad tracker or stop action might be improved by altering certain details. I guess bad winding is worst. If windlines are faultily calculated, if note channels are too small, there is little you can do about it. A badly winded organ is, as it was since organs were built, a bad one. Personally, I think that bad case design also qualifies. Cases that are boring, architecturally amateurish, over-decorated, wrong-proportioned, over-loud or over-shy, out of style or badly in style, are not worth being looked at, let alone built and paid for. It's not always the builder's fault, though. Best, Friedrich
  21. A Batalha/Batalla/Battaglia is a piece of early descriptive keyboard music. It describes a battle, which more or less follows a certain choreography: The two parties are introduced, attack is signalled, much running and other noises occur (cannons being depicted by repeated chords or even clusters in the low range), and a concluding march-like music signals the triumph of one party. The genre has its roots in renaissance chanson and madrigal composition and was readily adapted by keyboard composers all over Europe. It is therefore much older in origin than the horizontal "trompetas de batalla" that you find in many Spanish organ cases; they were introduced around or after 1700. In Spanish or Portuguese batallas from after that time, the trumpets are expected to be used; which does not mean that they are not of great effect in older music. In fact, on old Iberian organs this music can sound spectacular -- glorious noise is what it is about. Being descriptive in character, this music needs imaginative playing, ornamentation, and dramatic timing. One famous anonymous Batalla you find recorded, on modern organs, in these two CDs (1, 2, the first sample track in both). One is more straight in approach, the other more fancyful -- I like both very much. (The late Paul Wißkirchen used the piece to portrait the different reed ensembles of the Altenberg Klais; he starts on the Swell, goes on to the Great and, when the battle gets hot, introduces the stunningly arrogant horizontal reeds. In fact, the piece here is all reeds, not a single flue stop is being used.) Best, Friedrich
  22. As much as I admire Olivier Latry as an artist, and respect what he has to say about the instrument he plays and loves, I never saw the point of that kind of argument. It means to confuse the instrument’s history with its identity, two things that are logically and physically profoundly different. To incorporate this concept into that of a « monument historique » means, by consequence, carte blache to every contemporary whim. Which historical conservation of a certain concept, in sound and transmission technique, is precisely not. Ironically, once having gone the way of solid-state transmission, perpetual change has in fact become part of the instrument, due to continuing development in that area. By now, I tend to be confused by all the concepts incorporated into that giant organ. Maybe it’s just me. I like it simple. Minds like Olivier’s might see possibility where mine is just overchallenged. Best, Friedrich
  23. Unusual or not: The organ you see in the small picture on the left -- the wonderful IV/47 Flentrop at St. Marien, Osnabrück -- is fully mechanical, but has a unison-off to the second manual (Great). The reason for that is that the Great consists exclusively of a principal chorus 16 8 4 3 2 IV-V plus trumpets 16 8, on 90 mm. On the third manual is the Oberwerk (which actually sits below the Great, just on impost level) with a cornet décomposé, a small principal chorus (Quintade 8, Principal 4, Mixtur IV) and a lighter Trumpet 8, all on 75 mm. DA Flentrop, Antonie van Steketee and organist Traugott Timme devised the unison-off coupler for trio playing between Oberwerk and Rückpositiv (first manual): The organist can disconnect the Great action and couple the Oberwerk down to II, thus having its beautiful flutes etc conveniently available there without having to pull the Great action, which is considerably heavy. That organ is so wonderful in many respects. The sound in the nave is exceptionally clear, yet full and satisfying. Best, Friedrich
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