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Needless to say, I have read all about George Thalben Ball and have one or two of his recordings. He didn't make many (I wonder why). One I have readily to hand is a boot-leg copy (incidentally, I'm quite happy to purchase a legal copy if any are available) but because of the nature of this copy I'm not sure where the original was made or when. I suspect that it might be the LP he made at All Souls' Langham Place when he was already 70+. The playing is virtually clean throughout, very limber, and (especially) very polished. The programme runs:

 

Garth Edmundson - Toccata on 'Vom Himmel hoch' (extremely swift and fractionally re-written)

Thalben-Ball - Elegy (a bit fast)

Walford Davies - Interlude (quite splendid track, this one)

C.S.Lang - Tuba Tune (fair performance only)

Thalben-Ball - Paganini Variations (splendid, of course)

Thalben-Ball - Two Birmingham Pieces (very derivative, some virtually direct quotes from other composers)

Schumann - Sketch in C (very grand)

Bach - Ein' Feste Burg (Quite splendid - I would love to know where the arrangement comes from!)

Karg-Elert - Chorale Prelude [sarabande] (slick, and on the fast side!)

Guy Weitz - Toccata 'Stella Maris' (a bit laboured)

 

1. Information sought!

 

2. Those of you who had the privilege of hearing him 'live', how did his live recitals compare with today's fare? He is recounted as having 'got used' to a new organ in a matter of a few minutes and apparently sometimes he took no run-through rehearsal at all.

 

It is a shame that the recording (above) must, inevitably, show him some way past his best.

The ancient recording he made of The Ride of the Valkyries from (shh.) A.P. is, of course, just stunning.

 

I remember Howells telling me (in awe) of the evening when he (HH) took his new Sonata round to GTB (the dedicatee) for the first time. Thalben Ball had never seen it previously, but promptly sight-read the thing right through on the Temple Church organ - fully up to speed and in front of the composer!

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Paul, your bootleg copy will be of an LP produced by Michael Smythe on Vista VPS 1059 at The Temple Church (Tracks 1-5), Town Hall Birmingham (Tracks 6-9) and All Soul's Langham Place (Tracks 12-15). The sleeve note states the recordings were made between 1974 and 1978 which would make him 78-82! It also states that items were recorded without breaks avoiding splicing and editing.

 

I have the recording which I have recently digitized on my new USB turntable (crackes suggets it was well used in my youth!). This equipment has revealed some great LP's I purchased in the past and long languished in my loft. I htought I had an LP of GTB playing the Reubke but it has not yet surfaced.

 

In my limited experience of turning pages for GTB at several recitals in Bristol (Cathedral, Colston Hall, Lord Mayor's Chapel) in mid/late 60's he spent a good deal of time preparing for each of them. Your story about preparation may have come from the fact he went by train early every Wednesday morning from London to Birmingham to give a weekly midday recital, although he once told me that he always tried to play someting new to him or the series in each recital. He was always great company and full of anecdotes.

 

I remember he gave a blistering performance on the new organ at Coventry Cathedral shortly after it was built, and a friend (now sadly departed) frequently recounted how GTB knocked spots off the other performers at a composite recital at the RFH in 1954 with a virtuoso performance of the Reubke making it sound a very different instrument.

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Needless to say, I have read all about George Thalben Ball and have one or two of his recordings. He didn't make many (I wonder why). One I have readily to hand is a boot-leg copy (incidentally, I'm quite happy to purchase a legal copy if any are available) but because of the nature of this copy I'm not sure where the original was made or when. I suspect that it might be the LP he made at All Souls' Langham Place when he was already 70+. The playing is virtually clean throughout, very limber, and (especially) very polished. The programme runs:

 

Garth Edmundson - Toccata on 'Vom Himmel hoch' (extremely swift and fractionally re-written)

Thalben-Ball - Elegy (a bit fast)

Walford Davies - Interlude (quite splendid track, this one)

C.S.Lang - Tuba Tune (fair performance only)

Thalben-Ball - Paganini Variations (splendid, of course)

Thalben-Ball - Two Birmingham Pieces (very derivative, some virtually direct quotes from other composers)

Schumann - Sketch in C (very grand)

Bach - Ein' Feste Burg (Quite splendid - I would love to know where the arrangement comes from!)

Karg-Elert - Chorale Prelude [sarabande] (slick, and on the fast side!)

Guy Weitz - Toccata 'Stella Maris' (a bit laboured)

 

1. Information sought!

 

2. Those of you who had the privilege of hearing him 'live', how did his live recitals compare with today's fare? He is recounted as having 'got used' to a new organ in a matter of a few minutes and apparently sometimes he took no run-through rehearsal at all.

 

It is a shame that the recording (above) must, inevitably, show him some way past his best.

The ancient recording he made of The Ride of the Valkyries from (shh.) A.P. is, of course, just stunning.

 

I remember Howells telling me (in awe) of the evening when he (HH) took his new Sonata round to GTB (the dedicatee) for the first time. Thalben Ball had never seen it previously, but promptly sight-read the thing right through on the Temple Church organ - fully up to speed and in front of the composer!

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Some of the answers re the GTB recording have already been made by Martin Stanley. The items on the Vista LP that were recorded at ASLP were made at the same time as he recorded the Reubke and I turned the pages for this recording. GTB was reluctant to record solo organ LP's, certainly in his later years and Michael Smythe took the opportunity to record the additional items whilst he had the opportunity. The Reubke was played straight through with just a short break before the fugue which was of course eliminated on the LP. Otherwise, as mentioned, there were no retakes or editing.

Quite a feat for anyone and especially remarkable in view of his age especially as the recording was made late in the evening to avoid extraneous traffic noises.

 

GTB was a prodigious sight reader and an outstanding pianist and his practice mainly consisted of anotating his copy with the required piston changes and stop additions which were always meticuously planned and nothing was left to chance. He was always well rehearsed but often used to like to say to me that he had had very little time to practice!

 

The only time I remember things not going quite to plan was at his RAH recital - although his powers of recovery were such that I doubt if many - or indeed if any - members of the audience would have noticed anything untoward. He remarked that something always went wrong for him at the RAH.

 

I always remember GTB telling me that if you made a mistake with the registration, you should continue with it until there was a suitable opportunity to change - people might think the choice of stops unusual but not be certain you hadn't planned it!

 

When playing arrangements, GTB had no hesitation in changing or augmenting the written copy if he thought it would improve the result for the audience. He virtually stopped playing Bach because of the change in fashion but his way of registering would today be once again appreciated. He had a dislike of organ recitals then in vogue, featuring early music played throughout on the same stop and was of course renown for his colourful accompaniements. GTB would not improvise in public and his interludes and fill-in moments at the Temple were always written out including the minute or so at the end of the Broadcast Daily Service - these were later published and are useful minatures for every church organist.

 

I agree with MStanley that GTB was always great company and full of anecdotes. He looked slightly austere and unapproachable but nothing could have bee further from the truth. He was a charming and delightful gentleman who always had time for you and was very encouraging to anyone who showed interest in the organ. I count it a privelege to have known him, initially through his playing for the BBC Daily Services then broadcast live from my church.

 

CRG

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Guest Barry Williams

There is no doubt that Dr Thalben Ball's superb piano technique stood him in good technical stead for organ playing, as it always will.

 

Michael Fleming told me that he watched and listenened to GTB practise for a recital. All the notes were already thorougly learned. He spent the whole of the time during rehearsal listening to the effect of the organ in the building, in particular taking great care over the phrasing.

 

Irrespective of his romantic registration, GTB's playing was always musical. He put the music before so-called 'historical' concepts, many of which have been shown to be wrong in recent years.

 

Barry Williams

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
There is no doubt that Dr Thalben Ball's superb piano technique stood him in good technical stead for organ playing

 

Absolutely true. The piano is surely the tool of the trade for Romantic works. Let it not be forgotten that it was GTB (at 19 years) who gave the first English performance (other than that by the composer) of Rachmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto*, conducted by Stanford, and heard by Herbert Howells and Parry. (He was awarded a prize of 9 guineas for his efforts).

 

All best wishes,

Nigel

 

* Monday, December 13th 1915 at 2.30pm as College Concert No.584 at the Royal College of Music

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Guest Barry Williams

I am so pleased not to be the only person who belives that good piano technique is needed for the organ, at least for romantic music.

 

I wonder whether the incident at the Royal College of Music was reported accurately at the time, for Rachmaninov gave a performance of the Third Piano Concerto in London in 1911. It was conducted by Mengelberg and the composer played the solo part. There was an interesting review in The Times with the comment that "The climaxes are built with wonderful power, but the musical ideas from which they spring are also distinctive." I quote this because it sounds just like a description of the way GTB played the organ (and, no doubt, the piano.) Everything seemed to grow from the music itself. His playing seemed to be the music itself; one was unaware of any technique, formidable though his was.

 

Although the difficulties of the D minor Concerto are not insurmountable, the last movement is certainly tricky in places. Was this the reason no-one tackled it after the composer's performance until this brilliant nineteen year old student took it in his stride? Somewhere there is a quote that after the performance Parry said: "'Strewth, I didn't know we had anyone in the college who could play like that". This rather suggests that GTB's prize was very well earned.

 

I heard, whilst GTB was still alive, that he had recorded much organ music for Philips, but they were storing it until his demise. How true this is I do not know, but it would be wonderful if further recordings were found.

 

Barry Williams

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I am not sure if this is true, although I have no reason to doubt the teacher who told me, but I understand that Richard Popplewell also had the Rachmaninoff Third concerto in his repertoire from a young age.

 

However, the point of the story that was told to me was that Popplewell once observed how it was hard to understand how anyone could find transposition difficult.

 

He was thereupon challenged to transpose the cadenza of the first movement of the concerto (and, at least in the story, he was asked to transpose it an augmented fourth) and, of course, promptly did so.

 

M

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Guest Barry Williams
I am not sure if this is true, although I have no reason to doubt the teacher who told me, but I understand that Richard Popplewell also had the Rachmaninoff Third concerto in his repertoire from a young age.

 

However, the point of the story that was told to me was that Popplewell once observed how it was hard to understand how anyone could find transposition difficult.

 

He was thereupon challenged to transpose the cadenza of the first movement of the concerto (and, at least in the story, he was asked to transpose it an augmented fourth) and, of course, promptly did so.

 

M

 

 

I wonder how much of this skill (which GTB also had) is due to the different way concert pianists practise. Charles Rosen's brilliant book 'Piano Notes' gives a fascinating insight into this. Certainly, those on the concert platform spend much more time ascertaining the final fingering before attempting to play anything at speed. A friend of mine had lessons with Richard Popplewell and was told by him that he did not care how slow he played a piece, he wanted it brought to him with the correct fingering, phrasing, etc. There is more in it than this, of course, but the pianist's technique of learning pieces is certainly valuable on the organ and seemingly rarely used. Perhaps this is because organists spend much more time learning transposition, score reading, etc for certain well known examinations that require extremely high standards of sight reading in very difficult circumstances!

 

Barry Williams

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You can also wonder if 'technique' is understood here as (only) the fingers/arms in motion, or the technique as described by Heinrich Neuhaus - as a complete mental image, a complete understanding and knowing of what is written down and hearing it inside your head, which should hardly need conventional fingerexercise (btw. this is quite similar as how Arcadi Volodos describes his own technique - saw him play rach3 last week, just couldn't believe what I saw...).

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There is no doubt that Dr Thalben Ball's superb piano technique stood him in good technical stead for organ playing, as it always will.

 

Barry Williams

 

Many years ago, my wife’s aunt was staying with us in London and on the Saturday evening before the Tuesday she was returning to her home in South Wales, calmly announced she would like to meet Doctor George Thalben-Ball, taking it for granted that I would simply wave a magic wand.

 

I managed to ascertain that he was playing at the Temple in the morning so off we went. We had just sat down when he appeared in the vestry door and came straight over to us. He told me the blower would not start and would I be kind enough to have a look at it, so off I trotted. I checked within my capabilities and reckoned that the problem was in the three phase supply (subsequently proved to be correct – one of the phases was down) and there was nothing I could do.

 

A piano was produced and I had the immense pleasure of hearing the whole service accompanied by GTB on the piano. I don’t know who many organists have heard him play the piano but that morning it was a revelation. If it could be said that a piano could be played orchestrally – he did.

 

After the service had finished he came straight over to us and thanked me for trying to assist and apologised for interrupting our worship. He then chatted to Auntie for some five minutes – my Brownie Points increasing by the second.

 

He was typically approachable and pleasant, as I always found him to be, but more importantly for me on that Sunday morning I had heard him accompany a service on a piano.

 

FF

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Many years ago, my wife’s aunt was staying with us in London and on the Saturday evening before the Tuesday she was returning to her home in South Wales, calmly announced she would like to meet Doctor George Thalben-Ball, taking it for granted that I would simply wave a magic wand.

 

I managed to ascertain that he was playing at the Temple in the morning so off we went. We had just sat down when he appeared in the vestry door and came straight over to us. He told me the blower would not start and would I be kind enough to have a look at it, so off I trotted. I checked within my capabilities and reckoned that the problem was in the three phase supply (subsequently proved to be correct – one of the phases was down) and there was nothing I could do.

 

A piano was produced and I had the immense pleasure of hearing the whole service accompanied by GTB on the piano. I don’t know who many organists have heard him play the piano but that morning it was a revelation. If it could be said that a piano could be played orchestrally – he did.

 

After the service had finished he came straight over to us and thanked me for trying to assist and apologised for interrupting our worship. He then chatted to Auntie for some five minutes – my Brownie Points increasing by the second.

 

He was typically approachable and pleasant, as I always found him to be, but more importantly for me on that Sunday morning I had heard him accompany a service on a piano.

 

FF

 

Thank you, Frank - this is a fascinating story.

 

I, too, had the privilege of meeting him once (in the Temple Church). Unfortunately, however, I did not hear him play live.

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Needless to say, I have read all about George Thalben Ball and have one or two of his recordings. He didn't make many (I wonder why). One I have readily to hand is a boot-leg copy (incidentally, I'm quite happy to purchase a legal copy if any are available) but because of the nature of this copy I'm not sure where the original was made or when. I suspect that it might be the LP he made at All Souls' Langham Place when he was already 70+. The playing is virtually clean throughout, very limber, and (especially) very polished. The programme runs:

 

Garth Edmundson - Toccata on 'Vom Himmel hoch' (extremely swift and fractionally re-written)

Thalben-Ball - Elegy (a bit fast)

Walford Davies - Interlude (quite splendid track, this one)

C.S.Lang - Tuba Tune (fair performance only)

Thalben-Ball - Paganini Variations (splendid, of course)

Thalben-Ball - Two Birmingham Pieces (very derivative, some virtually direct quotes from other composers)

Schumann - Sketch in C (very grand)

Bach - Ein' Feste Burg (Quite splendid - I would love to know where the arrangement comes from!)

Karg-Elert - Chorale Prelude [sarabande] (slick, and on the fast side!)

Guy Weitz - Toccata 'Stella Maris' (a bit laboured)

 

1. Information sought!

 

2. Those of you who had the privilege of hearing him 'live', how did his live recitals compare with today's fare? He is recounted as having 'got used' to a new organ in a matter of a few minutes and apparently sometimes he took no run-through rehearsal at all.

 

It is a shame that the recording (above) must, inevitably, show him some way past his best.

The ancient recording he made of The Ride of the Valkyries from (shh.) A.P. is, of course, just stunning.

 

I remember Howells telling me (in awe) of the evening when he (HH) took his new Sonata round to GTB (the dedicatee) for the first time. Thalben Ball had never seen it previously, but promptly sight-read the thing right through on the Temple Church organ - fully up to speed and in front of the composer!

 

 

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

 

 

I'm back!

 

I heard George Thalben-Ball live on two occasions, when I was around 15 years of age or so, which would make it around 1965.

 

I hate to tilt at hallowed windmills, but he left me strangely cold as a performer.

 

The first recital was, I think, the re-opening of the organ at Clitheroe PC, when he played the Reubke.

 

It was accurate and extremely virtuosic in places, but I found the quieter moments totally lacking in pathos and tenderness, and the faster bits distinctly uniform. I recall being very disappointed, as I was with his Bach. I'm going back a long time, but if memory serves correctly, he played the F major T & F, and I found it underwhelming.

 

Then I heard him at Huddersfield Town Hall, when he played, (among other things) his own Elegy and the Pagninni Pedal Variations. The whole recital left little impression on me, save for the fact that I just couldn't see the point of the pedal variations other than as a blatant piece of showmanship.

 

It wasn't as if I was just a spotty youth who didn't know better, because I recall being in awe of others, such as Jiri Ropek, Francis Jackson and especially Fernando Germani playing Reger. Indeed, Germani sparked a lifelong love-affair with the music of Reger, and I don't think many performers can have that sort of impact on a 15 year old.

 

I would really like to think that he was somehow "off the boil" when I heard him, but then, I listen to the old recordings and feel much the same way, save for that "Ride" of Wagner's, which as Paul suggests, really is a tour de force of virtuosic playing.

 

On the otehr hand, I can listen to old recordings of Lemare, playing Bach on all the wrong stops, and just finding it magical.

 

Sorry to be a Philistine!

 

MM

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I heard GTB once. I only have a patchy recollection of the occasion, but it must have been in August 1966 or 1967 when I attended one of Douglas Hopkins's summer courses for organists at the RAM. We all trooped over to the Temple Church to meet the great man. He struck me as a very English gentleman - very polite, proper and reserved. He was neither friendly nor unfriendly; there was an air of noblesse oblige. He invited us up into the loft and demonstrated the organ to us before playing something long and Romantic. I cannot for the life of me remember what it was, but I do remember that it was flawlessly played and that his performance left me emotionally stone cold.

 

I find it interesting that my reaction was so similar to MM's, but in my case I think it was largely due to youth's inevitable lack of experience of life and maybe even narrow-mindedness. As a teenager I had become acutely aware of the tastelessness of sentimental Victoriana and, unfortunately, this had extended into a mistrust of any Romantic music. You know those car stickers: "Quick! Ask a teenager while they still know it all!"? That was me.

 

And, no, he didn't offer us the opportunity to play the organ. :D

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Guest Barry Williams
Needless to say, I have read all about George Thalben Ball and have one or two of his recordings. He didn't make many (I wonder why). One I have readily to hand is a boot-leg copy (incidentally, I'm quite happy to purchase a legal copy if any are available) but because of the nature of this copy I'm not sure where the original was made or when. I suspect that it might be the LP he made at All Souls' Langham Place when he was already 70+. The playing is virtually clean throughout, very limber, and (especially) very polished. The programme runs:

 

Garth Edmundson - Toccata on 'Vom Himmel hoch' (extremely swift and fractionally re-written)

Thalben-Ball - Elegy (a bit fast)

Walford Davies - Interlude (quite splendid track, this one)

C.S.Lang - Tuba Tune (fair performance only)

Thalben-Ball - Paganini Variations (splendid, of course)

Thalben-Ball - Two Birmingham Pieces (very derivative, some virtually direct quotes from other composers)

Schumann - Sketch in C (very grand)

Bach - Ein' Feste Burg (Quite splendid - I would love to know where the arrangement comes from!)

Karg-Elert - Chorale Prelude [sarabande] (slick, and on the fast side!)

Guy Weitz - Toccata 'Stella Maris' (a bit laboured)

 

1. Information sought!

 

2. Those of you who had the privilege of hearing him 'live', how did his live recitals compare with today's fare? He is recounted as having 'got used' to a new organ in a matter of a few minutes and apparently sometimes he took no run-through rehearsal at all.

 

It is a shame that the recording (above) must, inevitably, show him some way past his best.

The ancient recording he made of The Ride of the Valkyries from (shh.) A.P. is, of course, just stunning.

 

I remember Howells telling me (in awe) of the evening when he (HH) took his new Sonata round to GTB (the dedicatee) for the first time. Thalben Ball had never seen it previously, but promptly sight-read the thing right through on the Temple Church organ - fully up to speed and in front of the composer!

 

 

The arrangement of 'A Stronghold Sure' is by Harvey Grace and comes from a volume entitled 'J S Bach: Twelve Transcriptions from the Vocal Works'. It is on page 42. It is great fun and not too difficult.

 

Barry Williams

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Thanks James

I had forgotten that I used to sell the cd's for Ally Pally, but unfortunately I did not retain a copy for myself, or I may have done, and left it in one of my stolen cars.

I am advised that the source you mention, do not have stocks, so I will have to try elsewhere.

Colin Richell.

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Guest Psalm 78 v.67

I heard GTB "live" just twice; at Rochester Cathedral, and at Holy Trinity, Folkestone - after which occasion he kindly signed my copy of his Elegy, which to my great chagrin subsequently disappeared from the console of a certain organ in Bristol. (It's ok, VH - I know it wasn't you!! It wasn't St T's, which had closed by that time!)

 

A particular memory is that he was always at the console well in advance, and did not "make an entrance"

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he kindly signed my copy of his Elegy, which to my great chagrin subsequently disappeared from the console of a certain organ in Bristol. (It's ok, VH - I know it wasn't you!! It wasn't St T's, which had closed by that time!)

I bet it was the same person who stole my copy of Peeters Aria!

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I wonder how much of this skill (which GTB also had) is due to the different way concert pianists practise. Charles Rosen's brilliant book 'Piano Notes' gives a fascinating insight into this. Certainly, those on the concert platform spend much more time ascertaining the final fingering before attempting to play anything at speed. A friend of mine had lessons with Richard Popplewell and was told by him that he did not care how slow he played a piece, he wanted it brought to him with the correct fingering, phrasing, etc. There is more in it than this, of course, but the pianist's technique of learning pieces is certainly valuable on the organ and seemingly rarely used. Perhaps this is because organists spend much more time learning transposition, score reading, etc for certain well known examinations that require extremely high standards of sight reading in very difficult circumstances!

 

Barry Williams

 

 

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

 

 

I currently find this very interesting, as I am doing battle with the Reubke.

 

Much of the writing is quite alien to the majority of music I play, which tends to be realtively early music, due to the organ on which I play.

 

Getting right down the the nitty-gritty of exact fingering and even hand posture is so vital in this sort of pianistic writing, and I have found myself practising at 1/8th speed in some of the more awkward moments.

Also, in getting things up to speed, I have also found my hands really HURTING afterwards, as I use muscles I didn't know existed.

 

The fascinating thing about this, is the fact this sort of practise also delivers something else, because I am probably 75% of the way to being able to play the entire Sonata from memory, simply because I have worked things out carefully and slowly, and kept true to them.

 

I really do think that this is the key to absolute musicianship, because it is only when the notes are more or less committed to memory, that one is released from bar-to-bar musical-survival, and expression is then possible. That is, of course, the way concert-pianists do it, and I cannot help but be reminded by the musical fluidity of an organist like Dr Francis Jackson, who seemed to make light of very difficult works, to the extent that he was supremely music when he was on top form. It came as no suprise to learn that Dr Jackson had performed, on the piano, the Ravel "one hand" Concerto.

 

Of course, there is something other to consider, and that is the fact that organists are expected to be many things, and not just concert virtuosi. Concert pianists, rather like concert organists, can afford to learn a limited repertoire and play it to perfection; practise being restricted to new repertoire or simply keeping up an athletic degree of dexterity.

 

Of course, it's another very good reason for having tracker-action!

 

MM

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Guest Barry Williams

I agree that only when the fingering and footing is totally secure can one begin to consider interpretation. A thorough knowledge of orthodox technique is the only way to real mastery of the organ. It has always been my practice to memorise the most difficult passsages and only to attempt memorisation after the fingering and footing has been properly established. Whilst some encourage people to commence the organ at an early stage, I cannot see how real progress can be made unless one has something approaching grade eight keyboard technique before starting. There are a very few exceptions, (one is a contributor to this Board,) the acquisition of secure keyboard skills must be the foundation of all good organ playing.

 

Most professional pianists keep two piano concerti memorised at any one time. Few organists could match this.

 

Barry Williams

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Whilst some encourage people to commence the organ at an early stage, I cannot see how real progress can be made unless one has something approaching grade eight keyboard technique before starting. There are a very few exceptions, (one is a contributor to this Board,) the acquisition of secure keyboard skills must be the foundation of all good organ playing.

 

Most professional pianists keep two piano concerti memorised at any one time. Few organists could match this.

 

Barry Williams

 

 

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

 

 

I think that there must be two exceptions..........

 

I started almost entirely on the organ, and I do not see a problem with that.

 

Within the highly specialised world of keyboard-playing, there has been a quite defined division of techniques in recent years. I say this, because I have watched a Dutch organist use early keyboard technique, which just looked like nonsense to me, but sounded wonderful in the context of what he was playing. There are those who practise toe-only baroque pedal-technique, and of course, much of the organ-repertoire calls for a very advanced finger-substitution technique: often catching out even the best concert pianists when they are asked to play Bach without the sustain pedal.

 

Go back a couple or more generations, and you will find evidence of extremely pianistic organ-style: one of the fundamental barriers to those who cannot comprehend how a man such as Virgil Fox could play the way he did. He was essentially using a pianistic mentality and keyboard technique, and bringing it to the organ; so of course, you would hear a left hand lifted before a right-hand, or expression given to inner voices in Bach Fugues. Thus, accuracy was sacrificed to effect, and even perhaps bordered on allusion (if not illusion).

 

It is, of course, expressionistic playing, in which interpretation becomes as important, if not more important, than the written score.

 

I might be bold enough to suggest that an organist would be better to start on the harpsichord, because if it's scales and arpeggios you want, it doesn't come much more difficult then Scarlatti or Soler, but with the added advantage that you can't blur the edges with the sustain-pedal.

 

In my book, there are two supreme hurdles on the way to great organ-playing; neither of which were written for the instrument.

 

The first is the problematic Mozart K608, which really does force one to work around the normal conventions of technique, simply because it was never written for fingers and feet. The other is the 2nd BACH Fugue by Schumann, written for the pedal pianoforte. It LOOKS easy enough, and if played slowly, it works well enough. However, play it with fury and detachment, in the spirit of "Lebhaft," and you have a problem or two to face! (Still, it's fun to see the reaction on the face of an audience after playing the Schumann in this way. They wear that startled look, like rabbits caught in headlights!)

 

It brings me full circle to 'GTB' (the person, not the Ferrari), for whilst I don't wish to "diss" the poor man, my impression was one of prodigious technique certainly, but the feeling that he might have been more at home playing a piano. To be a little ruthless in my judgement, I would suggest that "GTB" has to be one of the worst Bach perfomers I ever heard, and possibly the least musical. (That said, I've only heard a few recordings, and went to only two of his recitals).

 

So is piano technique so absolutely essential, I wonder?

 

 

 

MM

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