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One good way to understand more about your organ technique and the way it effects the sound of an organ with a first rate action is to study clavichord for the while, and, if you can, get access to a pedal clavichord. I can recommend some clavichord-playing-for-organists courses if you're interested. It gives you a frankly terrifying (aural) glimpse into the shortcomings of your organ technique.

 

Bazuin

This may well be helpful - had I the time to spare.

 

 

"To pick up on but one point (since I am tired and have only just finished work for today) actually I have - in several other countries and quite a number of instruments. I have written this in reply to one of your posts already."

 

Then please relate to these experiences in your postings rather than referring exclusively to modern mechanical organs in the UK.

 

What would also help is a clear explanation from you of exactly what makes an action good. You have hinted at heaviness (in some circumstances), but I would find a fuller description useful.

 

My experiences have often been as accompanist to a touring choir. This usually means that I have had to come to terms with an unfamiliar instrument (without any assistance from either page-turners or registrants) at extremely short notice, whilst my colleague rehearses the choir in music from the English cathedral repertoire - by way of a simple description. Clearly under these circumstances, I do not have the luxury of spending time playing around with keys and testing the action or experimenting with different types of articulation. I have to try to produce the sort of sounds which my colleague desires (or as near as I can), play accurately and support the choir effectively. Whilst I also had to produce several organ solos, I often improvised - due entirely to totally inadequate rehearsal time.

 

For example, on one occasion, we were making a reconnaissance trip to Antwerp and attending Mass in the cathedral. We had barely done more than introduce ourselves to the organist (at the time this was Stanislas Deriemaeker) when he invited me to play for the Mass - which was about to begin. I had little choice but to sit down, quickly decide on a style and registration for the Entrée - and commence playing. To be honest, messing around with an assessment of the action was low on the list of priorities.

 

There have been a few times when I was able to spend a few minutes practising - but these were spent in assessing tonal balance and such related matters. For the record, I found the action of the Pierre Schyven instrument at Antwerp to be quite agreeable and certainly not too heavy - although, in fairness there is, of course, Barker-lever (or similar) assistance to the G.O. and couplers.

 

I would be interested to hear some of the recordings you cite - do you know whether they are still available, please?

 

I am also interested to hear that you seem to view many modern mechanical actions as less effective than certain older actions. I would like to know why you think that this is the case. is it not, for example, a fair assumption that we understand the engineering and design of such actions more clearly today than our predecessors? If you view this as not being the case, I would be interested to know why - and what you feel present-day organ builders could learn (or re-learn) from craftsmen of two to three hundred years ago.

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With my poor english, I understand this:

 

"It gives you a frankly terrifying (aural) glimpse into the shortcomings of your organ technique."

(Qote)

 

As:

 

It gives (one) a frankly terrifying (aural) glimpse into the shortcomings of (one's) organ technique.

 

Also a general statment, and not any critic of a dedicate player.

 

We have the same debate about action, action weight and key travel, on the french forum.

And it is exactly as controversial.

We, historians, are conscious of a certain number of facts, and understand the matter from

another viewpoint; but it seems we need still some time before the idea will be accepted,

that a dedicate "repertoire" needs a dedicate kind of action/ action weight/ key travel if

anything like a reference interpretation is aimed at.

Be the action tracker, Barker and trackers, pneumatic or electro-pneumatic, they all

have their raison d'être.

And then, if one can devellop a full comprehension of Messiaen, Dupré, Duruflé with

an electro-pneumatic organ, this cannot be the case with ancient music.

 

The case of bushing everywhere Mr Harvey pointed out is extremely interesting.

I pretend since decades the modern tracker action tends to imitate the electric ones,

because this was -is?- what the players want, to the point some prefer neo-baroque

organs for reference recordings instead of the real thing, that is, those awkward

baroque organs.

Here too a parralel can be made with modern cars versus a 1950 roadster.

Modern cars ale like 1950 Buicks and Cadillacs: monstruously marshmallowed

things, with bushes everywhere (silentblocks, four times ticker than formerly),

dead steering and no handling, but easy to park, comfortable, in a word: sanitized

to the point of reaching an aseptic perfection.

And exactly like you won't win any race with that, you won't extract the gems hidden

in the ancient music with the instrumental equivalent.

 

Pierre

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With my poor english, I understand this:

 

"It gives you a frankly terrifying (aural) glimpse into the shortcomings of your organ technique."

(Qote)

 

As:

 

It gives (one) a frankly terrifying (aural) glimpse into the shortcomings of (one's) organ technique.

 

Also a general statment, and not any critic of a dedicate player.

 

We have the same debate about action, action weight and key travel, on the french forum.

And it is exactly as controversial.

We, historians, are conscious of a certain number of facts, and understand the matter from

another viewpoint; but it seems we need still some time before the idea will be accepted,

that a dedicate "repertoire" needs a dedicate kind of action/ action weight/ key travel if

anything like a reference interpretation is aimed at.

Be the action tracker, Barker and trackers, pneumatic or electro-pneumatic, they all

have their raison d'être.

And then, if one can devellop a full comprehension of Messiaen, Dupré, Duruflé with

an electro-pneumatic organ, this cannot be the case with ancient music.

 

The case of bushing everywhere Mr Harvey pointed out is extremely interesting.

I pretend since decades the modern tracker action tends to imitate the electric ones,

because this was -is?- what the players want, to the point some prefer neo-baroque

organs for reference recordings instead of the real thing, that is, those awkward

baroque organs.

Here too a parralel can be made with modern cars versus a 1950 roadster.

Modern cars ale like 1950 Buicks and Cadillacs: monstruously marshmallowed

things, with bushes everywhere (silentblocks, four times ticker than formerly),

dead steering and no handling, but easy to park, comfortable, in a word: sanitized

to the point of reaching an aseptic perfection.

And exactly like you won't win any race with that, you won't extract the gems hidden

in the ancient music with the instrumental equivalent.

 

Pierre

 

Pierre - this makes a great deal of sense. I agree with you regarding the type of action. Vierne at S. Etienne, Caen (for example), makes much sense. There is certainly a marriage of music and action. In fact, the same is true at Romsey Abbey (surely a bright star amongst English organs) - the Barker-assisted action here is utterly comfortable (as is the mechanical action to the Swell Organ). What is totally at odds, is the stop and combination action, which I would restore to its previous design - even if this meant compromises in registration or the need for registrants at times. The present short draw on the stops and the electric combination system feels at odds with the integrity if the rest of the instrument - with the exception of the Tuba, which seems to me to stand apart from the rest of the organ.

 

I am also interested to note your suggested explanation of Bazuin's unfortunately-worded phrase; I hope that you are correct, since it is also possible to read it as a personal comment....

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Whilst I would not pretend to be a virtuoso organist, I am intrigued to read of 'the shortcomings of [my] organ technique'. I was not aware that you have ever heard me play any instrument, Bazuin - unless, of course, you intended a general reference; in this case, your wording was somewhat unclear.

 

I really don't think Bazuin has ever heard you play the organ. As you probably know, playing a Clavichord is a very revealing experience for anyone, however proficient they may be as an organist - I know, I've tried playing a clavichord and I found it very hard to cultivate a proficient touch. His point is clearly meant in the context of understanding key touch and old organs' actions than casting aspersions on your (undoubtedly very fine) organ abilities.

 

It's clear from his postings that Bazuin is very focused on discussing the points under consideration and refrains from ad hominem attacks. I find his writings some of the best researched and incisive on this forum - indeed, I think he brings a breadth of outlook and experience to this forum that saves this discussion board from looking rather insular sometimes. It's clear from his recent messages he feels the points you've made are based on a number of fallacies so is testing them out - it's not personal. I wouldn't bother getting too sensitive about it.

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"I am also interested to note your suggested explanation of Bazuin's unfortunately-worded phrase; I hope that you are correct, since it is also possible to read it as a personal comment...."

 

It was personal in that I was referring to my own experiences and, therefore, shortcomings. :blink: It was certainly not a personal comment about you as I have never heard you play a note.

 

I understand your experience with organs as a travelling accompanist - I have had the same experiences and have come across plenty of organists from the UK and elsewhere in the Netherlands doing the same. Maybe you realise, therefore, that even the organs you have played you haven't 'learned' because, in most cases, you were asking them to do things which they weren't designed to do on overly-limited practise-time. My invitation to travel was as a service to your own musical and organistic curiosity. Go once to Saxony (or even to Amsterdam) without the choir and pressures. Book some lessons with people, throw your instincts out of the window. It might be difficult but the world you will open up will make it worthwhile. And you will learn the relationship between touch and action.

 

I agree with your comments about Romsey.

 

Pierre sums up my position about what makes an action good perfectly. As usual, its all about context. The Barker machine in Antwerp makes you, sorry ONE, play that organ in a certain way. It goes at its own speed and imposes its own discipline. If that organ had been rebuilt with an EP console from Durham (perfect in Bristol!) that aesthetic link would be lost. There is no one right way to make an action (though there are plently of wrong ones I think!).

 

Colin's description of the prejudices which detemine modern mechanical actions reflect my experiences entirely. On a French Classical instrument the action is light, but will punish a sloppy release on the Cromorne. See how complicated this issue is? As late as the 1990s there were ('enlightened') commentators telling us that arm-weight has nothing to do with organ technique - this belongs the piano world. Trying playing in Alkmaar or even in Merseburg without significant arm weight. You will DIE and get tendonitis. Not necessarily in that order. Oh, and the organs will sound hopeless, (I remember a famous Japanese organist coming a cropper in Alkmaar because she tried to play it like a harpsichord, the organ sounded horrible).

 

Recordings: Ton Koopman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dpwyGzGSGg (BWV 547)

vs

van Oortmerssen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jnv8gjbx-0Q (BWV 530)

 

The context is different, and try to to think outside whether or not you like the interpretation (I actually also admire Koopman for playing the way he does). Listen how much better the organ sounds when JvO plays it! No wind fluctuations for a start. And neither is 'molto grave'.

 

I just noticed one of JvO's famous lectures on tempi has been added to Youtube. Unmissable stuff!

 

Now I am going to sleep. I just found a paragraph from JvO's book on organ technique which describes the modern action problem perfectly. Will copy it out tomorrow.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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Jacques van Oortmerssen:

 

"Early mechanisms are, technically speaking, quite simple and give the best opportunities for good sound production. During the 19th century, new systems were developed as solutions for the organ's increasingly unmanageable touch. The size of the instruments, higher wind pressures, and especially the increased complexity of the music (think of the influence of the piano) encouraged these developments. Cone chests, Barker levers, and pneumatic actions were all solutions to the problems, but such answers came at the cost of sound production and the player's influence on it. The priority, stylistically speaking, was no longer the speech of the note, but the quality of the legato. With our new instruments, this tradition still has a negative effect. On the one hand, these new mechanical instruments are expected to have the same light touch as the pneumatic and electric actions of the pre-neo-baroque instruments, while, on the other hand having the same technical and timbral features as one finds on an historical [sic] instrument.

These two elements are, however incompatible; a light touch has negative consequences for the sound's profile. Too many technical compromises have to be made in order to realize a more comfortable touch; wind pressures, pallet forms, groove openings, etc., all have to be radically changed. A good touch must have one point of resistance (a pluck or pressure point) which, with the correct technique and use of natural weight, can be overcome. The pluck must be in the right relationship to the depth of the key, Period-specific Applikaturen [playing techniques], based on the individual qualities of the fingers and feet, are indispensible. Modern Applikaturen on the other hand, can, in many cases, be held indirectly responsible for the mediocre quality of many new organs and restorations."

 

'Organ Technique', Gothenburg, 2002

 

Bazuin

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Recordings: Ton Koopman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dpwyGzGSGg (BWV 547)

vs

van Oortmerssen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jnv8gjbx-0Q (BWV 530)

 

The context is different, and try to to think outside whether or not you like the interpretation (I actually also admire Koopman for playing the way he does). Listen how much better the organ sounds when JvO plays it! No wind fluctuations for a start. And neither is 'molto grave'.

 

Just as I agree with you it is unfair to compare the action of a modern cathedral organ with historic instruments such as these, I hope you agree it may be similarly unfair to compare these two performances (in particular when it comes to wind fluctuations) when they are totally different styles of piece on totally different registrations making totally different demands on the instrument and player.

 

You urge me to divorce my feelings about interpretation from those of organ control. I can't. Whoever may make the organ sound better may not necessarily be the person to make the music sound better. Whilst one should never criticise a great master in public, and I am willing to be shot down in flames for doing so, I found the constant disruptions in the trio sonata phrasing destroyed any sense of line and without any obvious musical reason. I couldn't connect with this at all, and see no point in being able to finely control the pipe speech if... how can I put this?

 

Speaking generally, and not merely about this example, an organ is a compact way of making precise and varied sounds; often in imitation of groups of not-quite-unanimous individuals, some of whose instruments are slow to speak. In a bid to achieve expression, we unlearn rattling pianistic precision and adopt rhetorical devices, informed ways of playing out of time, to make the music speak as if we were able to vary the timbre and dynamic of a single note like the instrumentalists we seek to imitate. Bach taught the violin for the last 17 years of his life and frequently led services from the harpsichord - is there any doubt that Trio 6 is two violins and a cello?

 

Adopting rhetorical devices which disrupt the flow and disguise the character of the music, just to say 'look - I can control the pipes to such a fine extent', seems to me to waste a great opportunity to present matters with the greatest possible musical clarity, just as we might approach orchestral transcriptions - playing upon the ribs and backbone of the music with the minimum of compromise to flow and without the orchestral clothing. The expression and articulation should come from within the flow or rhetorical treatment of it (in imitation of an in-breath, or perhaps changing string and hand position), and not merely .... ........ by inserting silence where ............................. it would appear not to..... belong.

 

Please shoot me down in flames because I am attempting to come to a conclusion as to why I would prefer to listen to Peter Hurford or even Virgil Fox than someone who makes me

 

look up in astonishment every few bars.

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Just as I agree with you it is unfair to compare the action of a modern cathedral organ with historic instruments such as these, I hope you agree it may be similarly unfair to compare these two performances (in particular when it comes to wind fluctuations) when they are totally different styles of piece on totally different registrations making totally different demands on the instrument and player.

 

You urge me to divorce my feelings about interpretation from those of organ control. I can't. Whoever may make the organ sound better may not necessarily be the person to make the music sound better. Whilst one should never criticise a great master in public, and I am willing to be shot down in flames for doing so, I found the constant disruptions in the trio sonata phrasing destroyed any sense of line and without any obvious musical reason. I couldn't connect with this at all, and see no point in being able to finely control the pipe speech if... how can I put this?

 

Speaking generally, and not merely about this example, an organ is a compact way of making precise and varied sounds; often in imitation of groups of not-quite-unanimous individuals, some of whose instruments are slow to speak. In a bid to achieve expression, we unlearn rattling pianistic precision and adopt rhetorical devices, informed ways of playing out of time, to make the music speak as if we were able to vary the timbre and dynamic of a single note like the instrumentalists we seek to imitate. Bach taught the violin for the last 17 years of his life and frequently led services from the harpsichord - is there any doubt that Trio 6 is two violins and a cello?

 

Adopting rhetorical devices which disrupt the flow and disguise the character of the music, just to say 'look - I can control the pipes to such a fine extent', seems to me to waste a great opportunity to present matters with the greatest possible musical clarity, just as we might approach orchestral transcriptions - playing upon the ribs and backbone of the music with the minimum of compromise to flow and without the orchestral clothing. The expression and articulation should come from within the flow or rhetorical treatment of it (in imitation of an in-breath, or perhaps changing string and hand position), and not merely .... ........ by inserting silence where ............................. it would appear not to..... belong.

 

Please shoot me down in flames because I am attempting to come to a conclusion as to why I would prefer to listen to Peter Hurford or even Virgil Fox than someone who makes me

 

look up in astonishment every few bars.

No David, I quite agree. As much as I admire van Oortmerssen (despite sweating blood over his studies as a postgrad student), I find this example rather mannered and, well simply too slow, and I've I tried really hard to find subtle life and energy within. And, yes, I have heard his lecture about tempo - nothing new there my old choirmaster didn't tell me about relating Palestrina to one's heartbeat, or reading Chopin or Brahms on rubato, but then his lecture it is aimed at young students. The many performances out there of the sixth trio using 2 violins (or vln and flute) and continuo provide perhaps more valuable lessons, whatever your action. Mind you, JvO's Brahms disc is among my desert island collection. Fabulous.

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Personally I find JvO's speed perfectly acceptable, even though I wouldn't play it quite that slowly myself. I would much rather listen to a lyrical interpretation like this than to the type of helter-skelter performance we so often have to endure these days. But, yes, the extra beats he keeps slipping in just don't work for me.

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Personally I find JvO's speed perfectly acceptable, even though I wouldn't play it quite that slowly myself. I would much rather listen to a lyrical interpretation like this than to the type of helter-skelter performance we so often have to endure these days. But, yes, the extra beats he keeps slipping in just don't work for me.

 

 

He's not the only world-famous player who currently does this sort of thing. I'm sure we will be told that this is highly (historically) accurate, I would just throw out one passing thought: where would one get as a chamber music performer if one took such liberties with pulse?

 

Would any other instrumentalists have much patience with someone in an ensemble who couldn't set/keep a basic firm rhythm? Are our standards to be suspended merely because we are organists? If so, maybe the BBC's judgement on the lot of us is correct, we are a sub-species.

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I'm sure we will be told that this is highly (historically) accurate,

 

It seems to me that what is "historically accurate" changes in each generation (which I guess is why people hedge their bets these days by saying "historically informed"). I found the example just lumpen.

 

Paul

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I agree the pieces are like chalk and cheese, sorry I couldn't find any better examples.

 

The way Jacques plays is to do with his rhetorical analysis of the music. I find the insertion of time to point up the figure in the way he does, frankly, maddening - although I understand why he does it. I prefer a more supple rhythmic 'bending'. Still, I can't deny the beauty of the playing. When every note gets as much love as this, it's hard not to admire. The tempo question is difficult - the piece is marked 'Vivace' which on the scale of Bach tempi is slower than Allegro. On the other hand, vivace implies liveliness which, even with the best will in the world, this doesn't have.

 

"He's not the only world-famous player who currently does this sort of thing. I'm sure we will be told that this is highly (historically) accurate, I would just throw out one passing thought: where would one get as a chamber music performer if one took such liberties with pulse"

 

I take the point, though I think even Jacques would acknowledge the personal aspect of his playing rather than it being 'historically accurate' (today such language is rare, most scholars speak only of playing in an 'historically informed' way). I think its important to consider that the organ(ist) has to use expressive devices unique to the instrument to overcome the lack of the expressive means available to the chamber musician. I find some pulse bending (for beat-hierarchical, harmonic, or rhetorical reasons) a valuable tool. It also introduces an element of personal individuality in a standardised world! For me, sewing-machine playing (the 'Stylus Locomotivicus' as Ewald Kooiman used to call it) is still too prevalent too often.

 

Nice that Ian Ball worked on the Jacques studies, I use them with all my pupils - it is fantastic material - even with amateurs I've had remarkable results. In the Conservatory in Amsterdam, its a rite of passage.

 

Nice also when we all listen to a recording and share our, inevitably diverse, impressions.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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I would much rather listen to a lyrical interpretation like this than to the type of helter-skelter performance we so often have to endure these days.

 

I shall attempt to rid myself of the notion that you mean mine, which is a trifle quick I'll admit :rolleyes:

 

In Youtubing for alternatives, I came across Hans Fagius's version which I immediately decided was my favourite, particularly because of his cello playing.

 

For a combination of pipe speech control, exciting rubato and a fantastic musical interpretation, not to mention a fabulously exciting organ and hair-raising tuning, the St Anne prelude of Ulrik Spang Hanssen on an Aubertin organ (see here) is absolutely unbeatable. It's so good I'm tempted to rip a snippet and put it online.

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At least two times too fast.

All the solemnity and gravity of the piece dissepears.

At places when the music is very dense, you need to concentrate

not to lose the half of the notes.

Bach's music is no clavier challenge -not only-, but above all depth,

dignity and grandeur.

 

Pierre

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At least two times too fast. All the solemnity and gravity of the piece dissepears.

At places when the music is very dense, you need to concentrate not to lose the half of the notes.

Bach's music is no clavier challenge -not only-, but above all depth, dignity and grandeur.

 

I like the playing, and the tempo is not so very much off the usual (which of course doesn't say much about the quality of the interpretation). (Yes, there are one or two notes in the pedal during the ritornello that could have lasted longer, but it doesn't disturb the overall momentum.)

 

When players go for a really heavy "French" beginning, the staccato echoes get quite stiff, even comically so, and the fugue sections loose all sense of virtuosity. Played at this pace, the music actually tells that it was created by the same mind as the fugues in G Minor (542/2) or C Minor (582/2). First-hand witnesses report that Bach tended to play at a vivid pace, comparatively.

 

I think Peter Williams is right in writing that there is more to this piece than the much-quoted French overture style, and Spang-Hansen apparently is aware of that.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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At least two times too fast.

All the solemnity and gravity of the piece dissepears.

At places when the music is very dense, you need to concentrate

not to lose the half of the notes.

Bach's music is no clavier challenge -not only-, but above all depth,

dignity and grandeur.

 

Pierre

 

I love the weighty two-in-a-bar feel that provides each section with a different character. There is grandeur here in spades for me.

 

Are we really supposed to listen to every single last little semiquaver? I suppose the answer to that is what you feel is the function of this music. If it's trumpets heralding a state banquet, then yes it's much too fast. If it's an ensemble of strings and woodwind providing the overture to a long and important cycle of works, which concludes with the accompanying fugue, then it seems to me to set the right scene for the journey ahead.

 

Pomp, circumstance, gravitas and dignity needn't be slow or lacking in playfulness. Just ask Elgar.

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Some of those pedal notes are played too fast to speak. I am sure Bach did not intend that. In fact at every point the pedal reed seems to be demanding the player to slow down - it just doesn't sound right to me. I can, however, imagine this speed working a treat on, say, a modern Klais.

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"Are we really supposed to listen to every single last little semiquaver?"

(Quote)

 

Interesting point !

For me, every note in Bach must be heard.

This is not true with Liszt.....And others romantic music

(But not all of them. With Reger, all notes must be heard as well.)

 

At such speeds, the music does not "sing". Mr Van Oortmessen's interpretation

demonstrates it: beautiful, singing stops, appropriate tempo. "Let the pipes

the time to speak". Or you get condemned to play Waltershausen every day

for six months. (For tendinits I know some good drugs).

 

I just found an interesting video which illustrates my point.

If good interpretations of Bach are rare, Buxtehude's are rarer still !

 

http://pop.youtube.com/watch?v=__lsv24FbOI...feature=related

 

The organ is the Schnitger reconstitution in Göteborg. And while I disagree

with them for not communicating about their work, this organ is obviously

a success!

Here too all the notes have their place -their room!-. The sound is rather mellow,

nearly süss compared with neo-baroque organs.

The player don't rely on the loudest stops all the time; mixtures and reeds are there

for climaxes, or for accompaniment of massed voices. Not to be used for absolutely

everything...

The mean-tone temperament suits perfectly this music.

 

Pierre

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Personally I find JvO's speed perfectly acceptable, even though I wouldn't play it quite that slowly myself. I would much rather listen to a lyrical interpretation like this than to the type of helter-skelter performance we so often have to endure these days. But, yes, the extra beats he keeps slipping in just don't work for me.

 

I would agree with this. The speed is not particularly troublesome and, whilst I firmly believe that music should be allowed to breathe, the extra beats are a little irritating and seem to disrupt the natural flow of the music, rather than enhance it. At times it almost sounded as if his playing had become unco-ordinated. I am sure that this was not the case, but I could see little musical point in the very mannered style.

From the recording quality it was difficult to pick up on any facets of his technique - save that his hands were reasonably relaxed.

 

The Koopman clip was even more strange. I did not care for the sharp staccato of the opening, neither did I find the playing particularly clear. The ornaments seemed to be rather rushed and inconsequential. The organ did appear to be gasping a little at times.

 

Personally, I would rather hear Cochereau playing this at Nôtre-Dame - with chamades.

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At least two times too fast.

All the solemnity and gravity of the piece dissepears.

At places when the music is very dense, you need to concentrate

not to lose the half of the notes.

Bach's music is no clavier challenge -not only-, but above all depth,

dignity and grandeur.

 

Pierre

 

Well, perhaps not twice as fast - but I think that it is a little too fast and does lack some of the grandeur Bach may have intended. I also object to the 'abrupt' chords in the contrasting episodes.

 

It is perhaps unfair to judge the sound of an instrument from a clip on YouTube played through a computer sound system - but I shall anyway: I must confess that I did not particularly like it, and would far rather hear it played on my own church instrument - or even that at Romsey Abbey. I disliked the Pedal reed. As Vox has pointed-out, the playing often left little time for the pipes to speak properly. I also wished for greater brightness in the timbre. And, no - I do not think that there is anything wrong with my hearing - I just found it (on the recording, admittedly) somewhat dull.

 

For my own choice, no one comes close to Helmut Walcha at Saint Laurence, Alkmaar. Having said this, I seem to recall that his speed was not that much slower than this - but it was so musical - and the organ sounded infinitely better than the instrument in this clip.

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... I just found an interesting video which illustrates my point.

If good interpretations of Bach are rare, Buxtehude's are rarer still !

 

http://pop.youtube.com/watch?v=__lsv24FbOI...feature=related

 

The organ is the Schnitger reconstitution in Göteborg. And while I disagree

with them for not communicating about their work, this organ is obviously

a success!

Here too all the notes have their place -their room!-. The sound is rather mellow,

nearly süss compared with neo-baroque organs.

The player don't rely on the loudest stops all the time; mixtures and reeds are there

for climaxes, or for accompaniment of massed voices. Not to be used for absolutely

everything...

The mean-tone temperament suits perfectly this music.

 

Pierre

I really like this; For my choice it is a perfect match of music, instrument and player. And, yes - it does sing beautifully. I even like the tuning, which is not nearly so 'violent' as some forms of mean-tone temperament.

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Just because it's so damn good -

I find this suffers from exactly the same problem you criticised the Jacques van Oortmerrson performance for. In the dotted quaver passages, the (normal) quavers before the downbeat of the next bar are sometimes late and the downbeats that follow them are late too. I find the slurring from the quaver onto the following downbeat chord unmusical – it robs the music of its rhythmic impetus and the downbeats just aren’t placed. The first time I listened to it I really couldn’t work out where the pulse was at all in the opening…

 

When I finally discovered the pulse (I'll admit it was somewhere around bar 8 to 12 that I finally cottoned on), the performance came across as rather hurried and gasping, with snatched notes – as if the music has an attack of the hiccups. This, and the way the tempo moves around (especially the echo section, which also suffers from late downbeats – sorry, it’s not subtle rubato), robs it of any dignity. After repeated listening, I found this performance ultimately soulless.

 

I totally agree with pcnd’s comments above.

 

It took me a little while to like JvO’s initially languorous but ultimately beautiful performance - initially I didn't like the "breaths" in the rhythm either. However, I’ve really warmed to it now - I think it's in the sequential passages where it really starts to work for me (and the rhythmic "breaths" go away) and his gentle, sensitive and expressive touch is mesmerising. After a while, I started to forget about the "breaths"...

 

I've yet to listen all the way through the Ton Koopman's example. I have to turn it off - sorry, I can't bear it. All that nervy energy puts me on edge. I can remember talking to JvO in the organ loft at the Waalse Kerk: Ton Koopman was coming to give a recital in the next few days. I got the impression JvO was a bit worried he might not have much of an organ left once TK had finished...

 

The Buxtehude Passacaglia is quite nicely detailed - it reaches a grandeur the performance of the St. Anne never comes close to. It works better for me as a restrained piece, rather than mixture choruses throughout.

 

I rather like Piet Kee recording of the St.Anne Prelude at the Martinikerk in Gronigen on Chandos. Just the first chord is a knock out.

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I think the Buxtehude Passacaglia is beautifully played. Perhaps some people may find it unduly restrained but they are entitled to their opinion. To me it is beautifully controlled, you can hear every note and, most important of all, it is very musical.

 

Malcolm

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