Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Playing Harmonium Music On The Organ


Vox Humana
 Share

Recommended Posts

I recently bought a copy of Franck's L'organiste and was intrigued by the way he registers the harmonium. In particular he seems fond of using a 4' stop for the lower part of the keyboard and a 16' for the upper part. How far should one reproduce these pitches when playing the pieces on a pipe organ? Do we know what the organists of Franck's time did?

 

The only other harmonium music I have is the volume of Vierne's Pièces en style libre that includes the Berceuse and Carillon. Vierne helpfully specifies the registration both for the harmonium and for the organ, but he seems to have spaced the textures with the pipe organ in mind, so everything is based on 8' pitch and there are none of Franck's imaginative textures.

 

Incidentally, L'organiste is great stuff for players of modest technique - and advanced players too for that matter. Good quality music and none of it at all difficult (not even the pieces in 6 flats). Everyone should have a copy. A selection of movements are available here, but it really is worth buying the whole collection.

 

Kalmus publish one edition which I've only glanced at briefly, but it looks as if it might be a straight reprint of the original edition. The edition I chose was the Wiener Urtext which draws on both the original print and Franck's MSS.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recently bought a copy of Franck's L'organiste and was intrigued by the way he registers the harmonium. In particular he seems fond of using a 4' stop for the lower part of the keyboard and a 16' for the upper part. How far should one reproduce these pitches when playing the pieces on a pipe organ? Do we know what the organists of Franck's time did?

 

As I understand it, Franck's (& Vierne's) registrations relate specifically to the divided keyboard and short compass stops of the harmonium. They wrote at 8va for the RH at 16ft in the top half of the keyboard and 8va basso for the LH at 4ft in order to give the effect of two contrasting voices at 8ft unison pitch.

 

The numbers shown in the score (2 5 8 etc) refer to the standard stop numbering system used by contemporary French harmonium builders such as Alexandre. All you have to do is 'play by numbers', drawing the prescribed stops to achieve the correct sonorities. The apparently baffling matter of pitches etc then makes complete sense. The musical result, however, in terms of texture and melodic line, may come as something of a surprise, particularly if you have come to these pieces via the organ.

 

The organ, of course, does not have the same prescribed and predictable tonal palette as the harmonium, so that attempts to reproduce the harmonium registrations are unlikely to be successful. However, I'm sure that an awareness of how they should sound on that instrument is a great help in realising them on the organ. The couple of occasions I've managed to try out a few of these pieces on an authentic harmonium have been something of a revelation.

 

JS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Kalmus edition is an exact reprint of the original Enoch edition from 1892 which is based on the second of the two authograph scores and which is without any major errors. With the Kaunzinger edition at your hand you can correct some minor errors (missing or doubtful ties), but I have to admit that I clearly prefer the print layout of the Kalmus edition.

In the excellent preface of the Kalmus edition the different harmonium registrations are discussed so that it's easy to write the actual pitch over the original harmonium registrations.

In my opinion Franck's use of 4' stops for the bass an 16' stops for the treble is unique in literature for organ AND harmonium. Other pieces from this genre are either conceived in a more "universal" manner with the possibility of a performance on the organ in mind (e.g. Boellmanns "Heures mystiques") or they are composed rather for the organ than for the harmonium but with the possibility to play it without pedals (Viernes "Pièces en style libre" and his two "Messes basses").

Franck however writes in his "L'Organiste", which contains some of his most beautiful music, more for the harmonium than for the organ and in my opinion a performance on the organ should reflect both the original harmonium registrations and the typical colours of the Franck organ.

 

I give you here my registrations in french terms for the awesome "Offertoire funèbre" in f# minor:

 

prepare:

Récit: Fonds 8' (Flute, Gambe, Bourdon)

Positif: Fonds doux 8'

Grand-Orgue: Fonds doux 8'

Pédale: 16'+8'

GO and P coupled, box closed

 

bar 1: right hand R ne octave lower, left hand GP one octave higher

bar 5: both hands on R, right hand "loco", left hand one octave higher

bar 11: as bar 1, box half opened

bar 15: as bar 5

bar 21: both hand on GP

bar 25: + Swell (GPR)

bar 29: both hands on R (loco)

bar 34: close the box, on the last c# minus Flute

bar 35: plus Voix céleste

the entire section from 35 to 62 is played on R, 35-46 and 55-62 with pedal

bar 62: minus Voix céleste, plus Flute

bar 63: both hands on GPR (loco)

bar 67: both hands on R (loco)

bar 72: pedal

bar 73: R minus Flute, plus Voix céleste; right hand on R one octave lower, left hand on PR loco; last chord with pedal

 

It's up to you to decide whether this arrangement goes to far or is just in the limits of a "normal" Franck organ work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

are there any recordings?

Joris Verdin has recorded the 'Complete works for harmonium' by Franck on Ricercare RIC213 - a double CD. He uses several harmoniums (?harmonia?) dating from 1860 to 1891.

 

Vierne helpfully specifies the registration both for the harmonium and for the organ, but he seems to have spaced the textures with the pipe organ in mind, so everything is based on 8' pitch and there are none of Franck's imaginative textures.

I participated in a workshop on these with Joris in Goteburg in 1998. At that time Joris was convinced that the registrations were by someone who didn't understand the harmonium (eg unneccessary stop changes) and that the pieces were not that suitable (they exceed the normal harmonium compass, playing the scherzetto on a harmonium results in lots of clatter and little sound). His view was that the harmonium registrations were added by someone else to increase the potential market for the pieces. I have detailed notes in the loft which I'll try and dig out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my opinion Franck's use of 4' stops for the bass an 16' stops for the treble is unique in literature for organ AND harmonium.

Excellent points.

 

Anne Page wrote a series of 4 articles on harmoniums for Organists' Review starting in November 2001. That article, as well as explaining the standard stop sets, covered Franck's use of 4 (LH) and 16 (RH) eg an Air Bearnais where CF writes a lowish texture in the LH (at 4') and 'solos' the melody two octaves higher (at 16); in effect just adding extra colour to the top line, all at 8'.

 

The same effect is possible by only drawing the treble half of a stop (they divide at middle E/F) and organising the distribution so that only the top part sounds both stops.

 

Stop sets in summary:

 

1 8' Cor Anglais/Flute

2 16' Bourdon/Clarinette

3 4' Clairon/Fifre

4 8' Basson/Hautbois

5 (treble only) 16' Voix celestes (to beat with 2)

 

GJ - Grand Jeux - Draws 1-4

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recently bought a copy of Franck's L'organiste and was intrigued by the way he registers the harmonium. In particular he seems fond of using a 4' stop for the lower part of the keyboard and a 16' for the upper part. How far should one reproduce these pitches when playing the pieces on a pipe organ? Do we know what the organists of Franck's time did?

 

The only other harmonium music I have is the volume of Vierne's Pièces en style libre that includes the Berceuse and Carillon. Vierne helpfully specifies the registration both for the harmonium and for the organ, but he seems to have spaced the textures with the pipe organ in mind, so everything is based on 8' pitch and there are none of Franck's imaginative textures.

 

Incidentally, L'organiste is great stuff for players of modest technique - and advanced players too for that matter. Good quality music and none of it at all difficult (not even the pieces in 6 flats). Everyone should have a copy. A selection of movements are available here, but it really is worth buying the whole collection.

 

Kalmus publish one edition which I've only glanced at briefly, but it looks as if it might be a straight reprint of the original edition. The edition I chose was the Wiener Urtext which draws on both the original print and Franck's MSS.

 

There are also sets of organ/harmonium pieces by Langlais and Fleury - possibly others too. I have both these sets and some are quite effective manuals only/minimal pedal pieces. Especially so the Langlais Prelude Modale and Priere.

 

AJJ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are also sets of organ/harmonium pieces by Langlais and Fleury - possibly others too. I have both these sets and some are quite effective manuals only/minimal pedal pieces. Especially so the Langlais Prelude Modale and Priere.

 

AJJ

Also Tournemire (Petit Fleurs), Litaize (24 pieces) and Hakim (Expressions)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

are there any recordings?

 

Hi

 

I think Anne Page has also recorded the whole set. There are also a few on her "French Music for the Harmonium vol.1"

 

The pitches are a good starting point for organ adaptations - otherwise the melody & accompanyment will be "wrong". Beyond that - try it and see what works! I'd rather play them on a good harmonium any day.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

There are also sets of organ/harmonium pieces by Langlais and Fleury - possibly others too. I have both these sets and some are quite effective manuals only/minimal pedal pieces. Especially so the Langlais Prelude Modale and Priere.

 

AJJ

 

Hi again.

 

I came across some pieces by Guillmant for organ or harmonium last year - pretty effective on either instrument - there are odd places where the writing for the 2 instruments varies to make the most of the different characteristics.

 

Using the "Expression" stop on the harmonium (and a fair bit of practice) allows the playing dynamics to be far more expressive than any pipe organ swell box.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, everyone. Some very helpful comments here. I've spent this afternoon going through these pieces again. They really are delightful. They are very similar in concept and style to Elgar's Vesper Voluntaries which I note with interest were written at exactly the same time. Is this just one of those coincidences, or was Elgar aware of what Franck was up to, I wonder?

The organ, of course, does not have the same prescribed and predictable tonal palette as the harmonium, so that attempts to reproduce the harmonium registrations are unlikely to be successful. However, I'm sure that an awareness of how they should sound on that instrument is a great help in realising them on the organ. The couple of occasions I've managed to try out a few of these pieces on an authentic harmonium have been something of a revelation.
All of this makes sense. On my toaster most of the pieces sound logical enough using Franck's pitches, but there are quite a few instances where the use of the 16' in the treble inverts the harmony, especially where Franck prescribes a 4' for the left hand. I could imagine that on a harmonium one might not be conscious of the harmony being upset, but it seems likely that on a pipe organ one is going to have to be more pragmatic. As always, it's a question of using one's ears.

 

The Wiener Urtext edition seems to have a few misprints. Is there anyone who has the Kalmus edition to hand who would be willing to check the following for me, please?

 

7 Pieces in E flat

No 4: in the antepenultimate bar the left hand reads C Bb G. This can't be right, but should it be C Ab F or C Bb Ab?

 

7 Pieces in E

No 5: The left-hand registration begins with stop #1 (Cor anglais). At bar 36 there is an instruction to subtract sto #$ (Basson 8'), but where do you add it?

 

7 Pieces in F

Sortie: On the first beat of the left hand in bar 70 should there be a quaver C above the A (as in bar 21)?

 

7 Pieces in F#

No 5: The first left-hand note of bar 17 is B. Surely this should be an A?

 

7 Pieces in G

No 2: At bar 16 there is an instruction in the left hand to add stop #4. This is repeated at bar 26. Presumably the latter should be slashed?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 Pieces in E flat

No 4: in the antepenultimate bar the left hand reads C Bb G. This can't be right, but should it be C Ab F or C Bb Ab?

> Kalmus has C Bb Ab.

 

7 Pieces in E

No 5: The left-hand registration begins with stop #1 (Cor anglais). At bar 36 there is an instruction to subtract sto #$ (Basson 8'), but where do you add it?

> Kalmus has the sign to add stop #4 in bar 21.

 

7 Pieces in F

Sortie: On the first beat of the left hand in bar 70 should there be a quaver C above the A (as in bar 21)?

> Kalmus has no C. In my opinion this is an error in the first edition and I play bar 70 like bar 21.

 

7 Pieces in F#

No 5: The first left-hand note of bar 17 is B. Surely this should be an A?

> Kalmus has A.

 

7 Pieces in G

No 2: At bar 16 there is an instruction in the left hand to add stop #4. This is repeated at bar 26. Presumably the latter should be slashed?

> This error occurs also in the Kalmus edition. I agree with you that it should be slashed.

 

Be aware of the Kaunzinger edition of the Franck organ works. There are numerous editorial decisions which have nothing to do with an Urtext edition. The most reliable editions are the reprints of the original French editions and I clearly prefer the Dover edition (which could easily be corrected with Rollin Smith books at your hand) to the Kaunzinger edition, which has also the disadvantage that you have to turn pages every second bar ;-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...