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Percy Fletcher - Festival Toccata


James Goldrick
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I'm on the verge of finishing this marvellous piece, which took a surprisingly short time as it is far simpler than I thought upon hearing it the first time.

 

My question is, what to do about registering the two fanfare sections: The written registration is Swell 8' reeds on the first fanfare and then Tuba (or Gt. Reed) on the second.

 

I have two recordings: Malcolm Archer at Wells who does Swell reeds first and then that colossal Tuba on the second fanfare: and my teacher Peter Kneeshaw's on the Letourneau at St Mary's Cathedral which has the brightest Tuba I've ever come across. He uses the Tuba for both fanfares and for the final flourish of arpeggios, which I think is much more exciting than the written registration. However I find both options convincing.

 

Any thoughts?

 

My own two regular instruments and Sydney in general are quite lacking in proper Tuba tone.* The Great Trumpet and Clarion on my Hill are certainly powerful enough to do the job properly.

But I'm still undecided what to do when faced with a decent solo reed: Swell reeds then the real fireworks or to have the pyrotechnics throughout?

 

Cheers

 

James Goldrick

 

*As far as I can recall, by way of Solo reeds in Sydney we have:

St Andrew's Cathedral (CofE) Some quite fiery but still rather honky Letourneau Bombardes 16' and 8' (Plus a prepared for J. Whiteley Tuba from the 1930's - Can't wait!)

St Mary's Cathedral (RC) As I mentioned above, a very brassy Choir Tuba which almost sounds lke a chamade. World's apart from the Willis/Harrison type.

Sydney Town Hall - 16,8,4 Tubas on the Solo which don't obliterate everything else, but instead add that unmistakeable blaze to the Tutti whilst the Mixtures continue to sing above all else.

St James King St. - An outspoken tenor C chamade which tends to polarise opinions. I've seen Mr. Ellis on these boards and would be interested to hear his opinion of this stop.

Sydney Opera House - A selection of Trompetes on the Kronwerk which I haven't heard in a while, nor particularly remember. The 8' Ophecleide has been extended down to 16' very recently. I really should go and play them again.

St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta (RC) - This superb transplant of the 1898 Norman & Beard organ from St Saviour's, Walton Place has the Great Tromba available on the Choir and is probably the closest in tone to the Edwardian ideal.

There's a J.E. Dodd Tuba in Darlinghurst I haven't tried, and who knows? My questions mght be answered when I do.

Ah, almost forgot...

There is a deplorably recent example of Neo-1970's alteration done to the Holroyd and Edwards organ in the Chapel of Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) which saw the addition of a Grand Trumpet opposite the main organ. Completely unnecessary given the impact of the existing Trumpet in what is a deceptively modest instrument.

Oh well, we'll grow out of the habit eventually...

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And as if by magic, the only other person working on antipodean time appeared.

 

Great piece, although I'd be much happier if it finished on a full chord rather than Unison C's.

 

I personally think that using a big solo reed for both fanfare sections is a bit excessive. At the aforementioned St. James', King Street, the Trompette Militaire can strip paint from the walls of most buildings in the vicinity, but I do use it for the second section. We also have a floating great/choir trumpet which is an option for the first section.

 

I've heard it done both ways on a number of organs in both countries. For my tastes you either stick to the composers markings and go for the gradual build up of excitement, or just hang caution and flog it from beginning to end. The first option is also more preferable in a sympathetic acoustic, like St. Mary's.

 

On an unrelated note, i just played the new Ahlborn-Galanti installation with added pipe ranks in the Great Hall at Newcastle Uni (that's the one just north of Sydney, for all our listeners in the UK). Stunning.

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Guest Lee Blick

Sorry, but I think this is a naff piece of organ music. It is a sort of a Saint-Seans 'lite'.

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Oooh - I've waited months to get Blicked good and properly, and now I have. Hooray.

 

However ........... when I said "great piece" I should have qualified it with "for a recital once a year, or maybe as an encore". For my tastes it's a standard above Lefebre Wely but not something to wave about in public too often. It's jolly to play though and the punters love it.

 

For some reason I have a fanatical hatred of the Lemmens Fanfare. Is it just me?

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Guest Lee Blick
Oooh - I've waited months to get Blicked good and properly, and now I have. Hooray.

 

However ........... when I said "great piece" I should have qualified it with "for a recital once a year, or maybe as an encore". For my tastes it's a standard above Lefebre Wely but not something to wave about in public too often. It's jolly to play though and the punters love it.

 

For some reason I have a fanatical hatred of the Lemmens Fanfare. Is it just me?

 

Yeh, once a year is tolerable and if I had a choice to play that or the Lemmens, I would go for for Percy, but it is still a naff piece, in my view.

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I don't think we should be too hard on poor old Percy Fletcher. He was essentially a composer of light-music, and if I recall, he was "persuaded" to write the organ toccata. Considering that, I don't think he made such a bad job of it, even if it doesn't aspire to greatness.

 

As for the Tuba issue, I have a good recording of the late Christopher Dearnley playing it at St.George's Hall, Liverpool, where there is a whole nest of Tubas. With such luxury, the smaller tubas are heard first, and in the final fanfare, the big unenclosed Tuba plus the Grand Chorus fluework. Quite a din live in the hall, I can tell you!

 

I'm a bit puzzled about references to Tubas down-under.

 

I'm not sure what proper English Tubas are like, since most were destroyed by Harrison and even Willis 3.

 

I suspect that a Fr Willis Tuba was far more scorching than the smoother, later examples of the breed, but I cannot really think of any off-hand.

 

I also suspect that the Hill big trumpets are actually closer to Fr Willis Tubas than the smoother, louder and less agreeable Tubas of the 1930/40's; none of which blend terribly well.

 

MM

 

 

 

 

Going off topic for a moment does anyone have an opinion on the Garth Edmundson Toccata on "Vom Himmel Hoch". I can't decide if it's great or awful.

 

 

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

 

 

If Bach scores 100, and Howells scores but 5, I think the Edmundson would cross the line at about 10.

 

It's just a lot of rushing about so far as I'm concerned, and if I'm going to rush around for the sake of rushing around, I could just go out shopping.

 

MM

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Most of contributors to this site are organists, I happen not to be one, just a punter who enjoys listening to organ music and I probably approach individual pieces totally differently from those of you who play it. My admiration for those who play the instrument knows no bounds but as recitalists please remember it's all about bums on seats, and a lot of people who attend recitals may not know the music as well as you or I. What to you seems a bit naff may excite someone who just drops in to hear a recital. Returning to the topic, the Fletcher I usually enjoy, and if I see the Garth Edmundson I know I shall enjoy it. As a matter of interest if I see Franck on a programme I know I may well doze off, also anything which includes the word Tablature. When I first learnt that there were people who didn't like Howells I was surprised as I always liked his works, I still do but I think I can see why folks do have problems with it. It's very difficult discussing what to like and what not to, opinions very greatly.

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My question is, what to do about registering the two fanfare sections: The written registration is Swell 8' reeds on the first fanfare and then Tuba (or Gt. Reed) on the second.

 

I have two recordings: Malcolm Archer at Wells who does Swell reeds first and then that colossal Tuba on the second fanfare: and my teacher Peter Kneeshaw's on the Letourneau at St Mary's Cathedral which has the brightest Tuba I've ever come across. He uses the Tuba for both fanfares and for the final flourish of arpeggios, which I think is much more exciting than the written registration. However I find both options convincing.

 

Any thoughts?

 

I play it as written by Fletcher: Swell reeds for the first and Tuba for the second fanfare.

As I play this piece usually on German organs I often have to make use of Fletcher's alternative registration for the second fanfare (Great reeds), which works well either.

By the way: as many modern Choir manuals sound too neobaroque to my ears I play the places in question in the middle section on the Swell (8, 4, 2), alternating with the Great.

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Guest Lee Blick
As a matter of interest if I see Franck on a programme I know I may well doze off

 

Me too. I find Franck's organ music dull in the main and Vox Humana with tremulant to me is like scraping fingernails down on polysterene.

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Guest Barry Williams

I used to find Franck's organ music incredibly dull until I bought the recordings of Jean Langlais at Saint Clotilde. This is a remastering of the 1963 recording and is quite remarkable. I bought the two CDs from Gothic Recordings USA. (CD 272)

 

Barry Williams

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If Bach scores 100, and Howells scores but 5, I think the Edmundson would cross the line at about 10.

 

It's just a lot of rushing about so far as I'm concerned, and if I'm going to rush around for the sake of rushing around, I could just go out shopping.

 

MM

 

I would score Howells at 100 on the right organ, and Bach at 5 on the wrong organ, but there you go.

 

For what it's worth, I absolutely hated the Edmundsen (is it sen or son?). You could save a lot of work by making yourself a Cymbelstern and missing out all the semiquavers. It felt to me like lesson number 1 in improvising something fast - come up with an easy-to-replicate note pattern based on 4ths and 5ths, then make it fit to whatever else is going on. Having said that PD's recorded rendition of it is exciting to listen to; I just find it hateful to play.

 

Me too. I find Franck's organ music dull in the main and Vox Humana with tremulant to me is like scraping fingernails down on polysterene.

 

Heathen!

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I would score Howells at 100 on the right organ, and Bach at 5 on the wrong organ, but there you go.

 

If there is a "wrong" organ for Bach then presumably there has to be a right one as well. But if so, what is it ? It seems to me that opinions on this have changed radically in my lifetime and were hardly settled before that. Did not Widor express an opinion along the lines that it was only after Cavaille-Coll that the proper playing of Bach became possible. Presumably Schweitzer did not agree and I can remember when his style was regarded as the way to do it "authentically". One assumes that Ralph Downes thought the RFH organ was suitable (and I have some stunning Bach performances by Germani on that organ) and yet it has also been described as suitable for playing little more than "the town hall transcription" which it was a reaction against. In my youth the neo-baroque instruments inspired by the organ reform movement were thought to be just the ticket and lots of 8+ 2+ 1 1/3 registrations were to be heard. Yet I seem to recall reading somewhere that Peter Hurford is no longer convinced that the style he used in his complete Bach recordings for Decca was right ( I like these recordings a lot whatever he now thinks) ! Meanwhile Naumburg is now an instrument which seems to be being touted as the most appropriate style of instrument: and Ton Koopman has actually used Weingarten for one CD in a series devoted to the organ music of Bach. And then there are those like a gentleman whom I think was mentioned by MM in a fairly recent post (but memory may be playing tricks) who was quite happy to play Bach on an Arthur Harrison , Trombas, Tuba et al and express the view that Bach would have loved such an organ. And Kevin Bowyer, no less, recorded a Bach programme for Priory played in that style at St Mary Redcliffe!! Is it now certain that we have provided the definitive answer to a question that our forebears found peculiarly troubling ? Or is the jury still out ?

 

Heathen!

 

Now with this view I can identify. I do not think I would choose the word dull to describe Arthur Wills's playing of the Final in B flat at Ely nor that of Nicolas Kynaston playing the A minor Choral at Westminster Cathedral but perhaps I am easily amused.

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Guest Psalm 78 v.67
Oooh - I've waited months to get Blicked good and properly, and now I have. Hooray.

 

What an amazingly laid-back attitude to Blicking :) !

 

( :blink: )

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(Quote from Brian Childs)

 

]If there is a "wrong" organ for Bach then presumably there has to be a right one as well. But if so, what is it ? It seems to me that opinions on this have changed radically in my lifetime and were hardly settled before that. Did not Widor express an opinion along the lines that it was only after Cavaille-Coll that the proper playing of Bach became possible. Presumably Schweitzer did not agree and I can remember when his style was regarded as the way to do it "authentically". One assumes that Ralph Downes thought the RFH organ was suitable (and I have some stunning Bach performances by Germani on that organ) and yet it has also been described as suitable for playing little more than "the town hall transcription" which it was a reaction against. In my youth the neo-baroque instruments inspired by the organ reform movement were thought to be just the ticket and lots of 8+ 2+ 1 1/3 registrations were to be heard. Yet I seem to recall reading somewhere that Peter Hurford is no longer convinced that the style he used in his complete Bach recordings for Decca was right ( I like these recordings a lot whatever he now thinks) ! Meanwhile Naumburg is now an instrument which seems to be being touted as the most appropriate style of instrument: and Ton Koopman has actually used Weingarten for one CD in a series devoted to the organ music of Bach. And then there are those like a gentleman whom I think was mentioned by MM in a fairly recent post (but memory may be playing tricks) who was quite happy to play Bach on an Arthur Harrison , Trombas, Tuba et al and express the view that Bach would have loved such an organ. And Kevin Bowyer, no less, recorded a Bach programme for Priory played in that style at St Mary Redcliffe!! Is it now certain that we have provided the definitive answer to a question that our forebears found peculiarly troubling ? Or is the jury still out ?

 

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

 

I believe there to be a simple tonal starting-point for Bach: the sonorities of Viols and/or harpsichords.

 

In both types of instrument, there is tonal integrity, and in the case of Viols, due to the way the bow is held "the other way around" (rather than scrubbed at an oblique angle and with considerable force), there is a limitation on expression, which must find other means.

 

One of the most extraordinary sounds is to hear a family of Viols, played without vibrato, in perfect tune. The sonorities are quite astonishing, right across the musical spectrum, and if heard in a good room, just "come alive" in the most beautiful way. It's not a sound which can be described, but once heard, it is never forgotten.

 

The music of Bach, at the other extreme, MAY be performed with a full symphony orchestra, and individual lines or melodies MAY be highlighted or made to sing very expressively, but in so doing, the music may gain something, but at the expense of contrapuntal integrity and balance.

 

This really is very, very difficult to express in words, and I am trying to be careful in choosing them.

 

When Bach is played on an organ such as St.Mary's, Redcliffe, the music is immediately changed, but will still be recongisable as the music of Bach, just as it is if played by a symphony-orchestra. Across the broad harmonic spectrum will be the sound of Diapasons, perhaps Swell reeds and almost certainly Pedal open-woods amongst other things. It is a sound which may enable expression and outright power, but at the expense of linear clarity and tonal integrity.

 

A similar transformation would be immediately apparent if Bach is heard played on a great Cavaille-Coll organ, but in a different way and with different tonalities.

 

Now catch a train from Paris and go to Alkmaar or Groningen, and what you hear are great Schnitger choruses with perfect....and I mean PERFECT....sonority; completely at one with the acoustics into which they

speak. There is a certain "flatness" of tone throughout the entire sonic range, and pedal organ choruses which both underpin and yet blend perfectly with their manual counterparts. Indeed, one of the most extraordinary things, is to play something like the F-major Toccata, with full pleno and full pedal without reeds. When the pedals are heard as a single solo line, the chorus is so perfectly matched to the manuals, it is almost as if no pedal stops are drawn: only a Great (Hw) to Pedal coupler.

 

Immediately, we are back into Viol territory, where the full sonic range has complete integrity and balance.

 

Of course, there will be people who will not miss the opportunity of informing us that a Schnitger organ could not possibly be a Bach organ, but I suspect that they miss the point entirely. Bach possibly never knew anything as good, except perhaps for Hamburg or any Silbermann organs he stumbled across.

 

Intererstingly, Naumburg contains registers we might more readily associate with early romantic style; with a wealth of 8ft tone, mild string tone, and distinctive solo registers, but of course, what it doesn't have is swell boxes, heavy pressure reeds and pedal open-woods booming away in the basement division. It just doesn't matter to the grand-plan of musical integrity if there are a few tierces in the chorus, or whether the flutes are "broad" toned or "thin" toned. The important thing is that viol-like sense of tonal balance or "flatness," where every component of the whole sound combines to create that same extraordinary sonority.

 

So what remains is really a question of detail rather than style, and it is for this reason that Bach sound unusually well on a diverse range of instruments, and not so well on others. If I were seeking-out a good Bach experience, I would be quite happy to hear the music played variously at Haarlem (definitely NOT a true Bach organ), the Ulster Hall Belfast and perhaps an organ such as Blackburn Cathedral, where nothing stands out and nothing shouts too loudly.

 

Of course, there is no substitute for hearing Bach played masterfully on an organ such as Alkmaar or Groningen, and where the only possible response is stunned silence and an inability to speak.

 

Few organs are as great as the music of Bach, but the latter two definitely are.

 

MM

 

PS: What this has to do with Percy Fletcher, I cannot imagine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would score Howells at 100 on the right organ, and Bach at 5 on the wrong organ, but there you go.

 

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

 

 

I can see why the British Empire collapsed.

 

:)

 

MM

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Of course, there is no substitute for hearing Bach played masterfully on an organ such as Alkmaar or Groningen, and where the only possible response is stunned silence and an inability to speak.

 

Few organs are as great as the music of Bach, but the latter two definitely are.

 

MM

 

How about Grauhof, Waltershausen, Muehlberg (Thueringen), and Naumburg? They are imho. WAY closer to Bach than Alkmaar and Groningen; btw. how much of Groningen is original?

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One of the most extraordinary sounds is to hear a family of Viols, played without vibrato, in perfect tune.

Actually you can get much the same impression from a modern string quartet playing in perfect tune and without vibrato. It's not something you'll hear often though.

 

Intererstingly, Naumburg contains registers we might more readily associate with early romantic style; with a wealth of 8ft tone, mild string tone, and distinctive solo registers

That's because registration was moving that way. It seems fairly clear to me that Bach accepted this trend (though whether he used it himself or not may be another matter). It is well known that he tested organs by drawing every stop and playing the fullest texture possible. This has nothing to do with any supposed organo pleno registration. All he was doing was ensuring that the winding had the capacity to service whatever combination of stops the player might want to draw, instead of restricting the player to the four or five stops which, we are told, is all earlier organs could manage. Hence his comment about ensuring that the organ had good lungs.

 

You (not meaning you personally, MM) can't of course cite this to justify playing Bach on loads of 8' stops. The delicious sound of the Rückpositive Principal + Quintathen at Naumburg is entirely different to an Open Diapason + Clarabella on a Romantic British organ. The only justification for the latter is that you like it that way.

 

I can see why the British Empire collapsed.
You need to sit down in a field and stare at a cow for a couple of hours. It'll do you the world of good.
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How about Grauhof, Waltershausen, Muehlberg (Thueringen), and Naumburg? They are imho. WAY closer to Bach than Alkmaar and Groningen; btw. how much of Groningen is original?

 

 

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

 

Last things first!

 

I would suggest that the Martinikerk is every bit Schnitger, even though much of it is new. They did, after all, employ the finest restorer of all, and the end result is comparible with anything original. This was no Haarlem style of restoration, but one which sought the authentic sound. I think it is one of the great organs of the world.

 

As for being WAY closer to Bach, that is debatable for reasons already embraced, because Bach didn't always play the very best organs, and may have had even finer instruments in mind. I don't know of an orchestral composer who writes specifically for a school-orchestra, and I feel sure that Gustav Holst was thinking beyond St.Paul's School when he wrote the "St.Paul's Suite."

 

I think "heva" misses my point, which was really about concept rather than detail, and if the concept and execution are right, then an organ is suitable for Bach. Hence my regular sorties to Holland to hear German music.

 

When it comes to variety of lush 8ft tone and beautiful solo effects, I think Bach would have been beside himself with even the current sound of the Bavo-orgel.

 

MM

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Actually you can get much the same impression from a modern string quartet playing in perfect tune and without vibrato. It's not something you'll hear often though.

 

 

You need to sit down in a field and stare at a cow for a couple of hours. It'll do you the world of good.

 

 

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

 

 

I don't agree that you get anything like the same effect from modern string instruments, which stand alone rather too effectively as solo instruments.

 

In the right room (an absolute must), not only do the sonoroties blend perfectly, something else happens even when the instruments are not being played. If you hold a Viol whilst others are playing, you will feel it start to vibrate and the strings begin to hum in the most extraordinary way, and that doesn't happen with more modern instruments, which are designed quite differently. I'm sure it's something to do with the internal acoustics of the instruments, which are closely related in ALL aspects of their design.

 

This is the part of the phenomenon to which I was referring, and I would recommend the experience to anyone who hasn't heard it and felt it.

 

You get exactly the same tactile feel on certain baroque organs, but again, only those in the best acoustics.

 

As for cows, I don't need to sit in a field and stare at a cow.

 

I look out of the window, and there are cows staring at ME.

 

Very spooky!

 

MM

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My question is, what to do about registering the two fanfare sections: The written registration is Swell 8' reeds on the first fanfare and then Tuba (or Gt. Reed) on the second.

 

I have two recordings: Malcolm Archer at Wells who does Swell reeds first and then that colossal Tuba on the second fanfare: and my teacher Peter Kneeshaw's on the Letourneau at St Mary's Cathedral which has the brightest Tuba I've ever come across. He uses the Tuba for both fanfares and for the final flourish of arpeggios, which I think is much more exciting than the written registration. However I find both options convincing.

 

Any thoughts?

 

My own two regular instruments and Sydney in general are quite lacking in proper Tuba tone.* The Great Trumpet and Clarion on my Hill are certainly powerful enough to do the job properly.

But I'm still undecided what to do when faced with a decent solo reed: Swell reeds then the real fireworks or to have the pyrotechnics throughout?

 

Cheers

 

James Goldrick

 

Having been partly responsible for leading this thread astray I thought I should make some attempt at amends by listening to other versions of the Fletcher from my collection and reporting on how the passages in question were approached. Unfortunately I have packed away my copy of Catherine Ennis playing at Munster Cathedral (Klais Tubas !!) in preparation for an impending house move but I listened to John Scott Whiteley playing at York on PRCD 5003 - Organ Favourites from York Minster. Its a long time since I have heard this organ "in the pipes" rather than on CD and I have never heard it from the location in which the microphone was located for this recording - suspended from the central tower above the case - nor, I would imagine, have very many others. Thus I have no real idea what individual ranks sound like heard from that particular location but the first fanfare is certainly played on a less assertive stop than the second. My guess would be that the enclosed 8 ft Tuba is used for the first fanfare and the Tuba Mirabilis for the second, but I suppose it is possible that the Swell Horn is that assertive heard from that position. Anyone here actually know the answer ?

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