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Blowing One's Own Trompette


MusingMuso
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The ever delightful, brilliant, (sometimes eccentric) and astounding Ton Koopman was on Radio 3 this week, playing the music of Buxtehude and talking about it.

 

I was quite amazed at the vitality of the harpsichord works heard, and the beauty of the Cantatas. Much of the music was new to my ears, so it came as a special pleasure to stumble across something so remarkable; especially when you reach a point when you think you've heard just about all there is to hear.

 

I was also intrigued to learn that Buxtehude was a bit "naughty" and unconventional; inviting far more guests to his wedding than that officially allowed, and that it was a bit of a riot apparently.

 

Then I learned that Buxtehude was very keen on Astronomy.

 

It was one of those wonderfully educational programmes: the likes of which would never be heard on such as Classic FM.

 

However, I was delighted when Ton Koopman suggested that organists are the "most intelligent" of all musicians.

 

I couldn't have agreed more of course, but I wonder why Ton Koopman makes this claim?

 

MM

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Many high profile church musicians find themselves conducting orchestral forces, choruses, chamber choirs and smaller ensembles. I would suggest this requires them to be well-prepared/researched in terms of instrumental capabilities, historical perspectives on composers and performance style and to be skilled in managing people, cajoling, persuading and motivating. All of which suggests the need for a keen mind.

 

So, perhaps TK has got it right - not universally - but broadly so.

 

H

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Even at less exalted levels the necessity of having to cope with three staves as standard, read vocal scores (+ accompaniment), transpose, improvise and, maybe, cope with C clefs broadens one's musical skills to an extent not required for any other category of musician. Also the degree of historical awareness that organists need in order to understand their repertoire is greater than for any other instrument. As it happens the latter is matched by many other instrumentalists, but I suspect more selectively.

 

So the musicianship of organists tends to be more broadly based than with other musicians. Whether this is the same as saying that they are more intelligent I rather doubt and I am not entirely sure whether it is true.

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Even at less exalted levels the necessity of having to cope with three staves as standard, read vocal scores (+ accompaniment), transpose, improvise and, maybe, cope with C clefs broadens one's musical skills to an extent not required for any other category of musician. Also the degree of historical awareness that organists need in order to understand their repertoire is greater than for any other instrument. As it happens the latter is matched by many other instrumentalists, but I suspect more selectively.

 

So the musicianship of organists tends to be more broadly based than with other musicians. Whether this is the same as saying that they are more intelligent I rather doubt and I am not entirely sure whether it is true.

 

Hear hear - not to mention historical awareness of the instrument, and ability to adapt to whatever sound pallete is placed before them, all part and parcel with knowledge of the repertoire and ability to select from it appropriately of course. Often there is imitation of other instruments involved. Then there are disciplines like improvisation which we all have to tackle in some way at some point.

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Buxtehude is composer of the week this week on Radio 3, very appropriate for his tercentenary. Monday is strongly recommended as it has the hour long interview with Ton Koopman. I caught it just by accident as I was driving home and continued to listen to it when I got back home, so I must have thought it was good.

 

It can be caught on Listen Again:

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/radio3_aod....radio3/cotw_mon

 

Ton has some fantastic insights and there's a lot of Butehude's relatively unknown choral music, too. It is beautiful - currently re-listening to Andreas Scholl singing Jubilate Domino. Buxtehude has a skill with grace and grandeur without confusing it with prettiness and ostentation.

 

And, yes, I too don't think organists give themselves enough credit for their scholarship and skill, where it is justified.

 

Now just listening to Piet Kee playing Nimm vos uns on the wonderful organ at Roskilde Cathedral. If only every organist could play with that skill and musical sense. I recommend the CD - it also has works by Bruhns, all played to that standard.

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