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Pierre Lauwers

Save The British Organ Heritage

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What would be the point in that?

 

I've just noticed the first post on this page where pcnd says Drake has done 2/3 manual restorations with no pedals. I am not aware of this being the case; even Grosvenor has a fairly complete pedal department (16 8 16), and instruments since have had more (Jesus Ox is 16 8 4 16). The pedals are treated as a logical downward extension of the manuals and 29/30 notes provided, depending on what will fit within the original case (where there is one).

 

Yes - I did.

 

That was stupid.

 

He has not.

 

I knew that.

 

I think I meant the general style, as opposed to an instrument which has no pedals. In between my original post, Pierre referring to me and my subsequent post I had temporarily forgotten exactly what I wrote.

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"Of course there were other composers, such as Stamford, Bairstow, Sumsion, Statham, Elgar (et al), and then there was Howells, but as compared with the music of France, Germany, Austria, Italy and a vast corpus of other European music, British music just does not compare favourably. Of course, music doesn't HAVE to be the greatest to qualify as worthy, but I'm afraid that in the art department, English music is more Enid Blyton and Catherine Cookson than it is Shakespeare."

 

(Quote)

 

This is an interesting comment indeed, which says it all about the "english patient"...

And explains why british creations need to be supported by funny strangers here.

Actually, how is it that only the british think that ?

Dear MM, may I copy and paste that on the french forum, in order to see what

will happen there?

 

Pierre

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This is an interesting comment indeed, which says it all about the "english patient"...

And explains why british creations need to be supported by funny strangers here.

Actually, how is it that only the british think that ?

 

Dear MM, may I copy and paste that on the french forum, in order to see what

will happen there?

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

You may publish that if you wish, but I think most main-stream musicians and conductors would possibly agree, if one were to lift out Elgar, Purcell, Walton, Tallis and Britten.

 

I'm sure the Scots would agree with me.

 

MM

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

You may publish that if you wish, but I think most main-stream musicians and conductors would possibly agree, if one were to lift out Elgar, Purcell, Walton, Tallis and Britten.

 

I'm sure the Scots would agree with me.

 

MM

 

What about Byrd?

 

JJK

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What about Byrd?

 

JJK

 

And John Ebeneezer West, who is beginning to win attention in Belgium?

 

As a Tea-time break, I present you some more beautiful, true late baroque

french organs in their "correct repertoire":

 

http://perso.orange.fr/organ-au-logis/Musique/SNca_ira.mp3

 

http://perso.orange.fr/organ-au-logis/Musi...CBBtapageMC.mp3

 

(Couperin, Grigny et al. belonging to a former style, so...)

 

I launch that thread on Organographia, then.

 

Pierre

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What about Byrd?

 

JJK

Of course there is a wealth of first-rate music from the Tudor and Jacobean periods. In the realm of church music Gibbons and Tomkins, to name but two, are superlative and far more technically assured than Tallis. Nor is Purcell the only decent composer from the Baroque period.

 

It was during the eighteenth century that the decay set in and by 1800 English composition was lagging seriously behind the continent. Who here could match Haydn and Beethoven? The best we could produce was Sam Wesley - interesting and worthwhile in his way, but patently no match for the Viennese school. His son Sebastian was probably the next best.

 

British music didn't really pick itself up again until Elgar. Britten and Walton have been mentioned. I suspect there are one or two other, later composers who may well stand the test of time when the full range of their music is discovered (Leighton?) but as yet it is too early to say.

 

Of course, anyone's list of top 10 British composers would have to include Dunstable. Probably John Browne too.

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Of course there is a wealth of first-rate music from the Tudor and Jacobean periods. In the realm of church music Gibbons and Tomkins, to name but two, are superlative and far more technically assured than Tallis. Nor is Purcell the only decent composer from the Baroque period.

 

It was during the eighteenth century that the decay set in and by 1800 English composition was lagging seriously behind the continent. Who here could match Haydn and Beethoven? The best we could produce was Sam Wesley - interesting and worthwhile in his way, but patently no match for the Viennese school. His son Sebastian was probably the next best.

 

British music didn't really pick itself up again until Elgar. Britten and Walton have been mentioned. I suspect there are one or two other, later composers who may well stand the test of time when the full range of their music is discovered (Leighton?) but as yet it is too early to say.

 

Of course, anyone's list of top 10 British composers would have to include Dunstable. Probably John Browne too.

 

Not forgetting Arnold Bax, Malcolm Arnold and Vaughan-Williams (even if Philip Heseltine did describe RV-W's Pastoral Symphony as "...like a cow looking over a gate.").

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So would we begin to find some not-that-bad things then?

I agree much of the most interesting english music is choral

work.

My own preffered -this does not mean "the best", only that it

suit my little own taste- is Samuel-Sebastian Wesley's.

 

This music shares one thing with Howells: it is absolutely

tragic, heart-stirring; and this does not fit in the british

social life.

We could imagine this: during a Recital, after a terrible succession

of passionate chords, Mr and Miss exchange some words:

 

-Miss: Well, dear, that was a bit loud, isn't it ?

 

-Mr- Didn't you ever hear of those deaf composers, darling?

I think we have a case here.

 

Purcell composed quite poignant pages too ("Man that is born of a woman", etc,

in a funeral music work).

But all this does not fit as an after-dinner evening.

 

Pierre

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This music shares one thing with Howells: it is absolutely

tragic

 

At last, Pierre sees the light!

 

Purcell composed quite poignant pages too

 

Not at all a bad composer, Purcell. Genius in fact!

 

MM

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"This music shares one thing with Howells: it is absolutely

tragic

 

At last, Pierre sees the light!

(We may possibly read "tragic" differently...)

 

 

Purcell composed quite poignant pages too

 

Not at all a bad composer, Purcell. Genius in fact!"

 

Here we agree, so BOTH are geniuses... :):o:lol:

 

Pierre

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This music shares one thing with Howells: it is absolutely

tragic, heart-stirring; and this does not fit in the british

social life.

We could imagine this: during a Recital, after a terrible succession

of passionate chords, Mr and Miss exchange some words:

 

-Miss: Well, dear, that was a bit loud, isn't it ?

 

-Mr- Didn't you ever hear of those deaf composers, darling?

I think we have a case here.

By and large the British are not very good at showing their emotions. To be obviously emotional is bad form; one must maintain the "stiff upper lip". This is complete nonsense and does little for the appreciation of music, but that's how it is. I wonder how far this tradition goes back. Certainly into the Victorian era when appearances were everything, but maybe earlier? Is this why nineteenth-century taste deteriorated into heart-on-sleeve sentiment? - because we felt threatened by anything more profound that might stir the depths of our innermost beings?

 

Generally people want music that makes them feel happy, which is only natural. I think it probably takes a particular experience or a particular set of circumstances to make one receptive to wallowing in pathos.

 

Purcell composed quite poignant pages too ("Man that is born of a woman", etc,

in a funeral music work).

Purcell's setting of the Funeral Sentences is quite heart-rending. I heartily recommend the CD by Winchester Cathedral under David Hill, which also includes all the usual favourites by Purcell.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

I wasn't sure if Nigel was just playing devil's advocate with the flat 21st remark.

 

 

How astute! I wondered if someone would read it correctly. Alpha +

 

N

 

]Yes - the only tonal changes were the addition of a 32p octave to the Pedal Ophicleide and the extension of the GO 16p Geigen to 8p.

 

:)

 

Cheap at the price!

 

N

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Yes Vox humana,

 

I think we are to the point there.

This "mandatory middle-of-the-road feelings", which we had to display

in Flanders as well to the point we share much with the british as far

as humor is concerned, has its good sides too; it allows for an agreeable,

comfortable social life, in which nobody is at risk to be threatened.

And maybe today have we gone a bit too far towards the reverse, by the way,

but that's another story.

 

When did it start? I'd guess somewhere in the 18th century, when the organs

commenced to be voiced softly... gentle, restrained tone. (Music boxes?)

 

As a result, much music was written accordingly: light-heartly, something you

could use while having Grand-Ma for Dinner.

You could not, then, put a CD with Howells nor Vierne!

 

But as I showed by the example with Balbastre extracts, this "circumstancial" music

existed, of course, elsewhere as well.

 

Rather than throwing the baby with the bath water, condemning english music in general,

we'd better realise introverted, passionnate composers existed of course worldwide; the

british are people like everywhere else !

If Samuel-Sebastian Wesley, for example, had emigrated in Germany, I guess we would find

*some CDs more* featuring his choral music today.

Because even today, I do not think the british would feel comfortable to "market" deep,

emotional music.

And so the music remains in the shadow, and the organs nobody knows what to do with.

 

Pierre

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Guest Patrick Coleman
By and large the British are not very good at showing their emotions. To be obviously emotional is bad form; one must maintain the "stiff upper lip".

 

Speaking as a Welshman, I'm never very sure about blanket statements to do with the British - we certainly don't have a distinct tradition of organ building (though I'm open to correction here) but my perception is that we have a clearly different approach both to humour and emotion - again, qualified with 'by and large'.

 

Generally people want music that makes them feel happy, which is only natural. I think it probably takes a particular experience or a particular set of circumstances to make one receptive to wallowing in pathos.

 

I agree - and the Welsh need little excuse for a good wallow!

 

 

Purcell's setting of the Funeral Sentences is quite heart-rending. I heartily recommend the CD by Winchester Cathedral under David Hill, which also includes all the usual favourites by Purcell.

 

...and I couldn't agree more with you on this too.

 

This thread has been both fascinating and instructive. Is it really a general view among learned devotees of the organ that our organ-building tradition (or our musical heritage) is deficient? Or are the received criteria for judgement themselves questionable?

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Because even today, I do not think the british would feel comfortable to "market" deep,

emotional music.

Well the three great Elgar oratorios certainly have a large enough fan base in this country, with The Dream of Gerontius in pole position in the popularity stakes (although my personal opinion is that The Apostles is the pick of the bunch). If The Dream does not enjoy wider popularity abroad I personally don't think thats the fault of the music.

 

The operas of Britten and Tippett are, I believe, performed and admired throughout the world and can be seen as a core part of the 20th century repertoire. The marketing can't have been too bad.

 

Then of course if you're prepared to cross boundaries, the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber are certainly well travelled and well marketed. I saw Phantom in London for the first time last year, and whilst I wouldn't put the music in the Verdi & Puccini bracket, the show just blew me away. Fantastic!

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Then of course if you're prepared to cross boundaries, the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber are certainly well travelled and well marketed. I saw Phantom in London for the first time last year, and whilst I wouldn't put the music in the Verdi & Puccini bracket, the show just blew me away. Fantastic!

 

We do have all sorts of things like this to offer. Funding for arts has been pretty pitiful until recent years, with the result that money has had the loudest voice. I wonder just what sort of real quality (of all genres) was being produced in the 80's and early 90's which was unable to find a voice through lack of financial support.

 

 

"Is it really a general view among learned devotees of the organ that our organ-building tradition (or our musical heritage) is deficient? Or are the received criteria for judgement themselves questionable?"

 

I think there is a temptation to regard some of the interesting diversions in organbuilding - whether involving leathered diapasons or Ralph Downes - as more than mere interesting quirks and actually part of the growth cycle. In much the same vein as the remarks above, I think that lurking behind these loudly-spoken extremes there is a chartable development in organbuilding, comparable with those on the continent, from the 18thC to now which is the one we ought to focus on, putting all personal preferences to one side. It hasn't all been about bandwagons. The comparison is always drawn between England and Germany in the period 1890-1940ish. It seems the French had the liveliest time of it during this period and that this would be a more interesting place to start. I've not seen a great many French Romantic organs in the flesh, so this is a serious question. Broadly speaking, is the difference between a Cavialle-Coll and an 18thC job that far removed from the difference between something like Bristol Cathedral (a very good musical Romantic organ) and a G P England? It would be interesting (and, I'm sure, possible) to come up with a 'family tree' of instruments from the 18thC to today which demonstrate a common gene pool of aims and ideals, and from where the rogue siblings who left home early, lived fast, remained unmarried and died prematurely could be seen in context.

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There is an interesting comment by Francis Jackson in the latest Organists' Review. He is contemplating why Sir Edward Bairstow wrote no organ compositions between 1911 and 1937:

 

There may be a variety of reasons for his silence; the Great War, his move to York from Leeds in 1913, and his increasing involvement in many different activities, but it may also have been an underlying feeling that to write for the organ is difficult and that opportunities for giving recitals were rare, making it hardly worth the trouble. Recitals in churches were not as plentiful then as they are today now that the organ has increased so dramatically in popularity since its return to classical principles of design and voicing. There is little room for doubt that the heavy-pressure, leathered-diapason type of organ with its opaque, ponderous tones which, with the new century, was beginning to infect the scene and, carrying the seeds of its own destruction, eventually became a vehicle for providing sound rather than music. Thus did it not come about that in order to deal with the situation, the organist came to develop, as an essential part of his technique, the ability to change stops constantly in order to maintain interest and alleviate boredom...?

I wonder. Dr Jackson has of course watched the neo-Baroque come and go and this view sounds ever so slightly 1960s to me. Constant changing of stops was also a feature of German organ registration. The reason for it, surely, is not to cover up any supposed deficiencies in the organs, but because the musical style of the time demanded large and often lengthy crescendos and diminuendos so that organs came to be designed with this capability. The Romantic organ was an attempt to redesign a perfectly fit-for-purpose musical instrument so that it could cope with a style of music which was (and remains) foreign to its true nature. The French solved the problem better than anyone else, principally by never quite forgetting that the organ, however much it might be masquerading as an orchestra, was still an organ. This might also be true of the Germans to a lesser degree, but the British...?

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"There is little room for doubt that the heavy-pressure, leathered-diapason type of organ with its opaque, ponderous tones which, with the new century, was beginning to infect the scene"

(Quote)

 

Typical 1960 stuff, yes.

Now, what if I copied/pasted that sentence, replacing "heavy pressure" with "open toe",

"leathered Diapason" with "atrocely chiffing and weak Principals", "Opaque" with "screaming" ?

 

What? We would be at the same, useless point ? Of course!

 

Pierre

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
There is an interesting comment by Francis Jackson in the latest Organists' Review. He is contemplating why Sir Edward Bairstow wrote no organ compositions between 1911 and 1937:

 

What a smart quote and one which provides me this morning with as much sunshine in my study via the PC as comes from God through the window.

 

N

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"There is little room for doubt that the heavy-pressure, leathered-diapason type of organ with its opaque, ponderous tones which, with the new century, was beginning to infect the scene"

(Quote)

 

Typical 1960 stuff, yes.

Now, what if I copied/pasted that sentence, replacing "heavy pressure" with "open toe",

"leathered Diapason" with "atrocely chiffing and weak Principals", "Opaque" with "screaming" ?

 

What? We would be at the same, useless point ? Of course!

 

Pierre

 

It depends again on the voicing - it is not possible accurately to generalise in either case. My own instrument has open foot voicing; all the pipe-work sings in a most musical fashion (with the possible exception of the chamades). None of the principals are weak (or, for that matter, breathy). Only one flute (the Positive Gedeckt) has a slight chiff - certainly not pronounced enough to be irritating. Most importantly, none of the upper-work screams - the choruses are deeply satisfying and highly musical.

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It depends again on the voicing - it is not possible accurately to generalise in either case. My own instrument has open foot voicing; all the pipe-work sings in a most musical fashion (with the possible exception of the chamades). None of the principals are weak (or, for that matter, breathy). Only one flute (the Positive Gedeckt) has a slight chiff - certainly not pronounced enough to be irritating. Most importantly, none of the upper-work screams - the choruses are deeply satisfying and highly musical.

 

Sean, I meant it would be pointless if I wrote that.

 

"Tout ce qui est excessif est dérisoire".

 

Pierre

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It depends again on the voicing - it is not possible accurately to generalise in either case. My own instrument has open foot voicing; all the pipe-work sings in a most musical fashion (with the possible exception of the chamades). None of the principals are weak (or, for that matter, breathy). Only one flute (the Positive Gedeckt) has a slight chiff - certainly not pronounced enough to be irritating. Most importantly, none of the upper-work screams - the choruses are deeply satisfying and highly musical.

 

I thought only the Positive on yours was open toe? Certainly most of the choruswork is Victorian or older and, you will know as I went through a lot of it with you, retains its nicking, restricted feet and generous flues, along with other period features.

 

If we don't keep personal tastes and individual instruments out of this, then we will be going round in circles for ever.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
I think there is a temptation to regard some of the interesting diversions in organbuilding - whether involving leathered diapasons or Ralph Downes - as more than mere interesting quirks and actually part of the growth cycle. In much the same vein as the remarks above, I think that lurking behind these loudly-spoken extremes there is a chartable development in organbuilding, comparable with those on the continent, from the 18thC to now which is the one we ought to focus on, putting all personal preferences to one side. It hasn't all been about bandwagons. The comparison is always drawn between England and Germany in the period 1890-1940ish. It seems the French had the liveliest time of it during this period and that this would be a more interesting place to start. I've not seen a great many French Romantic organs in the flesh, so this is a serious question. Broadly speaking, is the difference between a Cavialle-Coll and an 18thC job that far removed from the difference between something like Bristol Cathedral (a very good musical Romantic organ) and a G P England? It would be interesting (and, I'm sure, possible) to come up with a 'family tree' of instruments from the 18thC to today which demonstrate a common gene pool of aims and ideals, and from where the rogue siblings who left home early, lived fast, remained unmarried and died prematurely could be seen in context.

 

I have a sense you are getting near to the crux of the matter here. What I really wanted to winkle out, though, was the extent to which the received wisdom that leads individuals to judge an organ 'good' or 'musical' really conditions the view of how effective an organ is in its context.

 

Musical/intellectual honesty may well be capable of providing tired and pedantic instruments that simply don't work, while putatively poorer instruments, in the right place, can give the 'wow' factor that I suspect music is at base meant to provide. Maintaining a balance between wisdom and effect is the hardest thing. Bristol Cathedral works because of a balance of workmanship, musicality, location and the skill of the musician who can develop an empathy with it so as to make it sing. It is not just the expertise but also the inspiration that leads the concert-goer to feel excited and the praying congregation to sense the divine presence.

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I thought only the Positive on yours was open toe? Certainly most of the choruswork is Victorian or older and, you will know as I went through a lot of it with you, retains its nicking, restricted feet and generous flues, along with other period features.

 

If we don't keep personal tastes and individual instruments out of this, then we will be going round in circles for ever.

 

I wrote 'my own instrument has open foot voicing' - which it does. I did not specify which ranks, to be strictly pedantic.

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I wrote 'my own instrument has open foot voicing' - which it does. I did not specify which ranks, to be strictly pedantic.

 

But you did go on to describe the qualities of the Principals and the choruses of the organ, to be a bit pedantic...

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