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I understand that the prize for Improvisation was not awarded at the St Alban's Festival this year.

 

I don't tknow whether that is because no one entered or no one deserved it (in the ears of the judges).

 

Either way, what does it say about the state of the art of improvisation today?

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Guest Cynic
I understand that the prize for Improvisation was not awarded at the St Alban's Festival this year.

 

I don't tknow whether that is because no one entered or no one deserved it (in the ears of the judges).

 

Either way, what does it say about the state of the art of improvisation today?

 

I understand why you would care, but I wouldn't cry for the status of improvisation in this country yet.

 

Twenty years ago things were much, much worse. We now have recognised leaders in this field actually here in the (hide-bound and self-conscious) U.K.! Several institutions run proper classes, helpful practitioners regularly share their tips via in-depth articles in magazines and there is a smallish (but growing) number of artists who regularly exhibit these skills in what might be termed 'the French manner' i.e. finishing off a programme with a serious improv.

 

Think back only a few years: The St.Alban's judges have sometimes not awarded first prize in the playing contest (always their major draw). Did this mean that all playing (world-wide) was at a terminally low ebb that year? No - it was just the way that that particular cookie crumbled.

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I understand why you would care, but I wouldn't cry for the status of improvisation in this country yet.

 

Twenty years ago things were much, much worse. We now have recognised leaders in this field actually here in the (hide-bound and self-conscious) U.K.! Several institutions run proper classes, helpful practitioners regularly share their tips via in-depth articles in magazines and there is a smallish (but growing) number of artists who regularly exhibit these skills in what might be termed 'the French manner' i.e. finishing off a programme with a serious improv.

 

Think back only a few years: The St.Alban's judges have sometimes not awarded first prize in the playing contest (always their major draw). Did this mean that all playing (world-wide) was at a terminally low ebb that year? No - it was just the way that that particular cookie crumbled.

 

I think there is a tension in having an improvisation prize at St Alban's. Unless there is a competitor with rare talent and flair, it is unlikely that any of the competitors will have reached the stage of being a competent improviser. I think it was Pierce Piecemaille who said that it takes 15 years of hard work and practice to become a good improviser. Maybe St Albans should stick with the playing comp.

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Hope you don't mind me adding to this thread as I have a bit of a vested interest in the subject.

 

The improvisation competition at St Albans in my experience is a bit variable in the standard of the competitors from year to year. So we have had excellent winning improvisers in the past (Mourik in 05, Houssart in 03, and before them Baker, Briggs, Hakim, Bovet etc). This is only the third time since 1971 that the jury hasn't awarded the prize (and in 1999 the competition was cancelled due to a low standard of entrants).

 

In the end it's all down to what happens on the day. This year the two finalists didn't come up to a standard which would uphold the high standard of the competition which has been set over the years by players such as those named above. We wouldn't do the reputations of ourselves, the previous winners or any of the recent competitors any good by awarding a prize when the playing fell below an acceptable standard.

 

Where they fell down this year (and indeed where all the competitors in the semi-final except one) was in their ability to improvise within a disciplined style. This is something expected of concert improvisers if not often expected of liturgical improvisers. The prospectus was published 18 months ago but it was obvious that most hadn't done enough preparation, particularly in terms of style, harmony and counterpoint. Unfortunately the one player who did do this part particularly well then gave an extremely poor improvisation in the final - it just wasn't his day. Some need to learn that it's just not good enough at this level of competition to make all your improvisations in one style, with one basic idea.

 

On the whole I don't feel that it would serve the organ world well not to have an improvisation competition in the St Albans Festival. I'm sure it spurs young people on to improve their improvising skills, but I hope that any prospective competitors will note that relying on inspiration on the day rather than hard graft over a long period of time will inevitably mean they will be found out.

 

I hope this clarifies the situation.

 

Andrew

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In Haarlem the Jury of 2006 hesitated a little bit to award the prize, too. The solution was there to split the prize (not do double it), because not-awarding would have been a premiere and also not so good for the atmosphere. Ewald Kooiman clarified in his speech to the audience, that the jury would have liked to have a more "striking" performer, with more originality/ability. During the considerations, when this wish was expressed, Piet Kee answered (and I thought it was a wise statement), that the personality the jury was looking for would never be developed by people who are still at or close to the age of academy students.

 

In Germany, the first prize for an improvisation contest for liturgical playing in catholic services was awarded the last time in 1993, if I am right, and the competition was held every three years since then. I find it quite appropriate for a jury to express, that at a certain moment - a preliminary round or a final - no really fascinating improvisation was heard.

 

The general state of improvisation is as high as it never was during the last 60 years, I think. But, like in written compositions, it has become more and more difficult to sound original. Gifted players have adapted the styles of Messiaen and Cochereau quite far, blended them with other influences - but there are very few NEW Cochereaus, Messiaens etc. around... [Maybe this was the case in all history....]

 

By writing this post I happily catch up again to this community, having been off-line from broadband services for a month... writing now from my new office room, 100 ft away from "my" new IV/83 toy B)

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So the move is done now, Mr Kropf ?

The "new" organ deserves a thread !

 

Pierre

The move is done by 80%.... and the organ will receive its thread, but I'd like to provide a photo album comparable to Mr Lucas' work, and some audio samples, which will take some time. When started (I avoid the word "completed"....), it should be a presentation of some really impressive items.

 

To return to the topic, I hope to add to the state of the art of improvisation on this new duty! And as the instrument shows some problems (the first month I spent more time in it than at it...), improvisation becomes more often first choice then it would be on "better" (?) instruments or organs more easy to control...

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I hope this clarifies the situation.

Thank you for that background, Andrew. A thoroughly sound position to take, I would have thought.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

Competitions are peculiar affairs, and especially for the Art/Discipline of Improvisation. Improvisation is an opportunity (I suggest) for a musician to provide and inspire the listener with the best possible music they can. Therefore, the muse must be enabled and the soul, calmed - yet excited by the prospect of creating something special which is their personality. Competitions can nullify the inspiration and thus to win for many people, it is a physiological test and not so much a musical one. Sadly, we live in an age of competitiveness and a gladiatorial situation is thrust into the public domain for which people then pay money. The transcendental beauty that improvisers attain when playing for Liturgy or a Concert is the real thing, if we are honest. But competitions provide 'spotlights' and publicity, so we have them. And some students are bred by teachers to fly their professional flag, which smacks of the chivalry age I think. What is often so fine that comes from competitions is the lasting friendship that the candidates make and which is sporadically renewed as they mature and crisscross the globe.

The other thing is that some players try to be clones of successful and personal improvisers from the past and therefore show very little of themselves. Phrasing, articulation, sonority and Form are all bound together in Performance. Cloning a successful style of performance/harmony/dazzle from the past that was made famous by one player (or the present for that matter), is to me the musical equivalent of doing a 'Rory Bremner'. I blame recordings for that. Producing 'your' style was arguably easier in the past as development automatically ensued from the study of other people's compositions and the assimilation of differing national or city (such as Venezia) styles. If a player plays from the soul without trying to impress (in a flash way, of course) then we are with them and can ourselves be transported by the fusion of player, instrument and occasion.

It is most strange to hear the 'tricks of the trade' when listening to or judging Improvisation competitions. One teacher armed his students with a recipe for a Countersubject that would go with almost anything. How strange it is to hear it twice in a competition when all the candidates are anonymous and have to walk in guarded procession from another building! And to cap it all you go to another country and hear it pop up all over again. Such a laugh. Such a sadness.

 

All the best,

Nigel

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I think there is a tension in having an improvisation prize at St Alban's. Unless there is a competitor with rare talent and flair, it is unlikely that any of the competitors will have reached the stage of being a competent improviser. I think it was Pierce Piecemaille who said that it takes 15 years of hard work and practice to become a good improviser. Maybe St Albans should stick with the playing comp.

The St Albans site says that the finalists for the improvisation contest were David Franke and Jean-Baptiste Dupont who according to the souvenir programme were 26 and 27 respectively so they may not have got in the requisite 15 years.

In the programme it provides a two page audience guide on factors that are important in the interpretation competition. Perhaps it would be a good idea to provide something similar for the improvisation contest - so that it could be better appreciated.

 

I think it was highly commendable and brave progamming that about 70 % of the music in the 2005 series of 6 recitals at Farnborough Abbey was improvised on plainsong chants sung by the Abbey monks.

 

And this is a good point to mention that the magnificent Cavaille Coll organ at the Abbey can be heard this Sunday at 3:00 pm Farnborough Abbey in a concert of romantic French music - although there is no improvisation. :unsure: Saint Sulpice in Hampshire..... :rolleyes:

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And this is a good point to mention that the magnificent Cavaille Coll organ at the Abbey can be heard this Sunday at 3:00 pm Farnborough Abbey in a concert of romantic French music - although there is no improvisation. :unsure: Saint Sulpice in Hampshire..... :rolleyes:

 

 

Er.....!

 

After Aristide's death in 1899, the firm was taken over by his pupil, Charles Mutin, who bought the goods and equipment of the Cavaille-Coll company. In France, it was not the accepted practice to take over the name of a company in such circumstances, but greatly against the wishes of the Cavaille-Coll family, Mutin did not worry and continued to produce his `Cavaille-Coll' organs.

 

This does means that there are quite a number of alleged Cavaille-Coll organs around, including it is believed, the Farnborough Abbey Organ which was built in 1906, that are really Mutin organs.

 

Let us hear the comments on this one please.

 

FF

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Charles Mutin, who bought the goods and equipment of the Cavaille-Coll company.

 

 

Along with the equipment Mutin would have got the patterns and craftsmen, which would go a long way to carry on with the Cavaille Coll style of instrument.

 

But the organ at Farnborough Abbey was delivered in 1906 - and was not new - I think this was mentioned in an old posting.

 

(I knew someone would say it is a Mutin not Cavaille Coll!)

 

Anway it certainly sounds like a Cavaille Coll, and is more effective than instruments three times the size - you should go to the next recital!

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Hope you don't mind me adding to this thread as I have a bit of a vested interest in the subject.

 

The improvisation competition at St Albans in my experience is a bit variable in the standard of the competitors from year to year. So we have had excellent winning improvisers in the past (Mourik in 05, Houssart in 03, and before them Baker, Briggs, Hakim, Bovet etc). This is only the third time since 1971 that the jury hasn't awarded the prize (and in 1999 the competition was cancelled due to a low standard of entrants).

 

In the end it's all down to what happens on the day. This year the two finalists didn't come up to a standard which would uphold the high standard of the competition which has been set over the years by players such as those named above. We wouldn't do the reputations of ourselves, the previous winners or any of the recent competitors any good by awarding a prize when the playing fell below an acceptable standard.

 

Where they fell down this year (and indeed where all the competitors in the semi-final except one) was in their ability to improvise within a disciplined style. This is something expected of concert improvisers if not often expected of liturgical improvisers. The prospectus was published 18 months ago but it was obvious that most hadn't done enough preparation, particularly in terms of style, harmony and counterpoint. Unfortunately the one player who did do this part particularly well then gave an extremely poor improvisation in the final - it just wasn't his day. Some need to learn that it's just not good enough at this level of competition to make all your improvisations in one style, with one basic idea.

 

On the whole I don't feel that it would serve the organ world well not to have an improvisation competition in the St Albans Festival. I'm sure it spurs young people on to improve their improvising skills, but I hope that any prospective competitors will note that relying on inspiration on the day rather than hard graft over a long period of time will inevitably mean they will be found out.

 

I hope this clarifies the situation.

 

Andrew

 

A very sound position to take. Had I been a competitor (with pigs listening to my efforts from overhead) I certainly wouldn't have wanted to win under false pretences, with folk saying "yes, but it was a thin year that year, wasn't it?"

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Hi Douglas

 

Thanks for the notice.

 

Lawrence, his mum and I went. Lovely venue, wonderful organ, great recital.

 

All in all, a beautiful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

 

Best wishes

 

barry

 

SNIP

I think it was highly commendable and brave progamming that about 70 % of the music in the 2005 series of 6 recitals at Farnborough Abbey was improvised on plainsong chants sung by the Abbey monks.

 

And this is a good point to mention that the magnificent Cavaille Coll organ at the Abbey can be heard this Sunday at 3:00 pm Farnborough Abbey in a concert of romantic French music - although there is no improvisation. :mellow: Saint Sulpice in Hampshire..... :o

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Guest Barry Williams
And this is a good point to mention that the magnificent Cavaille Coll organ at the Abbey can be heard this Sunday at 3:00 pm Farnborough Abbey in a concert of romantic French music - although there is no improvisation. :mellow: Saint Sulpice in Hampshire..... :o

Er.....!

 

After Aristide's death in 1899, the firm was taken over by his pupil, Charles Mutin, who bought the goods and equipment of the Cavaille-Coll company. In France, it was not the accepted practice to take over the name of a company in such circumstances, but greatly against the wishes of the Cavaille-Coll family, Mutin did not worry and continued to produce his `Cavaille-Coll' organs.

 

This does means that there are quite a number of alleged Cavaille-Coll organs around, including it is believed, the Farnborough Abbey Organ which was built in 1906, that are really Mutin organs.

 

Let us hear the comments on this one please.

 

FF

 

It is one (if not THE) most beautiful organs I have ever played. Everything sounded perfect on it, most especially the Dupre Variations. The sound is simply stunning. I have not heard it since the restoration.

 

Barry Williams

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It (the organ at Farnborough Abbey) is one (if not THE) most beautiful organs I have ever played. Everything sounded perfect on it, most especially the Dupre Variations. The sound is simply stunning. I have not heard it since the restoration.

 

Barry Williams

 

You would like it even more now. The restored organ has a completed Plein-jeu IV , whose pipes were previously missing. The former gold front pipes have been toned down with dignified brown and green foliage designs. Lots of pictures and specification here Farnborough Abbey

 

PS To Justadad Barry

 

Quote Hi Douglas

Thanks for the notice.

Lawrence, his mum and I went. Lovely venue, wonderful organ, great recital.

All in all, a beautiful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Best wishes

barry

 

It was a superb afternoon and with an improvisation. I hope you also managed to visit the Abbey Shop – packed with plainsong manuals and CDs, not to mention Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis (Authorised Version… :mellow: ) available off the shelf!!!

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'Pouring with rain - kids occupied downstairs, wife at work - 'found this - exciting stuff!! Check out his 'Overture Libanese' (anyone here play this?) and the Messaien that appear as 'choices' on the RHS also. I find his music reasonably accessible from a listeners POV - there are certainly links back to Langlais, Dupre, Vierne etc.

 

AJJ

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