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alan taylor

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We have been moaning for months on this discussion forum about the lack of any organ recitals at the RAH, and now we've got one. So everybody happy then? Well, not exactly!

 

I know its churlish, but having receiving in the post a Stop Press notice about the organ recital at the RAH and done a few celebratory cartwheels, my heart sunk like a stone when I saw that it was to be given by the ubiquitous Dame Gillian Weir. As I said, churlish, and of course typically English in having to find something else to moan about. The programme, by the way is:

 

Elgar: Allegro maestoso from Organ Sonata in G

Liszt: Fantasia and Fugue on 'Ad nos'

- Interval -

Elgar: Nimrod from 'Enigma Variations' (arr. Harris)

Liszt: St Francis of Paola Walking on the Waves (trans. Rogg)

Howells: Rhapsody No. 3

Ives: Variations on 'America'

Bovet: Hamburger Totentanz

Vierne: Final from 'Symphonie I'

 

Anyone who has already purchased the Priory CD of Dame Gillian playing the RAH organ will know that the 2 Liszt works, the Elgar and Howells are common to both. By the time we reach 26 October, Dame Gillian will already have played most of the works in the RAH recital and CD at her other UK engagements in 2005 such as Belfast, Leicester, Lichfield and St Paul's Cathedrals. Check out her engagements at http://www.gillianweir.com/ if you want confirmation of this.

 

Having been to hear Dame Gillian Weir at Armley and Bridgewater Hall in recent years, I had had growing doubts about her ability to handle such large instruments in repertoire which requires many stop changes. For me, this was backed up by the evidence on the CD, where, contrary to the fawning reviews the disc has been receiving, I thought there were some decidedly odd and abrupt registrations, particularly in the Liszt 'Ad nos' and Cook Fanfare.

 

This is treasonable stuff, and I know I am well out on a limb in what I have had to say in this posting. Nevertheless, and with all due respect to Dame Gillian, was there really no one else of similiar stature who could have been engaged?

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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I am the organist at St James the Greater in Leicester who engaged Dame Gillian Weir for her recital on 11th June.

 

Would like to assure all readers of this board, writing as a professional organist, that Dame Gillian had no difficulties whatsoever in handling complex registration schemes on the large Taylor/Walker/Nicholson organ at St James the Greater.

 

Her recital at St James did indeed feature a small number works from the recent RAH CD namely Parry's Toccata and Fugue, Cook's Fanfare and the Lanquetuit Toccata. However I personally can not see the problem of an artist using their live performances to promote their recordings. Her recital was so well received that numerous copies of the RAH CD were sold after the recital.

 

Speaking personally, from the quality of her recent performances I’m very much looking forward to hearing one of the world’s finest organists perform on one of the world's finest organs.

 

Mark Batten.

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I don't think I will be trying to keep up with the Joneses on this one.

 

Jeremy is very much entitled to his opinion of course (and I am no judge to make a credible comment) . Dame Gill is a National (almost Imperial) Treasure of course, and criticism is practically treason so Jeremy you are probably a marked man by now and MI6 will have you on their radar.

 

We have though, in this country, a vast amount of talent amongst our domestic organists, not to mention more exotic specimens like Messrs Curley and Latry, all of whom would entrance current and future organ affecionados with a variety of music for with the RAH could do stunning service. It is therefore sad (and I agree with Mark), that the first and only real organ music concert is 50% of what we have already heard on the CD (stunning (fawn fawn fawn and more unashamed fawning) though it is).

 

I suspect the problem for tha RAH, is finding dates when the hall is either not being sued for an event, or being transformed for one. This probably makes my next point somewhat redundant (but here goes anyway) .

 

I am not one of those for whom anything other than Bach, Rheinberger or Buxtehude is anathema. I like and enjoy noisy town hall transcriptions. I like to hear the organ engaged in a vulgar battle with an orchestra, as well as hearing in more subtly interwoven with one.

 

If the RAH are planning programmes for orchestra with the organ in dramatic mode, , why not consider Bax's Christmas Eve, or Vaughan Williams' Sinfonia Antarctica (for the Proms next year???) . Why not think about a Lunchtime Town Hall thing, with orchestral transcriptions (or lure in kids with Cinema themes like Starwars or whatever). Let EVERYBODY who wants to enjoy the organ enjoy it in the way that THEY want to, without anybody getting sniffy about it.

 

I suspect that there isn't the time on the schedule (or is the will and confidence to find the time?).

 

I am looking forward to the concert on 26th. The CD cannot compare with the organ live - so if you have not heard it live - even if you hate the music on the programme - go anyway - it will be electrifying, even with Dame Gillian's lumpy registrations (Jeremy - you've got a crack in your CD I think, love).

 

Jeremy maybe a bit cummodgeonly, but he has in my humble (joking) opinion got a very good point.

 

love and peace (at least on the Discussion Board).

 

Bill

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Guest Roffensis

Well there's one to miss, and how very sad that it is is full of dulpications of the recording. To be honest, as an organist it takes a very long time for me to actually persuade myself to go to recitals at all, sitting on the inside of the fence, I get to hear and play quite enough, and it takes a truly dazzling and obscure programme to get me out to one. When you consider the wealth of little played organ works out there, it makes the RAH recital a great pity, not to say a damp squib. To me its a bit like film stars, people go because its so and so, forget the programme, and as long as you get plenty of Tuba and 32 foot reeds you're in. The Ad Nos needs firmly putting out to grass anyhow, and Nimrod should come with fitted kleenex while we all ponder Wenlock Ridge. Or am I just being cynical? what me? again!?

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Guest Roffensis
I am the organist at St James the Greater in Leicester who engaged Dame Gillian Weir for her recital on 11th June.

 

Would like to assure all readers of this board, writing as a professional organist, that Dame Gillian had no difficulties whatsoever in handling complex registration schemes on the large Taylor/Walker/Nicholson organ at St James the Greater. 

 

Her recital at St James did indeed feature a small number works from the recent RAH CD namely Parry's Toccata and Fugue, Cook's Fanfare and the Lanquetuit Toccata.  However I personally can not see the problem of an artist using their live performances to promote their recordings.  Her recital was so well received that numerous copies of the RAH CD were sold after the recital.

 

Speaking personally, from the quality of her recent performances I’m very much looking forward to hearing one of the world’s finest organists perform on one of the world's finest organs.   

 

Mark Batten.

 

Nope cannot agree. There are a host of top notch recitalists that could and should have been long asked to play the RAH before Ms. Weir was buttonholed. She is not I think the resident organist, and it would be nice to hear others on it, and bring out some colour and registration changes. The Cd is ok, but lets be quite honest, it needs plugging, its just not top notch. The Languetuit Toccata is very pslashy and badly phrased, and it is also full of mistakes. Sorry to be a pain, buts its fact. New blood is the order of the day, and we have a lot of excellent cathedral and concert organists who well deserve attention. Variety is the spice of life.

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Guest Roffensis

Well I for one back Jeremy, he is well within order and it is quite true. Someone had to have the guts to say it. Treason? we are still a free country!!! I think.....

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we are still a free country!!! I think.....

 

...............we could debate that one for years dear. We do seem to have lost our sense of humour though - never heard so much starch crackling since prep school (300 years ago)..

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Guest Roffensis

we are still a free country!!! I think.....

 

...............we could debate that one for years dear. We do seem to have lost our sense of humour though - never heard so much starch crackling since prep school (300 years ago)..

 

Is htat any way to talk about the RAH organ? but i do know what you mean! It is very brassy.

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  • 2 months later...
There is to be an organ recital at the RAH by Gillian Weir on Wednesday 26th October at 7.45.

 

Tickets will be on sale from July 1st. Phone number 0207 589 8212 or

www.royalalberthall.com

 

Alan

My grumble about the ubiquitous Dame GW giving the RAH recital in October notwithstanding, I cannot pass this opportunity to go and hear the old dear (the RAH organ) in the flesh. So..... I have heard that the best place to hear the organ in all its splendour and majesty is in the Circle opposite the organ, i.e. at the back of the hall. Is this right? Grateful for some advice from those in the know.

 

Many thanks.

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I have heard that the best place to hear the organ in all its splendour and majesty is in the Circle opposite the organ, i.e. at the back of the hall. Is this right? Grateful for some advice from those in the know.

 

Many thanks.

 

 

Spot on! I sat in the centre of the front row of the Circle for the re-opening concert last year. The sound hits you right between the eyes - I was amazed by the absolute clarity of sound, no doubt helped by the fact that the wretched orchestral canopy was raised up out of the way. And the power of full organ is simply amazing. Hope you enjoy it.

 

JS

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Anyone who has already purchased the Priory CD of Dame Gillian playing the RAH organ will know that the 2 Liszt works, the Elgar and Howells are common to both. By the time we reach 26 October, Dame Gillian will already have played most of the works in the RAH recital and CD at her other UK engagements in 2005 such as Belfast, Leicester, Lichfield and St Paul's Cathedrals. Check out her engagements at http://www.gillianweir.com/ if you want confirmation of this.

 

This touches on something that has bugged me for some time, namely that some of the top concert organists in the UK seem to hawk around the same works from recital to recital for months on end.

 

You hear them play a recital somewhere. Some months later you notice they are playing somewhere else, and you perhaps fancy going, but when you see the programme, half the works (or more!) are the same.

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This touches on something that has bugged me for some time, namely that some of the top concert organists in the UK seem to hawk around the same works from recital to recital for months on end.

 

You hear them play a recital somewhere.  Some months later you notice they are playing somewhere else, and you perhaps fancy going, but when you see the programme, half the works (or more!) are the same.

 

 

I do not think there is anything very new about this, nor is it confined to organists. Do not concert pianists concentrate on one or two of their repertoire concertos during a season ? What has changed now is not the behaviour of artistes but the mobility of the audience. Widespread car ownership has brought about the situation where enthusiasts have (or at least had until the recent rocket like rise in petrol prices) the means to travel considerable distances which would not have been so even 50 years ago, so they can now notice what they never would have a generation or two ago. In the days of music hall an artist could travel the country with the same act for years : that was why a number were quite unable to make the transition to radio and later TV with their incessant demand for fresh material when they became the principal purveyors of variety entertainment. So if only half the works are the same perhaps one should consider oneself lucky...

 

Brian Childs :angry: B):(

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I think mobility of the audience is indeed the key factor here, although speaking for myself, this by train rather than car. It does make sense for a recitalist to repeat the same programme, or aspects of it, at different venues, but with some recitalists you do need to be careful as their repertoire can be quite small. Funnily enough, I think this is more of a problem with concert organists, e.g. Gillian Weir, Simon Preston, Thomas Trotter, Jane Parker-Smith. With cathedral organists, and by this I mean the Assistant or Sub-Organist (the real organist, if you may), they need to have a much larger repertoire on the go at any one time. As ever, it is always best to check what is on the programme before travelling long distances, though that can be easier said than done, when you have a greater chance of uncovering state secrets than what's being played at a recital.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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I think mobility of the audience is indeed the key factor here, although speaking for myself, this by train rather than car. It does make sense for a recitalist to repeat the same programme, or aspects of it, at different venues, but with some recitalists you do need to be careful as their repertoire can be quite small. Funnily enough, I think this is more of a problem with concert organists, e.g. Gillian Weir, Simon Preston, Thomas Trotter, Jane Parker-Smith. With cathedral organists, and by this I mean the Assistant or Sub-Organist (the real organist, if you may), they need to have a much larger repertoire on the go at any one time. As ever, it is always best to check what is on the programme before travelling long distances, though that can be easier said than done, when you have a greater chance of uncovering state secrets than what's being played at a recital.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

 

 

Yes, organists of cathedral and the greater parish churches don't normally suffer from this problem. A few months ago my organ teacher gave two recitals in two days at locations 100 miles apart. I suggested to him that he would be giving the same programme twice. In fact, there was only one work common to the two recitals.

 

It irritates me, too, as a recital-goer that it is so difficult to find out what works are to be performed at some venues. On the other hand, I am involved in publicising a recital series, and I can tell you that getting programmes out of the performers can be quite a challenge sometimes.

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Guest Leathered-Lips
Yes, organists of cathedral and the greater parish churches don't normally suffer from this problem.  A few months ago my organ teacher gave two recitals in two days at locations 100 miles apart.  I suggested to him that he would be giving the same programme twice.  In fact, there was only one work common to the two recitals.

 

It irritates me, too, as a recital-goer that it is so difficult to find out what works are to be performed at some venues.  On the other hand, I am involved in publicising a recital series, and I can tell you that getting programmes out of the performers can be quite a challenge sometimes.

 

What caused the cypher at the RAH for the Dame's recital earlier this evening?

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Guest Leathered-Lips
Ah! You're back.

 

Yes, I got banned for being a naughty, naughty girl.

 

I was hoping to read others views about the rectial, but nobody seems to have put anything up yet, I'm sure that will change.

 

Edited by moderator for irrelevance.

 

Organ seemed to have a very good Swell, (best bit of it), tubas quite fat with not particularly good starting transients, there was also some thin scratchy solo reed of some description. Some strings very keen, but the organ had some lovely quieter stops. Clarinet and Vox Humana several pipes almost sounding sheeplike (mid g#/a), as they were released. Tuning at the the top of the compass not all that good either which showed on the quieter passages.

 

From where I was sitting very little of the pedal could be heard unless the reeds were on which made the organ sound all top and out of balance with the bass. There was very little bass vibration through the floor probably due to acoustics so some of the excitement was lost there. I could not hear any rattling pilliars caused by a nice open wood or anything like that.

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I was hoping to read others views about the recital, but nobody seems to have put anything up yet; I'm sure that will change.

 

Organ seemed to have a very good Swell, (best bit of it), tubas quite fat with not particularly good starting transients, there was also some thin scratchy solo reed of some description. Some strings very keen, but the organ had some lovely quieter stops. Clarinet and Vox Humana several pipes almost sounding sheeplike (mid g#/a), as they were released. Tuning at the the top of the compass not all that good either which showed on the quieter passages.

 

From where I was sitting very little of the pedal could be heard unless the reeds were on which made the organ sound all top and out of balance with the bass. There was very little bass vibration through the floor probably due to acoustics so some of the excitement was lost there. I could not hear any rattling pillars caused by a nice open wood or anything like that.

 

I was disappointed and had been expecting something which sounded much more impressive. Acoustics aren't lively which doesn't help. . .

 

 

But what do you want, Edna (or "leathered lips" (don't you just hate it when people don't give their true names)). Where were you sitting? I heard the Pedal clearly enough, sitting in the Circle, to the left of the organ (door W).

 

I also heard the cypher (in America), and it did seem to take a long time to go away. I do not agree about Full Organ which (apart from being as loud as anyone could want), also had more brilliance than is sometimes found.

 

I am intrigued that Edna 'missed' the "rattling pillars caused by a nice Open Wood. . ." I prefer the building not to move, or rattle, when a heavy bass is being played, for fear that it suggests (or, for that matter, causes) structural weaknesses, but each to his own. . .

 

A few pipes, mainly high pitched ones, were indeed out of tune.

 

More seriously, I also found Dame Gillian's registration in the 'Ad Nos', when she reduced (considerably) towards the end of the second loud section (just before the extended quiet passage). Surely (in addition to being against the (admittedly scanty) registration notes provided by the composer), this is against the spirit of the music? Is this what Jeremy Jones (Jun 23rd) meant?

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Guest Roffensis

Well I cannot really comment, as I did not bother myself to treck down there to hear that organ. Bear in mind I am quite spoilt with Liverpool Cathedral and St Georges Hall, the latter which is the finest of the three. Pity there is not so much enthusiasm to have AP or SGH restored.

What exactly the justification is for restoring the RAH I don't know, it is not a fine sound at all. Having heard it prior to it's last rehash, I never have waxed lyrical about it. It always did sound "splashy" and "wirey" and does not have the "eclat" one would expect. Nor any majesty or grandness. It only has power, but that isn't anything to get excited about. So does a pneumatic drill. The 1926 work certainly did spoil it, and it must have been a nightmare to actually decide what to do with it tonally in the rebuild. It isn't musical, and on that I can comment, as it was apparently faithfully restored to it's previous sound. It will ever be a curiosity, and nothing more or less. It quite reminds me of an overgrown Harmonium. Fuzzy and way too brassy,and frankly quite vile. No ringing Diapasons, and no real musicality either. Sad, but at least there was a faithful restoration of what is there. For my money, I will continue to support Alexandra Palace, knowing that this has the potential to be our very finest concert organ.

It is sad that the RAH cyphered, but these things do happen, and given it's size it was a fair bet it would let itself down somehow. Personally I see it a waste of money that should have gone on Alexandra Palace hands down.

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I was in the Circle - front row door X.

 

Frankly I was a bit disappointed. The playing was definitely less hot than i have heard from DGW on previous occasions - the fluffs in Nimrod had me getting all sweaty and anxious for the rest of the evening!

 

The cypher in America was odd - at first I thought it was something to do with the air conditioning (maybe it was), but it quite upset the softer bits of that piece (which i don't like anyway).

 

Dame Gillian did show off the organ though. I doubt it has ever been heard in quite the same exhibitorial (if there is such a word) way before. She realy went through the stop list, at the risk of complicating the registrations for herself.

 

I loved the Orchestral Trumpets slicing through in the later moments of Nimrod and the fanfares in St Francis. The full organ with Tubas and Great Harmonics was actually a bit frightening, and we never got a blast of full organ after that - even in the enocore (by which I felt that the good Dame was exhausted). I know what Leathery Lips means about the pedal. There seemed to be less opens woods and 32' than I have heard in recent concerts, but it wasn't exactly in short supply from where I was sitting. I also felt the Diapasons had more of an airing in the many and varied ranks than I have been aware of before.

 

There was some tuning "features", most strikingly in the encore when a Swell read seemed to be compalining about the lateness of the hour and the heat in the upper reaches of the hall.

 

It was a good night and I thoroughly enjoyed myself (as did my other half who doesn't even like organ music). I would have been happier if I had felt that the performance was really up to scratch and sadly it fell a bit short of my expectations.

 

It also showed me how good the CD is in capturing the sound of the organ.....but more importantly....the real thing is infinitely better!

 

Will

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

quote:

I am intrigued that Edna 'missed' the "rattling pillars caused by a nice Open Wood. . ." I prefer the building not to move, or rattle, when a heavy bass is being played, for fear that it suggests (or, for that matter, causes) structural weaknesses, but each to his own. . .

 

 

 

 

If you have ever experienced the feeling of the floor shaking - near a powerful instrument (or - God Forfend! - by standing near a powerful Disco set-up) this is not due in any way to the floor actually shaking.

 

This sensation is caused by the close proximity of the pulse in your ear to your balance mechanism.

 

This is one of the reasons why pop music (for instance) works best when played loudly. In addition, Popular music is deliberately designed to have a faster beat than anyone's natural pulse at rest. It is a fact that if such music is played loudly enough, a listener's heart rate climbs to match it. This becomes an active irritant to the old and a (legal) stimulus to the young. I don't care for much pop music (still less for 'pop-style worship music) but at least there's one 'high' that is still legal.

 

In organ music terms, this explains why certain speeds are exciting and others (maybe even faster) are not - they become either 'over the head' or irritant; and why a nice loud organ rarely fails to impress in a purely physical way.

 

It is nice to reflect that a decent sized pipe organ scores over any disco, because our (well-made) bass notes are so much more effective in creating decent sound-waves than any loudspeaker.

 

If the manufacturers of electronic organ-subsitutes put their money into serious loudspeaker research, the competition might be a bit more worrying for pipe organ crafstmen. For all the latest developments, this is the missing link.

How do you like Allen's advertising claim 'the most sucdessful organ builder in history'. {Thinks: what about Schnitger, Cavaille-Coll, Willis....?]

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