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Peter Clark

Liszt Ad Nos

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Mark, thanks for remembering my interest! I am still interested but have 2 recitals planned for early next year neither of which will be featuring Ad Nos as I am unsure of my capability at the moment! I have the Nicholas Kynaston recording - anybody else have that one?

 

Peter

 

Peter,

 

Which Kynaston recording ? There are two, (1) on the RAH (dating from the 1960s) and the other at Ingolstadt (from about 20 years later - cannot be more specific at the moment as most of my CDs are packed in boxes pending moving house.) I have both recordings although I have a preference for the former which is on LP, never having been reissued on CD as far as I am aware. In fact I have three different recordings of the Ad Nos at the RAH by (in order of recording) Nicolas Kynaston, Jennifer Bate and Gillian Weir. There must be distinct possibilities there for a comparative listening test for anyone with the time to undertake it since the players recorded at different stages in their respective careers and the organ was likewise caught at 3 stages of its evolution.

 

 

Good luck with your preparation. If you ever get to the stage of recording it let me know and I will buy a copy for my collection.

 

Brian Childs

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I am convinced that this is one of those pieces that is thrown away too many times by a flashy performance at too fast a speed when it has so much atmosphere to deliver at a broader pace - think Claudio Arrau rather than, say, Lang Lang.

 

 

Mark B

 

Apparently the first performance in Merseburg Cathedral took nearly three quarters of an hour. If you play that organ now, you will see why, but it is perhaps a little TOO slow...

 

but I quite agree with you. I recently heard a reading which took a mere 22 minutes. Technically staggering, musically negligible.

 

Cheers

barry

 

Icidentally, Michael Schönheit has recently recorded the piece in Merseburg at a (for him) relatively sedate pace. Excellent.

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Is no one going to put in a good word for the Dupre edition ? I have found virtually EVERYTHING about it to be admirable, esp. the registration suggestions.

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Guest Barry Williams
Is no one going to put in a good word for the Dupre edition ? I have found virtually EVERYTHING about it to be admirable, esp. the registration suggestions.

 

Whilst I agree- totally - the Dupre editions of anything bring showers of ridicule from many quarters these days. It is called fashion.

 

Barry Williams

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Peter,

 

Which Kynaston recording ? There are two, (1) on the RAH (dating from the 1960s) and the other at Ingolstadt (from about 20 years later - cannot be more specific at the moment as most of my CDs are packed in boxes pending moving house.) I have both recordings although I have a preference for the former which is on LP, never having been reissued on CD as far as I am aware. In fact I have three different recordings of the Ad Nos at the RAH by (in order of recording) Nicolas Kynaston, Jennifer Bate and Gillian Weir. There must be distinct possibilities there for a comparative listening test for anyone with the time to undertake it since the players recorded at different stages in their respective careers and the organ was likewise caught at 3 stages of its evolution.

Good luck with your preparation. If you ever get to the stage of recording it let me know and I will buy a copy for my collection.

 

Brian Childs

 

Brian, it is the Ingolstadt recording - NK came to Cardiff to have a look at the organ at St Peter's and gave me a copy as a "thank you". I agree with Barry about the excellence of the Dupre edition which really is an "all you need to know about Ad Nos but were afraid to ask" edition. Recording it?.... would that I had the confidence!

 

Peter

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Whilst I agree- totally - the Dupre editions of anything bring showers of ridicule from many quarters these days. It is called fashion.

 

Barry Williams

 

Are the Bornemann Dupre editions still in print? :mellow:

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I do not know, but a call to UMP would ascertain the position.

 

Culver Music could probably get scores for you:

 

http://www.culvermusic.piczo.com/?cr=7&rfm=y

 

Barry Williams

 

Thanks Barry - I had forgotten about UMP - I've now found their extensive catalogue

here

 

 

(PS thanks also for help on Stephen E T Lloyd)

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Resurrecting an old thread so to speak as I've set myself the task of learning Ad nos this year. I am struck by the plethora of editions and alternative options within editions. I've been looking at three versions so far - Peters,  Schirmer (edited by Bonnet) and a new edition by Gyula Pfeiffer published on imslp.com. I've also listened to a number of recordings and I don't think I've heard two with the same pedalings consistently. In some the first half of the fugue is manuals only, in others the pedals enter fairly early. The tremorous cadenzas later in the fugue are by some taken by left hand and others by pedals, or by a combination. In some versions the pedals or the manuals are an octave higher or lower than in others. Are any editions closer or further away from what Lizst intended, or did he leave the original vague in the hope that organists would add their own flourishes? Or is it up to the performer to figure out what is most playable to them and modify accordingly!

   

 

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Liszt wrote the piece in 1850 and sent it to Breitkopf & Härtel, who published it two years later. This edition - which is for organ and piano - is on IMSLP and presumably reflects what Liszt submitted. The only source more authoritative than that would be Liszt's autograph manuscript. Is that online anywhere? In the Breitkopf print the fugue starts on two staves without any indication of whether pedals are to be used, but, from the very quick glance I had, it appears that Liszt used the piano to double the pedal part throughout the whole piece. Since the piano doesn't enter in the fugue until it goes onto three staves on its third page, I think Liszt's intentions are clear enough.  Do the differences between the piano part and the organ pedals account for some of the variations in pedalling that you heard?  Pfeiffer's edition looks to be much neater and more user-friendly than the 1852 print, so I think I'd be inclined to compare the two minutely and, if Pfeiffer's proves to be a reliable transcript, use that.

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I can never understand why anyone would want to learn "Ad Nos" when there is Reger. My hobby horse is the Reubke....a far finer piece of writing, and written by someone so young!

What strikes me about the German romantic school is the general domination of the pianistic style, and although there are some who claim that Liszt marks the point where the composer's intentions take precedence over "interpretation", I'm not so sure.

For years, I would play the Reubke as it was written, until one day, I threw the copy to one side and played it all from memory. (I had done a lot of practise on it). It was a point of total release, and for the first time, I was being a proper musician. More importantly, it had an effect on people. You know you've got it right when you hear people talk about "Scary" and "Creepy" rather than "loud" or "fast".

I can't help but think that being a very good sight reader is actually a handicap with monumental tone-poems and the like.

If I were to learn (God forbid) the "Ad Nos", I think I'd be listening to a lot of recordings, and choosing what I considered the best ways of doing things.

Think piano rather than organ, and don't get too hung up on the "edition" used, and with any luck, it should end up sounding horribly like the Liszt
  "Ad nos".

MM

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18 minutes ago, MusoMusing said:

 there are some who claim that Liszt marks the point where the composer's intentions take precedence over "interpretation"

What a strange claim. The two are inseparable, with any music, of any era.  Any notion that the composers' own intentions simply aren't relevant is very bad practice IMO, as is adhering to them unthinkingly at all costs.  You are right, though, about performing from memory: it always produces better music.  I heard the other day that it was Clara Schumann who started that practice.  If more organists did it maybe, just maybe, the instrument might be held in better regard. Then again, who am I kidding?

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2 hours ago, Vox Humana said:

 You are right, though, about performing from memory: it always produces better music.  I heard the other day that it was Clara Schumann who started that practice.  If more organists did it maybe, just maybe, the instrument might be held in better regard. Then again, who am I kidding?

You’re not kidding anyone Vox! I’m completely in agreement with this and I see no real reason why organists should not play from memory. It frees the performance, you don’t need a page turner, it looks much more professional. There’s everything to gain. I wouldn’t expect it in the daily offices of course but a public recital, well that would most certainly raise the status. 

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I don't think it such a strange claim, because early music doesn't usually have dynamic markings, and tempi followed convention without being specified. Dynamics were usually restricted to "echo" sections, and apart from things like "Cornet Voluntaries", even the registration wasn't specified as a universal requirement. Bach's "Gigue Fugue" can be played slowly or quickly, and it would sound just as good played on flutes as it does using diapason choruses etc.  Therefore, there was a great deal of "interpretation" open to the performer, just so long as it didn't stray beyond certain boundaries of convention and good taste.

A century later, and specific dynamics, speed indications and registration were becoming ever more apparent, and by the time we reach the late 19th century, French music was very, very specific as to what the composer intended.
 

Of course, there is a further (technical) point, and that has to do with the changes and developments to the instrument. Listening to the great German repertoire of the 19th century back in the day, was probably more akin to hearing it played on a T C Lewis organ rather than a war-horse Arthur Harrison, and so whatever console we sit at, it is not going to be "authentic". I find it strange that no-one ever seems to discuss "historically informed" 19th century performance practice, and most of the Liszt performances I've ever heard, are way off the mark as a consequence.

 

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1 hour ago, Phoneuma said:

You’re not kidding anyone Vox! I’m completely in agreement with this and I see no real reason why organists should not play from memory. It frees the performance, you don’t need a page turner, it looks much more professional. There’s everything to gain. I wouldn’t expect it in the daily offices of course but a public recital, well that would most certainly raise the status. 

Well, of course, blind organists play from memory, and I count it one of the great privileges of my life to have heard Helmut Walcha play (twice) at the RFH.  Of living performers I have heard, there are David Liddle, also blind, and three Americans: Daniel Hathaway, Paul Jacobs and Nathan Laube who all played from memory.  Of British performers, most recently, and several times, Darius Battiwalla.  I’m sure there are others.  Carlo Curley played extensively from memory, but I’m not sure whether he might have used a score sometimes.

I believe that playing from memory is more common, even more usual, in the US.

In a completely different league, of course, didn’t Marcel Dupré play the complete works of Bach from memory?

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25 minutes ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

In a completely different league, of course, didn’t Marcel Dupré play the complete works of Bach from memory?

Paul Jacobs is in the same league as Dupré, or a higher one. He’s played the complete Bach organ works from memory and the complete Messiaen organ works from memory (in one day, I think—I caught Messe de la Pentecôte).

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4 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Well, of course, blind organists play from memory, and I count it one of the great privileges of my life to have heard Helmut Walcha play (twice) at the RFH.  Of living performers I have heard, there are David Liddle, also blind, and three Americans: Daniel Hathaway, Paul Jacobs and Nathan Laube who all played from memory.  Of British performers, most recently, and several times, Darius Battiwalla.  I’m sure there are others.  Carlo Curley played extensively from memory, but I’m not sure whether he might have used a score sometimes.

I believe that playing from memory is more common, even more usual, in the US.

In a completely different league, of course, didn’t Marcel Dupré play the complete works of Bach from memory?

I was privileged to have known Carlo Curley, and I suspect that 95% of the time, he played entirely from memory. The shocking thing was, you could throw a piece of music in front of him, and he would play as if he already knew it from memory. To hear him rattle his way through Gabriel Pierne, all from memory, at the age of what....maybe 18 or 19?  Stunning!

Some people are just destined to kick footballs like Georg Best, or drive a racing car like Lewis Hamilton. Carlo was like that, and admitted that he was useless at everything else. They are the sort of people who can probably never understand from where their talent comes.

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7 hours ago, MusoMusing said:

I find it strange that no-one ever seems to discuss "historically informed" 19th century performance practice

Actually that's not true, although I agree that few organists seem to. They are not alone. When I was at the RCM many decades ago, a lot of the students there - maybe most of them - wouldn't have had any time for it. They had arrived at the college already indoctrinated with a blinkered attitude that scholarship was inherently anti-musical and risked compromising their musicianship. For them it just wasn't at all relevant to how they played their instruments and they didn't see much point in understanding any more than the notation in front of them. But of course, none of them could ignore scholarship altogether and they were happy enough to suck it up so long as it came spoon-fed by their teachers in small, preferably unrecognisable doses.  Except, that is, for the singer, who once said to me, "I don't see why I should have to analyse the music I sing; it doesn't make me a better singer," but she really was beyond hope. I'm fairly sure that the organists were among the more enlightened students in this respect, but even they had their ostriches. I'd like to think that conservatoire students these days are more enlightened, but are they?  At least today's Oxbridge organ scholars must be (and I daresay always were). After all,  they'd hardly get their degrees by completely disregarding the whole concept of scholarship. I'm sure we could all name some organists who are very informed scholars indeed. And not only organists. Our concert platforms are full of greatly admired, yet very scholarly performers. Things are very different now compared to fifty years ago. but it's perfectly true that there is very little inclination to embrace 19th-century HIP.  I suspect the attitude is, "Would it really make enough difference to be worth the bother?" and, from the couple of examples I've heard, I'm not at all sure it would. Yet, for all that, it's really not true to say that "no one ever seems to discuss 'historically informed' 19th-century performances". If performers aren't interested, that's their business, but there's actually plenty of research and discussion going on.

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It's good to learn of this.  With the immense history of the organ, any student who cares to research it (or simply investigate what others have written) must know that the means of operation dictate certain things. The failure to understand the history can lead to all sorts of bizarre readings and interpretations, including those ludicrously fast performances of Bach in America, which are only possible due to fast actions and often very dead acoustics. When people play historic organs of the period, they soon learn.

The organs Liszt played and composed for, were still tracker action, with a limited range of immediate expression.

However, of far greater significance was Liszt's desire to leave an impression, for it seems that he was such a heart-throb, he used to receive countless requests for locks of his golden hair. Fortunately, he had a wolfhound with the same colour of fur...........🤣

 

MM

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37 minutes ago, MusoMusing said:

The failure to understand the history can lead to all sorts of bizarre readings and interpretations, including those ludicrously fast performances of Bach in America, which are only possible due to fast actions and often very dead acoustics. When people play historic organs of the period, they soon learn.

And don't forget the very considerable benefit of neat, modern, printed scores. Take one of these speed merchants - one who has had to become fluent in reading the soprano clef - give them a life-size facsimile of a Baroque manuscript to sight-read and see how fast they can play then.  Perhaps it's my ageing eyes, but some of those Bach P&Fs are almost unreadable at speed, even when you know the piece and have practised with the photograph a while.

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Very interesting reflections above. I believe the inaugural recital of Ad nos lasted around 40 minutes, compared to say 28 for Wayne Marshall's interpretation; I guess the mechanics of the Ladegast organ must have been a rate-imiting factor.

 

Returning to my original question, I must confess from the outset that Ad nos is one of my personal favourite pieces, and indeed far more so that the 94th Psalm or Liszt's BACH for instance. I have compared the original organ and piano manuscript with the three editions I have and I think it's fair to say the new online edition by Gyula Pfeiffer seems to mirror the organ part of the organ and piano score quite faithfully. Significantly for my specific question, it would suggest that the pedals do not enter in the fugue until the third page and the tearing cadenzas between the Adagio and the Fugue and splaying octaves should be manuals only (which makes things significantly easier too!) as there were neither pedals nor piano in the original score for those sections. Peter's edition demands the right hand holds down the chords whilst the left hand and pedals play the cadenzas - a more dramatic effect but this is not indicated in the original. The end result is that no two performances seems to be playing quite the same notes and depend on the version played from and I suppose how much extra "ad lib" one feels able to add.

 

Has anyone ever recorded the piano and organ original version? I'm not aware of any such recordings on Youtube, despite a number of organ plus orchestra arrangements, and it would be interesting to hear Liszt's original concept being played.

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On 11/07/2019 at 18:23, Rowland Wateridge said:

Well, of course, blind organists play from memory, and I count it one of the great privileges of my life to have heard Helmut Walcha play (twice) at the RFH.  Of living performers I have heard, there are David Liddle, also blind, and three Americans: Daniel Hathaway, Paul Jacobs and Nathan Laube who all played from memory.  Of British performers, most recently, and several times, Darius Battiwalla.  I’m sure there are others.  Carlo Curley played extensively from memory, but I’m not sure whether he might have used a score sometimes.

I believe that playing from memory is more common, even more usual, in the US.

In a completely different league, of course, didn’t Marcel Dupré play the complete works of Bach from memory?

Ken Cowan also performs from memory, just like his recital at St Pauls Cathedral, last thursday

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Well, I myself play Liszt's "Ad nos" which I started to learn in my early twenties. But being such a monumental work, in fact it was the first major piece from the 19th century that I wanted to learn, note perfect, but I wasn't able to commit it fully to memory for five years before I decided I was ready to perform it for the first time in public (although of course I was also learning many other pieces as well). To me, I still regard it as the greatest single organ work of the nineteenth century, maybe because I was so young when I first heard it at an organ concert at the Münsterbasilika in Bonn (organ: Klais 1961) that I decided that whatever else I did as an organist, I was going to learn and perform this piece and one day be able to perform it at a public concert. Since that time I have performed the Reubke Sonata from memory as well, but to me, although it is far more tightly wrought, it doesn't have the same emotional depth or impact that the genius Liszt could command. It's unfortunate that Reubke died so young aged 24 of TB, otherwise we can only wonder what other great organ works we now might have in the repertoire. I have always used the Peters/Straube edition as it was given to me as a 21st birthday present by an uncle so I don't really know much of any later editions, although I know that they do exist.

As regarding tempi in Baroque organ music: contemporary sources state the Bach himself would often perform pieces at an alarming rate. However, this doesn't mean that we need to think that meant charging through a prelude and fugue in order to get to the end in the fastest time possible. You also have to consider that Bach was a disciple of some of the best Northern German organists of his day, including Reincken, Lübeck, Bruhns and of course Buxtehude. However, the organs in Bach's homeland could never measure up to the instruments in the north of the country in size and completeness, although he had at several times tried to gain employment at several of the Hamburg churches, most notably at the St Jakobikirche in 1720. This might indicate his frustration on not having a really decent organ to play every day. His first organ at the Bonifaciuskirche in Arnstadt (today Bachkirche) his next organ at Mühlhausen, in which a preserved document gives details of his proposed rebuilding of the instrument, to his appointment as court organist at Weimar Schloss, all contained modest instruments prevalent in Thüringia at the time. Whether he intended to only play some of his greatest organ works on the instruments available to him at the time, or whether he was always thinking of the far superior northern organs in Hamburg, Lübeck, Stade and others we can only speculate.

The "ludicrously fast"  performances of Bach in America can really only be put down to one man, the rather strange Virgil Fox (1912-1980). This individual, in his style of organ playing and general demeanour was tremendously influential in his day, not  just on other organists but to a vast contingent of the concert-going American public as well. On one hand it can be said that he was able to bring the organ to a much wider audience than it had ever enjoyed since the early 17th century in Europe. But on the other hand, his style of organ playing was of a certain age, rooted in the 1930's American style. I attended three of his organ concerts in the late 70's when I was still a music student, including two played on the enormous 6 manual and pedal Wanamaker organ (c.28000 pipes) in Macy's department store in Philadelphia, where after the concert I was able to meet him and have an in depth chat. Although by the time I was able to meet him he was suffering terribly from the pancreatic cancer which would eventually kill him, his friendly demeanour and willingness to promote the organ to the mainstream musical public was undiminished. His style of playing Bach, however, was certainly very strange. The Toccata in F-Major (540) for instance would be first played on the full Swell with the box closed, then gradually opening it until the start of the first pedal solo when the 4', 8', 16', 32' and finally the Quint 21.2/3 reeds would be added one after the other just before the start. During both pedal solos he would dance around the bench, waiving his hands about as if performing some kind of ritualistic dance, before settling back down to perform the rest of the music, again with liberal use of the swell pedal along with crescendo and diminuendo effects. Despite all of this, I found him to be a genuinely sincere musician who only wanted to share his joy and love of the organ with the rest of the world.          

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15 hours ago, Ian van Deurne said:

As regarding tempi in Baroque organ music: contemporary sources state the Bach himself would often perform pieces at an alarming rate.

Do they?  I wasn't aware of this. I would be very interested to see the references.

The problem with descriptions like this is that it's always difficult to know exactly what people meant by the words they used. In 1616 Charles Butler described the countertenor voice (by which he meant nothing more than the voice we now call the tenor) as a 'sweet, shrill voice'. Shrill probably isn't how we would describe any tenor today, except perhaps an unpalatable one. It's hard to believe that the voices themselves were significantly different in 1616, but who knows?  At least his description of the tenor (i.e. baritone) voice as 'an ordinary voice' rings true enough.

For Bach, I'm aware of two contemporary references to his speed. In 1743 Constantin Bellermann described his testing the pedalboard of an organ at Cassel, when 'he ran over the pedals with this same facility, as if his feet had wings'. This means little. I remember a parishioner (who did play the organ a little) once marvelling at the way my feet appeared to fly over the pedalboard, but in fact what I had just finished playing was an unspectacular piece at a pretty ordinary speed. All we learn is that Bach had a very fluent pedal technique - which his music tells us anyway. One should also perhaps bear in mind that Bellermann, like Bach, was a mid-German and mid-German organists were not by and large noted for their spectacular pedal techniques. Simple chorale fughettas with simple pedal parts confined to just the final entry of the theme, or a final dominant pedal + tonic were more their style. There was a good reason why Silbermann's pedal departments were so basic. Bellermann also noted that Bach could, 'with his feet alone ... achieve an admirable, agitated and rapid concord of sounds on the church organ that others would seem unable to imitate it even with their fingers'. This needs to be read with the same caution. I'm sure we have all heard hyperbole dished out to really quite indifferent players (and indeed there's nothing wrong with encouraging people who are trying their best - not that I am suggesting that Bellermann's comments were quite in that league!)

The other reference I know is in a letter that Bach's pupil Johann Caspar Vogler wrote to the authorities at Görlitz when applying for the organist's post there. When he stated that, for speed of feet and hands, he was the one who came closest to Bach in Saxony, he was no doubt talking himself up, but he subsequently appeared in person, only to be rejected for upsetting the congregation and playing too fast. Any organist ought to hesitate before laying too much weight upon the views of church members about their organist's speeds, so, again, this report doesn't really amount to anything very definite

One can probably put more faith in Mozart's statement that, "I have taken particular care to write andante maestoso upon it, so that it should not be played fast – for if a fugue is not played slowly the ear cannot clearly distinguish the new subject as it is introduced and the effect is missed" - but, again, what exactly did 'slow' mean for Mozart?

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