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Mander Organs
Peter Clark

Liszt Ad Nos

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I agree wholeheartedly with Vox Humana regarding tempo. When learning a new piece I usually feel the need,  after I have learnt the notes,  to listen to as many different recordings as I can, something which is now quite straightforward with a subscription to a service like Apple Music.

I am nearly always surprised by the range of tempos. In a few cases, a piece may be played by the fastest player at almost twice the speed of the slowest. I often wonder if it was actually possible to play Bach at the tempi adopted by many current performers, given the accounts in 18th century literature of the heaviness and stiffness of the action of many organs then. 

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19 hours ago, Zimbelstern said:

I agree wholeheartedly with Vox Humana regarding tempo. When learning a new piece I usually feel the need,  after I have learnt the notes,  to listen to as many different recordings as I can, something which is now quite straightforward with a subscription to a service like Apple Music.

I am nearly always surprised by the range of tempos. In a few cases, a piece may be played by the fastest player at almost twice the speed of the slowest. I often wonder if it was actually possible to play Bach at the tempi adopted by many current performers, given the accounts in 18th century literature of the heaviness and stiffness of the action of many organs then. 

I recall playing an old Smith organ in the Netherlands, which was harder work than my grandmother's mangle. Most are nothing like as bad, but the depth of key touch seems to be one of the limiting factors with many old instruments.

MM

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Connecting two elements of this discussion together - Johannes Geffert has done some research into accounts of Mendelssohn's organ playing by his contemporaries.  One of them relates that if he had assistants available he would request frequent changes of registration - even within phrases.  If that's true of a relatively conservative Romantic composer, surely Liszt would have been even more likely to have wanted frequent changes of colour if it were possible.  Of course that's potentially a dangerous road to go down, but as Liszt above almost all composers valued virtuosity and technical difficulty in performance, it's hard not to find his organ music a bit technically 'safe' compared to the piano music, and perhaps to conclude that bolder/ more frequent use of the pedals (like Straube in the Peters edition) is legitimate.   Anyway I've put it into a recital in November so maybe I should be careful what I say!

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On 16/07/2019 at 15:23, DariusB said:

'...but as Liszt above almost all composers valued virtuosity and technical difficulty in performance, it's hard not to find his organ music a bit technically 'safe' compared to the piano music, and perhaps to conclude that bolder/ more frequent use of the pedals (like Straube in the Peters edition) is legitimate. ....'

I believe it is true to say that Liszt was no virtuoso as far as pedal technique was concerned. (Unlike his keyboard technique which, as can be deduced from his piano compositions, was technically demanding.) As you have implied, the pedal parts of his organ works are generally much easier than the clavier parts.

 

I haven't seen the Straube edition, so I cannot comment objectively; I must try to track this down, and have a look.

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The original 1852 Breitkopf und Härtel edition is also on IMSLP.  That was scored for organ and piano duet but I can find no further information about it. I presume that would have been what was premiered in October 1852? I can find no references to an organ and piano version nor any recordings of this early version. Has anyone here every heard it played for organ and piano duet?

The Merseberg organ inauguration was in September 1855 and as BACH had not been completed in time, Ad nos was substituted. Do we know if that performance was an organ solo or another organ and piano duet? I remain unclear what if any organ solo version was approved by Liszt.

Of the three editions available on IMSLP (Peters edited by Straube, Schirmer edited by Bonnet and recently that of Gyula Pfeiffer) the latter appears to be most faithful to the original B&H score - for instance in the fugue where other editions interject pedal semiquaver passages, the Pfeiffer edition only uses pedals where they are obviously indicated or where the piano is also being used in the B&H score). That does have the effect of reducing the technical difficulty of the piece quite considerably too! Does that make this new online edition the most faithful to Liszt's Merseberg version I wonder? Or would Liszt have expected performers to take considerable liberties with playing lines on pedals or thumbing down the melodies in the Adagio (technically possible but you need to have a long stretch) etc?

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As far as i can work out, the B&H edition is not for organ and piano. Rather it is either for organ or two pianos. In the case of the two piano version, the first pianist plays the manual parts of the organ version, and the second pianist plays the two staves at the bottom of the score. The note on IMSLP seems to suggest that both versions are by Liszt, the with the organ version being the original. 

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