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Théorbe


Malcolm Farr
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Pardon my ignorance, but can anyone tell me what a "théorbe" is?

 

Rgds

MJF

 

No. I recently played an organ which had one (St Lorenz in Nuremberg, Steinmeyer 1937) but even after trying it out I wasn't sure what it was - some sort of bundle of mutations, it seemd; but it was only working on about 50% of the notes, and those were so quiet that it was difficult to establish anything at all.

 

Come to think of it, I have never played an organ with so many stops of which I'd never previously heard. Ever come across a "Lurenbass" before? Or a Meerflaut?

 

http://www.kirchenmusik-st-lorenz.de/orgeln/haupt.php?nav=2

 

B

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No. I recently played an organ which had one (St Lorenz in Nuremberg, Steinmeyer 1937) but even after trying it out I wasn't sure what it was - some sort of bundle of mutations, it seemd; but it was only working on about 50% of the notes, and those were so quiet that it was difficult to establish anything at all.

 

Come to think of it, I have never played an organ with so many stops of which I'd never previously heard. Ever come across a "Lurenbass" before? Or a Meerflaut?

 

http://www.kirchenmusik-st-lorenz.de/orgeln/haupt.php?nav=2

 

B

Perhaps I ought to have asked what a théorbe is meant to be!

 

Rgds

MJF

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The stop (on a Pedal division at least) sounds a little like the collection of mutations added at the last rebuild at Gloucester Cathedral (or the Pedal Septerz at the RFH with the Quint added). PCND is familiar also I think with the similar bundle at Notre Dame in Paris - here also they draw individually - maybe he can add more.

 

AJJ

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Pardon my ignorance, but can anyone tell me what a "théorbe" is?

 

Rgds

MJF

 

Is a mutation stop that today tries to imitate the Bass Lute (for it is an ancient string instrument) on an organ and is greatly loved by some organists who have considerable funds at their disposal. It is nothing whatsoever to do with Double Basses and can sound like a badly shot tiger. If it must be used, I suggest that it be only used in organ music written 1482 to 1573 (November) and in improvisations when there is an X in the month.

 

N

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The stop (on a Pedal division at least) sounds a little like the collection of mutations added at the last rebuild at Gloucester Cathedral (or the Pedal Septerz at the RFH with the Quint added). PCND is familiar also I think with the similar bundle at Notre Dame in Paris - here also they draw individually - maybe he can add more.

Which eminent Parisian organist described the effect of the, I think, Septieme, on the the Pedal at Notre Dame as "like a muster of [orchestral] double basses"?

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The stop (on a Pedal division at least) sounds a little like the collection of mutations added at the last rebuild at Gloucester Cathedral (or the Pedal Septerz at the RFH with the Quint added). PCND is familiar also I think with the similar bundle at Notre Dame in Paris - here also they draw individually - maybe he can add more.

 

AJJ

 

I can add that the Pedal mutations at Nôtre-Dame are more effective than the 32p Principal; these consist of a Grosse Quinte 10 2/3p, a Grande Tierce 6 2/5p, a Quinte 5 1/3p and a Septième at 4 4/7p. Oddly, as far as I know, Léfébvre barely uses them, instead preferring the very gently purring 32p Principal with the Soubasse 16p and the more pungent tones of the Contrebasse 16p.

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Some of the Jean Guillou inspired instruments have some rather odd permutations of mutation including the Thèorbe - I have recordings of St. Eustache, Chant d' Oiseau etc. but have never knowingly heard these stops enough to be able to describe the sounds. Has anyone ever played on a Guillou instrument?

 

AJJ

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Some of the Jean Guillou inspired instruments have some rather odd permutations of mutation including the Thèorbe - I have recordings of St. Eustache, Chant d' Oiseau etc. but have never knowingly heard these stops enough to be able to describe the sounds. Has anyone ever played on a Guillou instrument?

 

AJJ

 

In a way.... I have played the grand organ at S. Eustache, Paris - with M. Guillou assisting with registrations. However, (and somewhat bizarrely) he was not allowed to have any official influence on the design of this great instrument when it was reconstructed by Van den Heuvel, who completed the work in the summer of 1989.

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I can add that the Pedal mutations at Nôtre-Dame are more effective than the 32p Principal; these consist of a Grose Quinte 10 2/3p, a Grande Tierce 6 2/5p, a Quinte 5 1/3p and a Septième at 4 4/7p. Oddly, as far as I know, Léfébvre barely uses them, instead preferring the very gently purring 32p Principal with the Soubasse 16p and the more pungent tones of the Contrebasse 16p.

 

Is anyone in a position to compare the mutations at Nôtre-Dame with those added at Gloucester in 1999? I've played the Gloucester instrument a number of times (and again next weekend!) but have never been particularly impressed with the effect of the mutations - that said, I've rarely heard them from a position other than the console, which might not be a fair test.

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Is anyone in a position to compare the mutations at Nôtre-Dame with those added at Gloucester in 1999? I've played the Gloucester instrument a number of times (and again next weekend!) but have never been particularly impressed with the effect of the mutations - that said, I've rarely heard them from a position other than the console, which might not be a fair test.

 

 

Far be it from me to praise the Gloucester organ, or Nicholsons, but I was present at David Briggs' re-opening of the organ when these stops were new and they made quite an impact, more indeed than the 32' reed octave which Nicholsons had added during the same 'restoration'. This reed rank has now been revoiced by Keith Bance and it is far more audible as a result. David Briggs used the new mutations in several pieces during his recital and only in one (a Franck Choral) was I less than convinced of their usefulness.

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Far be it from me to praise the Gloucester organ, or Nicholsons, but I was present at David Briggs' re-opening of the organ when these stops were new and they made quite an impact, more indeed than the 32' reed octave which Nicholsons had added during the same 'restoration'. This reed rank has now been revoiced by Keith Bance and it is far more audible as a result. David Briggs used the new mutations in several pieces during his recital and only in one (a Franck Choral) was I less than convinced of their usefulness.

The Gloucester pedal mutations utterly transformed the organ, adding not only much-needed gravitas, but also considerable definition and 'bite' to the pedal line. Speaking more quickly than a 32' flue (and at a fraction of the cost), they are incredibly useful, sounding like a good 32' Violone when carefully blended with 16s and 8s. You need to be brave with them: when effective downstairs, they can sound too loud from the console when supporting pp to mf manual mélanges. As Paul implies, they certainly broadened the reed, the one part of the rebuild that disappointed, especially having encountered the wonderful half-length 32 (by Austin) at Springfield Cathedral, Massachusetts whilst on tour with the choir that same year.

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The Gloucester pedal mutations utterly transformed the organ, adding not only much-needed gravitas, but also considerable definition and 'bite' to the pedal line. Speaking more quickly than a 32' flue (and at a fraction of the cost), they are incredibly useful, sounding like a good 32' Violone when carefully blended with 16s and 8s. You need to be brave with them: when effective downstairs, they can sound too loud from the console when supporting pp to mf manual mélanges. As Paul implies, they certainly broadened the reed, the one part of the rebuild that disappointed, especially having encountered the wonderful half-length 32 (by Austin) at Springfield Cathedral, Massachusetts whilst on tour with the choir that same year.

 

I must admit that I've not been brave playing at Gloucester since my first visit when, after too-little practice time, on a whim I used the Choir Cremona while accompanying Stanford... <_< My mistake. I'll try to get someone else to play while I listen downstairs this time round. Also pleased to hear that the 32' reed has been revisited - I thought that it sounded like a pneumatic drill when I first heard it, although again, only from the loft - evidently not the best place to judge from.

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I must admit that I've not been brave playing at Gloucester since my first visit when, after too-little practice time, on a whim I used the Choir Cremona while accompanying Stanford...

Did you work out what the bloody thing can be used for?

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Did you work out what the bloody thing can be used for?

 

It is ideal for the French Classical repertoire - just one example in which a smoothly-voiced Clarinet is rather less than ideal, even down to the lack of attack. Whilst the latter stop would be perfect for 'lining-out' in the psalms, or for playing certain parts of Whitlock (for example), it is no good at all for music from the French Classical period.

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It is ideal for the French Classical repertoire - just one example in which a smoothly-voiced Clarinet is rather less than ideal, even down to the lack of attack. Whilst the latter stop would be perfect for 'lining-out' in the psalms, or for playing certain parts of Whitlock (for example), it is no good at all for music from the French Classical period.

 

St Albans are seemingly getting round this in the current work by making the swell 16' Corno di Bassetto available on the Choir at 8' to provide an enclosed and more 'Romantic' alternative to the more classical Choir reed.

 

AJJ

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It is ideal for the French Classical repertoire - just one example in which a smoothly-voiced Clarinet is rather less than ideal, even down to the lack of attack. Whilst the latter stop would be perfect for 'lining-out' in the psalms, or for playing certain parts of Whitlock (for example), it is no good at all for music from the French Classical period.

 

 

Ah yes, French Classical Music. Just the sort of thing you need to be able to play authentically every day in an English cathedral. Seriously, I have attended countless recitals and services at Gloucester and have never once heard anything from this school of composition. Indeed, this stop doesn't get many outings of any kind: I remember David Briggs playing solos on the Pedal Schalmei in preference!

 

The late designer might have worked briefly in an anglican cathedral in his youth, but must have given very low priority to the use of this organ for traditional psalm accompaniment, to name just one area where a well-regulated musical-sounding soft reed is useful.

 

Now, what was this exact stop before 1970s c**king up? Ah yes, it was a Father Willis Corno di Bassetto. Physically, apart from the shallots and tongues, it still is. People regularly ask me what I think of this organ. If it had been all new, I would rate it highly as a child of its time, but artistically it is the musical equivalent of an Andy Warhol painted over a Rembrandt.

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BTW. the stop 'theorbe' seems to be deployed mainly in modern, say post-symphonic instruments.

 

For me the name is wrong; I don't see why renaissance names should line up in neo/post-symphonic designs, but that may be me being to 'calvinistic' (which all dutch are to some extend) perhaps?

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