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Pierre Lauwers

Bach Organs

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And even if we were to discount specific sounds that would still leave the sound world that Bach inhabited. It is on that basis that I view "original instrument" performances as more authentic than those using modern instruments, whilst accepting that a completely authentic performance is not only impossible but also not necessarily desirable.

 

 

Characteristic instruments of the period teach one so much. Certainly the feel of a genuine 18th century key action is utterly different from contemporary products. Amongst other things, this discourages the playing of Bach etc. at ludicrous speeds.

 

When you see inside these instruments, the reason for a responsive but heavy action is self-evident - huge baulks of timber are being moved whenever one plays. I was once told in Holland that the action was deliberately made (or left) heavy for a good solid protestant reason, viz. you were not supposed to be playing for your own pleasure but for the glory of God.

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...I prefer Kreisler... :P:P:P

 

 

===================

 

 

I could never be seen driving an American car! :P:P:P

 

This reminds me of the story about the two virtuoso violinists in a restaurant, who received a "note" addressed "to the finest violinst in the world."

 

"After you Fritz"

 

"No, no! After you Yasher!"

 

They opened it together, and it began, "Dear Yehudi etc"

 

 

:lol:

 

MM

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And even if we were to discount specific sounds that would still leave the sound world that Bach inhabited.

 

 

=========================

 

 

Exactly!

 

That is why I question the value of discussing Bach stop-lists and "Bach organs," because he never did get to play the best.

 

Would Bach's music have been different if he played a Silbermann or the Schnitger at Hamburg?

 

I somehow doubt that it would have made the slightest difference to what he wrote, but of course, it would have made a considerable difference to the way it sounded at the time.

 

I would also agree with what "Cynic" (Paul) wrote, but with a slight qaulification.

 

Go to play one of the great baroque organs in the Netherlands, and you may FEEL that what you are playing is authentic enough, but of course, the acoustics of those churches are radically different from a church like St.Thomas, Leipzig.

 

At a guess (and it can only be a guess), the somewhat drier acoustic at Leipzing would require a little bit more up-tempo playing, whereas in many of the Netherlands churches, the great G minor can be broken up into episodes..........G minor chord....cup of coffee.....flourish....piece of apple pie.....dominant chord......second cup of coffee etc etc.

 

The acoustic consideration is always what lurks at the back of my mind when I hear the Brandenburgs, because they would have been performed in relatively small, acoustically lively rooms, where great noise was not a priority, and intimacy plays an important role in the phrasing, articulation and contrapuntal dialogue.

 

Bach didn't play in great big cathedrals or the vast concert-halls of to-day, and the acoustic consideration is therefore a part of achieving something more or less authentic.

 

MM

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"he never did get to play the best."

(Quote)

 

Good Lord ! :lol:

 

But what is "the best"?

Dutch organs Bach never knew??? But let's stop...

 

"Would Bach's music have been different if he played a Silbermann or the Schnitger at Hamburg?"

(Quote)

 

My conviction: his music would have been completely different, since

between Schnitger and Silbermann (and Trost, and Hildebrandt, and Scheibe, and Sterzling, and...)

the difference is at least as big as between Jean de Joyeuse (a contemporary french builder)

and the same Schnitger -the distance was about the same geographically...-

 

Once again: May I suggest we stop here for the next 10 years ?

(I freely admit the mistake was mine, and I apologize for that)

 

Pierre

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"he never did get to play the best."

(Quote)

 

Good Lord ! :lol:

 

But what is "the best"?

Dutch organs Bach never knew??? But let's stop...

 

"Would Bach's music have been different if he played a Silbermann or the Schnitger at Hamburg?"

(Quote)

 

My conviction: his music would have been completely different, since

between Schnitger and Silbermann (and Trost, and Hildebrandt, and Scheibe, and Sterzling, and...)

the difference is at least as big as between Jean de Joyeuse (a contemporary french builder)

and the same Schnitger -the distance was about the same geographically...-

 

Once again: May I suggest we stop here for the next 10 years ?

(I freely admit the mistake was mine, and I apologize for that)

 

Pierre

 

 

=====================

 

 

I fail to see how the differences between a Schnitger and a Silbermann or a Trost and Hilerbrandt, could possibly affect the way that Bach wrote his music; unless of course, there were radical differences of compass etc.

 

Bach's language was fairly universal outside the French style, and although Bach may have done it far better than anyone else, my sorties into the baroque music of other regions and countries, suggests that most organs would be suitable for most music of the era; at the same time acknowledging that short-compass keyboards and pedals can and did make a difference.

 

Some of the Czech fugues are frighteningly high on the pedal-organ; presumably to avoid the gaps in the short compass pedals, but they are not radically different in style from fugues written in Germany.

 

I think we tend to attach far too much importance to the organs, when musical development followed its own course.

 

The one true exception was the creation of the French Romantic instruments of Cavaille-Coll, which came at the right time, and enabled the late symponic style and impressionism to be translated to the organ.

 

Does it really matter if Bach never knew the Netherlands instruments?

 

I suspect he wouldn't have known the Frobenius at Queen's College, Oxford either, but can there be any doubt that it is a perfect organ for Bach's music?

 

What are we actually trying to say?

 

MM

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"Bach's language was fairly universal"

(Quote)

 

Yesss!!!!!!

It was a multicultural synthesis....Exactly like the organs

he played, influenced by France (through Silbermann),

Italy (trough Casparini, who deeply influenced central Germany,

Poland, up to the (today) Baltic states).

 

The baroque organ was extremely diverse, to the point we may

take for granted the 18th century in Germany was even more

forward-thinking than the 19th century.

The "one is good for all music" organ is actually the Renaissance one,

with only two "centres": the Brabant (belgian and dutch, summarized

by Niehoff) and northern Italy.

We just discussed an interesting hybrid case on Organographia, found

in Burgundy, which unites italian and brabanter traits.

 

This organ, restored by the excellent Cattiaux, allows absolutely all

renaissance music to be played; moreover, dating back from the 16th

century, we might even have an example of these "bridge styles" which

may explain how we had those Ripieno-like Tudor organs in Britain...

 

Here is the spec:

 

Monstre 8'

Bourdon 8'

Prestant 4'

Quinte 2 2/3' (a twelfth also, not a Nasard)

15th 2'

Flageolet 2' (Flute)

19th 1 1/3'

22th 1'

Cornet

Trompette 8' (divided bass & treble)

 

(There is no Pedal at all)

 

....So we have both brabanter Renaissance innovations

like the Cornet, the reed stop, stopped pipes, and an italian

Diapason chorus, the Ripieno on seperate slides (stops).

On THIS organ, you can play all the music from that period,

be it italian, german, dutch, french, spanish or english.

 

Not so with baroque organs, which derived from those two types

(brabanter and italian)only, afterwards. Not only pitches and

compasses varied, but also the tones, and extremely widely.

Compare a Jordi Bosch organ like Santanyi with a Samuel Green...

 

Pierre

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Monstre 8'

 

:lol:

 

Indeed, but not "monster"; in ancien french, you often have

a "S" before a "T".

 

In Belgium, it was even more funny; the façade Diapason was called "Doff",

"Douff" or "D'hoof". From the flemish "De hoofd", the head. Later it was

"Devanture", "d'vantuur", or even "venture", from the flemish "devantuur"

( old french: "devanture") , "facade".

 

Pierre

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Bach didn't play in great big cathedrals or the vast concert-halls of to-day, and the acoustic consideration is therefore a part of achieving something more or less authentic.

 

MM

 

I am not sure of the validity of your statement (which I have quoted above). We cannot say with any certainty what the acoustic properties of (for example) St. Blasius, Mülhausen were in the time of Bach. Or, for that matter, the Church of St Wenzel, Naumburg.

 

I understand that St. Thomas' Church, Leipzig is not particularly resonant now (obviously I do not know what it was like in the time of Bach). However, he did travel a certain amount and was frequently asked to give his opinion on new or restored organs. In addition, he heard Buxtehude play in his own church and from old photographs, it is not unreasonable to postulate that the building was fairly resonant - on the basis that it was lofty, with a stone vault and was almost certainly not constructed of sandstone, for example.

 

I can think of few concert halls of today which possess a vast acoustic, regardless of their size. The Royal Albert Hall (as first constructed) is a notable exception and I think that I am correct in stating that the architect shot himself when it became clear exactly how confusing and unhelpful the acoustic was.

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I am not sure of the validity of your statement (which I have quoted above). We cannot say with any certainty what the acoustic properties of (for example) St. Blasius, Mülhausen were in the time of Bach. Or, for that matter, the Church of St Wenzel, Naumburg.

 

I understand that St. Thomas' Church, Leipzig is not particularly resonant now (obviously I do not know what it was like in the time of Bach). However, he did travel a certain amount and was frequently asked to give his opinion on new or restored organs. In addition, he heard Buxtehude play in his own church and from old photographs, it is not unreasonable to postulate that the building was fairly resonant - on the basis that it was lofty, with a stone vault and was almost certainly not constructed of sandstone, for example.

 

I can think of few concert halls of today which possess a vast acoustic, regardless of their size. The Royal Albert Hall (as first constructed) is a notable exception and I think that I am correct in stating that the architect shot himself when it became clear exactly how confusing and unhelpful the acoustic was.

 

 

============================

 

 

We've been here before....what is it with sandstone?

 

Liverpool Cathedral is made from (red) sandstone, identical to that found at Lichfield and elsewhere. (Something to do with the bed-rock poking up at various places). Now that isn't exactly an acoustic padded-cell is it?

 

There are a few concert-halls left with quite lively acoustics, but largely in the North, I suspect. St.G's Hall Liverpoool is the obvious example, but Huddersfield is quite "spacious" also, without being cavernous.

 

I think the point I was making was more to do with a degree of variability in tempo, which naturally occurs from building to building. Believe me, there's nothing worse than hearing a trio sonata played at rocket-speed in some of the larger, loftier churches in the Netherlands.....just a nonsense!

 

You were quite right about the architect of the Albert Hall topping himself......quite rightly!

 

MM

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============================

We've been here before....what is it with sandstone?

 

Liverpool Cathedral is made from (red) sandstone, identical to that found at Lichfield and elsewhere. (Something to do with the bed-rock poking up at various places). Now that isn't exactly an acoustic padded-cell is it?

 

I am not completely sure myself. Having said that Lichfield is very dry - with almost no resonance at all. Exeter is the same - although in the case of this building, it may be the large area of glass, the shape of the building, in addition to the material used.

 

I would agree that Liverpool Cathedral is more resonant - although I do not recall it being particularly so; unless my memory is faulty, I seem to remember that Gloucester appeared to have a longer period of reverberation - and to be a more lively acoustic.

 

More later - out teaching again.

 

 

You were quite right about the architect of the Albert Hall topping himself......quite rightly!

 

MM

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I am not sure of the validity of your statement (which I have quoted above). We cannot say with any certainty what the acoustic properties of (for example) St. Blasius, Mülhausen were in the time of Bach. Or, for that matter, the Church of St Wenzel, Naumburg.

 

I understand that St. Thomas' Church, Leipzig is not particularly resonant now (obviously I do not know what it was like in the time of Bach). However, he did travel a certain amount and was frequently asked to give his opinion on new or restored organs. In addition, he heard Buxtehude play in his own church and from old photographs, it is not unreasonable to postulate that the building was fairly resonant - on the basis that it was lofty, with a stone vault and was almost certainly not constructed of sandstone, for example.

 

I can think of few concert halls of today which possess a vast acoustic, regardless of their size. The Royal Albert Hall (as first constructed) is a notable exception and I think that I am correct in stating that the architect shot himself when it became clear exactly how confusing and unhelpful the acoustic was.

 

 

St Wenzel is a vast, lofty and fairly resonant church. Apart from new pews and a modern extra gallery at the west end I can't imagine it has changed much since JSB was there in 1746. The sound of the Hildebrandt organ rolls around yet reaches the listener below with remarkable clarity.

 

See St Wenzel and click on 'weitere Bilder'.

 

It's 20-odd years since I saw St Blasius, Mühlhausen, but, as I recall, it is similarly tall but fairly narrow, also with a generous acoustic.

 

The Thomaskirche, on the other hand, is much changed since Bach's time. The interior has been Gothicised and the upper galleries removed. The heavy pine woodwork - pews, pulpit etc - dates from the reordering of the church in the late 19c.

 

What strikes many visitors is the modest size of the building. It is not particularly resonant, and was presumably even less so in Bach's time when filled with a large congregation heavily wrapped up to withstand the chill of a 3 hour Kantatengottesdienst on a Sunday morning in December.

 

JS

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I would agree that Liverpool Cathedral is more resonant - although I do not recall it being particularly so

 

 

====================================

 

 

Erm.......

 

How can I break this gently?

 

Liverpool has 11 seconds of reverberation!

 

<_<

 

MM

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====================================

Erm.......

 

How can I break this gently?

 

Liverpool has 11 seconds of reverberation!

 

<_<

 

MM

 

Not when I was there a couple of years ago, for the August Bank Holiday Recital. I was surprised at the apparent lack of resonance for such a large building. Neither does it appear to have this length of reverberation on recordings. Having played the organ of St. Paul's Cathedral and heard it in the building, Liverpool did not seem to be as long as this (apparently ten to eleven seconds, in an empty building).

 

Liverpool certainly appeared to have a good echo - but not comparable to St. Paul's.

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=========================

 

Would Bach's music have been different if he played a Silbermann or the Schnitger at Hamburg?

 

I would certainly be reasonable to postulate that he would have written more music in the multi-sectional northern style, which relies on lots of colour changes and "stereophonic" effects.

 

Try playing Buxtehude, for example, on a Saxon or Thuringian baroque organ. It's dead boring, which it certainly isn't in Norden, or Hamburg.

 

Bach's music finds a way to cast large forms which are not dependant on colour changes. It works everywhere where clarity is possible, and some places where it isn't - often the contrapuntal muddle comes not from over-resonant buildings but from mixtures which begin too high and repeat too often, meaning of course most neo-baroque organs. In the northern style, the mixtures were never meant for counterpoint, of course.

 

Cheers

Barry

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Bach's music finds a way to cast large forms which are not dependant on colour changes. It works everywhere where clarity is possible, and some places where it isn't - often the contrapuntal muddle comes not from over-resonant buildings but from mixtures which begin too high and repeat too often, meaning of course most neo-baroque organs. In the northern style, the mixtures were never meant for counterpoint, of course.

 

Cheers

Barry

 

The same is true of English Romantic organs, in which, for example, the foundation stops are regulated with a crescendo towards the top of the keyboard - and which have thick, slower speaking bass registers.

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"often the contrapuntal muddle comes not from over-resonant buildings but from mixtures which begin too high and repeat too often, meaning of course most neo-baroque organs."

(Quote)

 

Thanks, Barry!

 

It might be interesting to hear how the youngest members of my forum

play Bach.

 

http://orguepontabbe.free.fr/Musique/bachfugue.mp3

 

 

http://fr.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQXs5K0qSFQ

 

(I wish I could show them some heavy, richly colored german baroque organs...One thing is sure:

if we don't show them these organs, they will end up even further than Virgil Fox!)

 

Pierre

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... In the northern style, the mixtures were never meant for counterpoint, of course.

 

Barry

 

I was not aware of this. I would be interested to learn the provenance of this remark, please.

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I was not aware of this. I would be interested to learn the provenance of this remark, please.

So would I - sounds suspiciously dogmatic to me. But it is worth remembering that all those glorious, high-pitched Renaissance & Baroque French mixtures weren't used for counterpoint either.

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So would I - sounds suspiciously dogmatic to me. But it is worth remembering that all those glorious, high-pitched Renaissance & Baroque French mixtures weren't used for counterpoint either.

 

The Renaissance and early Braroque french Mixtures were high-pitched,

but not the 18th century ones; these were rather deep, often with 10 2/3'

rank in the treble (Clicquot, Isnard, and as early as 1700 by Jean de Joyeuse).

These late baroque Mixtures were not intended for Polyphony, but to be

played in chords.

Earlier stops are indeed polyphonic !

 

The problem with neo-baroque stops is the fact they often act as a kind

of cluster, with the same chord added to whatever may be played ten Miles

lower.

Praetorius describes several Mixtures, one of which starting at 4' on C...

Something that did not escape to Oscar Walcker, when he criticized the

first neo-baroque prophets; first, the meal, then, the spices.

 

Pierre

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The Renaissance and early Braroque french Mixtures were high-pitched,

but not the 18th century ones; these were rather deep, often with 10 2/3'

rank in the treble (Clicquot, Isnard, and as early as 1700 by Jean de Joyeuse).

Fournitures, yes, but surely not the Cymbales?

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The Renaissance and early Braroque french Mixtures were high-pitched,

but not the 18th century ones; these were rather deep, often with 10 2/3'

rank in the treble (Clicquot, Isnard, and as early as 1700 by Jean de Joyeuse).

These late baroque Mixtures were not intended for Polyphony, but to be

played in chords.

Earlier stops are indeed polyphonic !

 

 

Pierre

 

Sorry, but this is not quite correct, Pierre.

 

To take but one example: the Church of S. Maximin-en-Var (J-E Isnard, 1772-3).

 

On the GRAND ORGUE, there were three compound stops, whose composition was as follows:

 

Grande Fourniture II

 

C1 12-15

C13 8-12

C25 5-8

C37 1-5

G44 Sub 5-1 (i.e. 10 2/3ft. and 8ft.)

 

Petite Fourniture IV

 

C1 19-22-26-29

C13 15-19-22-26

C25 12-15-19-22

C37 8-12-15-19

G44 5-8-12-15

 

Cymbale IV

 

C1 22-26-29-33

C13 19-22-26-29

C25 15-19-22-26

A34 12-15-19-22

C37 8-12-15-19

G44 5-8-12-15

 

Thus, only one mixture (the Grande Fourniture) contains the very low-pitched ranks in the treble register (and only for the top seven notes*). This is, in any case, a scheme of breaks which needed careful treatment, in order to avoid an extremely unpleasant effect.

 

Both the Petite Fourniture and the Cymbale consisted of rather higher-pitched ranks; both were also entirely quint mixtures.

 

 

 

* The compass of the G.O. clavier of this instrument was fifty notes (C1 to D50).

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Study it again, Pcnd,

 

It is quite an "horizontal" Plenum, with many breaks,

and nothing higher than 2' in the Treble.

In the flesh, it is splendid, but do not try a fugue

-these were played on the "Grand-jeu" with such organs-.

 

In this respect the 17th century french organ was different,

with still many flemish traits:

 

-The Sesquialtera was still there sometimes;

 

-More "northern" Mixtures, such as are still to be find

in some 1850 flemish organs, not unlike the dutch ones

(often with nearly pure lead pipes!)

 

-Lower pressures and thinner reeds.

 

Orgelbau Freisberg, associated with the voicer Tricoteaux, built an organ

after that 17th century french style, chorus tierce included:

 

http://www.tricoteaux.com/orgues/franceXVIIe.html

 

Pierre

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Not when I was there a couple of years ago, for the August Bank Holiday Recital. I was surprised at the apparent lack of resonance for such a large building. Neither does it appear to have this length of reverberation on recordings. Having played the organ of St. Paul's Cathedral and heard it in the building, Liverpool did not seem to be as long as this (apparently ten to eleven seconds, in an empty building).

 

Liverpool certainly appeared to have a good echo - but not comparable to St. Paul's.

 

 

=============================

 

I suspect that it is the TYPE of resonance which differs between St Paul's and Liverpool. Being a classical-style building, the reverberation seems quite even at St Paul's, which is also the case in the classical-style proportions of the church where I play.

 

With gothic shapes, all that seems to change, and greater diffusion and confusion seem to enter into the equation, and what you tend to hear is rumble, of which Liverpool has plenty.

 

Shape and proportion are possibly of far greater importance than actual choice of building materials, as Lichfield demonstrates so amply.

 

MM

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