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Bach - Ricercare A 6 From The Musical Offering


MAB
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I have always wanted to play this piece in an effective organ version, and have recently been looking around to see what is out there.

 

I have found two versions so far, both rather old editions published by Peeters, one edited by Walcha and one by Keller.

 

Both of them rely, sooner or later, on bringing in voices in the pedal at 4 foot pitch, largely in the central section.

 

It may be that this is unavoidable in order to preserve the correct voice leading, but from looking at the music, it seems to me that this might compromise the stature of the performance, namely, if the piece starts off on more or less plenum, then suddenly drops to a very light sonority, purely to acccomodate the pedals at 4 foot pitch.

 

Does anyone on the board play this piece, and if so, what edition do they play from. If the sudden change of texture is unavoidable, does this actually pose a problem in performance, or can it be solved musically ?

 

I would be very interested to learn if anyone can help.

 

M

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I have always wanted to play this piece in an effective organ version, and have recently been looking around to see what is out there.

 

I have found two versions so far, both rather old editions published by Peeters, one edited by Walcha and one by Keller.

 

Both of them rely, sooner or later, on bringing in voices in the pedal at 4 foot pitch, largely in the central section.

 

It may be that this is unavoidable in order to preserve the correct voice leading, but from looking at the music, it seems to me that this might compromise the stature of the performance, namely, if the piece starts off on more or less plenum, then suddenly drops to a very light sonority, purely to acccomodate the pedals at 4 foot pitch.

 

Does anyone on the board play this piece, and if so, what edition do they play from. If the sudden change of texture is unavoidable, does this actually pose a problem in performance, or can it be solved musically ?

 

I would be very interested to learn if anyone can help.

 

M

Dear MAB

 

I play this from the Schott edition, arranged by Jean Guillou. It's a 'straight' transcription, but, yes, the central section (starting in E flat at the end of bar 39) suggests changing manuals and having a 4' reed in the pedal for the relevant entries. It then returns to the main division, but with the pedal at manual pitch, at bar 63. At bar 72, the pedal goes into 2 parts (!) and the left hand solos out the theme on a Trumpet at bar 73. Double pedalling continues until bar 79, when the pedal is given semibreves at 32' and 16' pitch. Guillou's registration plan is typical of its day:

 

opening until bar 39 last beat: GO Fonds 8, 4, 12th; Ped 32, 16, 8, 4;

bar 39 - 62: Pos: 8, 4, 19th; Ped 4' reed;

bar 63: Ped Fonds 8, 4 (or simply couple GO); left hand picks up GO with quavers at end bar 63; right hand joins it at bar 64;

bar 73 LH solo trompette until bar 67;

bar 79, add GO mutations; Ped add Fonds 32, 16, 8, 4;

bar 83, add GO Mixtures and ped couplers;

bar 90 piu forte

bar 94, add Pos reeds and ped 16 reed;

bar 99, Tutti

 

I adapt it slightly, usually by beginning on all 8' fonds (or Great 8' & 4' on a classical instrument), and using Pos 8, 4, 2 for the middle section, with the Pedal coupled at that point to any 4' stops lying around if there's no reed. I have used that scheme on both romantic and neo-classical organs. It has never lost any grandeur. In fact, the crescendo works incredibly well, mirroring the way Bach intensifies the music. I think the counterpoint is too dense and the work too long to play on a plenum throughout, even if you could preserve the pitches of the original.

 

And like all Bach, it's equally powerful with expressive détaché or with broad Brahmsian legato!

 

Hope this is useful. The piece is incredibly tricky in places, but well worth the effort. By the third public performance, nerves will have settled and you'll be hooked!

 

Kind regards

 

Ian

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Many thanks, Ian, for such a helpful and comprehensive reply.

 

I am not sure, though, reading your post, if I feel more inspired or more terrified !

 

Kind regards,

Mark

:P I know how you feel. It might be more satisfying to gather 6 consenting adults with appropriate instruments, and several bottles of robust Merlot...

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:P I know how you feel. It might be more satisfying to gather 6 consenting adults with appropriate instruments, and several bottles of robust Merlot...

I think that if I had the talent (and time to prepare), I'd want a crack at conducting this piece as orchestrated by Webern.

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There is also the version By Falcinelli (Schott).

 

I never checked this against the original score, so I don't know if the voices have been changed in order, but no 4' registration is necessary.

 

I think the registration should be kept fairly simple - avoiding Stokowski effects...

 

 

(PS I have no idea how I ever managed to play this ...tempus fugit... :P )

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I think the registration should be kept fairly simple - avoiding Stokowski effects...

Oh I agree: Guillou's interpretation of this piece (which is available on CD, played utterly dispassionately in 1967 on the Zurich Grossmünster organ) couldn't be further from the Stokowski aesthetic. Although his scheme looks complex in my list, it’s basically just 3 or 4 blocks of terraced dynamics. It would take ages to 'orchestrate' this piece on a Skinner...and I'm not sure the results would be worth the effort.

 

I have heard this piece using his scheme played at Notre-Dame de Paris (where the acoustic alone precludes a complex 'orchestration') and the cumulative effect is utterly shattering :P

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I have heard this piece using his scheme played at Notre-Dame de Paris (where the acoustic alone precludes a complex 'orchestration') and the cumulative effect is utterly shattering

 

Can I assume this was as performed by David Briggs ? I remember reading somewhere (on his website ?) about performing the Ricercare at Notre Dame ; if I remember rightly, the point of the story was that the organ's computer system failed at precisely the same point in each performance.

 

M

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Can I assume this was as performed by David Briggs ? I remember reading somewhere (on his website ?) about performing the Ricercare at Notre Dame ; if I remember rightly, the point of the story was that the organ's computer system failed at precisely the same point in each performance.

 

M

Absolutely right! He restarted the piece after the first computer crash, and it happened again at exactly the same place on the stepper. Having listened to the tape many times, I now always wince when I get to the relevant bar in performance...just in case :blink: Thankfully, it didn't happen during rehearsal, which was also recorded, so I got the chance to hear the work in its entirety. Final pedal entry is like WWIII :rolleyes:

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Absolutely right! He restarted the piece after the first computer crash, and it happened again at exactly the same place on the stepper. Having listened to the tape many times, I now always wince when I get to the relevant bar in performance...just in case :blink: Thankfully, it didn't happen during rehearsal, which was also recorded, so I got the chance to hear the work in its entirety. Final pedal entry is like WWIII :rolleyes:

 

I've never really understood the technology at Notre Dame nor the problems associated with it. Could someone please explain

a) The IBM bit of Notre Dame

:P Why its a problem

c) Why (by the accounts that I have heard (they may be out of date of course) no one never seems to have made it work!

 

I'd be facinated to know! Perhaps I'm being naive but surely a dodgy stepper can be replaced reasonably strightforwardly. Why has it never been replaced?

 

Charles

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I've never really understood the technology at Notre Dame nor the problems associated with it. Could someone please explain

a) The IBM bit of Notre Dame

:rolleyes: Why its a problem

c) Why (by the accounts that I have heard (they may be out of date of course) no one never seems to have made it work!

 

I'd be facinated to know! Perhaps I'm being naive but surely a dodgy stepper can be replaced reasonably strightforwardly. Why has it never been replaced?

 

Charles

 

At Nôtre-Dame de Paris it is not simply the stepper that is run by a computer.

 

All the claviers (including that for the Pédale Orgue) are fitted with Hall-type switches to every key. The keys are scanned many times each second to see which is currently active. This information is then sent back to a central processor which, in turn, sends messages to the appropriate parts of the organ action.

 

The problem is that, initially, the system was neither fast enough nor was it reliable. It was also unable to cope with the volume of information with which it was supplied at times. (It is worth remembering that this system was installed in 1990-92; there have been certain advances in the available technology since this time.) When David Briggs gave the anniversary recital to commemmorate the tenth anniversary of the death of Pierre Cochereau (as mentioned above), the organ malfunctioned twice - simply because it was unable to handle the volume of information effectively: or possibly also due to discrepancies or inadequacies in the software, which was initially supplied by Synaptel.

 

Actually, it now works well. As far as I know, it has not suffered any further breakdowns. The computer mainframes were replaced with two new machines some years ago. (There is a duplicate, back-up system running in parallel to the main operating system.)

 

The system at Nôtre-Dame is quite sophisticated, as far as organ actions are concerned. Once the wind is switched on (in the ante-chamber in the south-west tower), the organist then makes his way to the tribune and the console platform. He then inserts his unique control card (about the size of a credit card), on which is contained information which will identify the player to the instrument's computers. The organ will then load the preferences of that particular titulaire - such as the response of the keys and the settings of the combination memories. This information is displayed on two small cathode-ray screens, one on each stop-jamb. The display also shows which memory level is currently in play - and which general piston (or sequencer) was last pressed - there are no longer any divisional pistons. There is also a synthesized voice facility for the use of Jean-Pierre Leguay, since he is blind.

 

I hope that this helps.

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At Nôtre-Dame de Paris it is not simply the stepper that is run by a computer.

 

All the claviers (including that for the Pédale Orgue) are fitted with Hall-type switches to every key. The keys are scanned many times each second to see which is currently active. This information is then sent back to a central processor which, in turn, sends messages to the appropriate parts of the organ action.

 

The problem is that, initially, the system was neither fast enough nor was it reliable. It was also unable to cope with the volume of information with which it was supplied at times. (It is worth remembering that this system was installed in 1990-92; there have been certain advances in the available technology since this time.) When David Briggs gave the anniversary recital to commemmorate the tenth anniversary of the death of Pierre Cochereau (as mentioned above), the organ malfunctioned twice - simply because it was unable to handle the volume of information effectively: or possibly also due to discrepancies or inadequacies in the software, which was initially supplied by Synaptel.

 

Actually, it now works well. As far as I know, it has not suffered any further breakdowns. The computer mainframes were replaced with two new machines some years ago. (There is a duplicate, back-up system running in parallel to the main operating system.)

 

The system at Nôtre-Dame is quite sophisticated, as far as organ actions are concerned. Once the wind is switched on (in the ante-chamber in the south-west tower), the organist then makes his way to the tribune and the console platform. He then inserts his unique control card (about the size of a credit card), on which is contained information which will identify the player to the instrument's computers. The organ will then load the preferences of that particular titulaire - such as the response of the keys and the settings of the combination memories. This information is displayed on two small cathode-ray screens, one on each stop-jamb. The display also shows which memory level is currently in play - and which general piston (or sequencer) was last pressed - there are no longer any divisional pistons. There is also a synthesized voice facility for the use of Jean-Pierre Leguay, since he is blind.

 

I hope that this helps.

 

Thank you Sean. It does- you're a star. I'm hoping to go to Paris again this year to see my sister who is on her year out from her PhD fromn Harvard there. The "wish list" of organ to try is obvious but I suspect that it would not prove possible to get a go on Notre Dame, St Sulpice, Sacre Coeur, La Trinite etc but wonder where it would be possible to play and experience Frech organs first hand. Something that I sadly have yet to experience. Who could I take tuition from do Latry or Roth give consultation lessons?!

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Thank you Sean. It does- you're a star. I'm hoping to go to Paris again this year to see my sister who is on her year out from her PhD fromn Harvard there. The "wish list" of organ to try is obvious but I suspect that it would not prove possible to get a go on Notre Dame, St Sulpice, Sacre Coeur, La Trinite etc but wonder where it would be possible to play and experience Frech organs first hand. Something that I sadly have yet to experience. Who could I take tuition from do Latry or Roth give consultation lessons?!

 

As far as I know, both gentlemen give consultation lessons.

 

You could try S. Eustache - I have played here at the kind invitation of M. Jean Guillou. You could also try Nôtre-Dame d'Auteuil* - Frédéric Blanc is (full-time) titulaire here. He was formerly titulaire at S. Sernin, Toulouse. Personally, I cannot imagine why he moved to Paris; if I were to be fortunate enough to be titulaire at S. Sernin, I doubt that anything would induce me to move!

 

You could also try Naji Hakim at La Trinité.

 

The problem with places such as Nôtre-Dame de Paris is that the Grand Orgue is not used during the week-days; as far as I know, it is only heard at the Saturday evening Messe, the three Sunday morning Messes, at Vépres and at the Sunday evening recital.

 

 

 

* Place d'Auteuil, 16e Arrt.

 

4, Rue Corot, 75016 Paris, France

00.33.01.53.92.26.26

 

http://www.uquebec.ca/musique/orgues/france/ndameap.html

 

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&hl=e...WNoew2AK6gcG7DQ

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As far as I know, both gentlemen give consultation lessons.

 

You could try S. Eustache - I have played here at the kind invitation of M. Jean Guillou. You could also try Nôtre-Dame d'Auteuil* - Frédéric Blanc is (full-time) titulaire here. He was formerly titulaire at S. Sernin, Toulouse. Personally, I cannot imagine why he moved to Paris; if I were to be fortunate enough to be titulaire at S. Sernin, I doubt that anything would induce me to move!

 

You could also try Naji Hakim at La Trinité.

 

The problem with places such as Nôtre-Dame de Paris is that the Grand Orgue is not used during the week-days; as far as I know, it is only heard at the Saturday evening Messe, the three Sunday morning Messes, at Vépres and at the Sunday evening recital.

* Place d'Auteuil, 16e Arrt.

 

4, Rue Corot, 75016 Paris, France

00.33.01.53.92.26.26

 

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&hl=e...WNoew2AK6gcG7DQ

 

Yet again- you're a mine of useful information. Thanks Sean!

 

Charles

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Yet again- you're a mine of useful information. Thanks Sean!

 

Charles

 

You are welcome!

 

Incidentally, I have just added a direct link to the organ of Nôtre-Dame d'Auteuil to my post above.

 

Even if you do not get to play at Nôtre-Dame de Paris, it is worth trying to gain an invite to go up to the tribune for one or more of the Sunday morning Messes.

:rolleyes:

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You are welcome!

 

Incidentally, I have just added a direct link to the organ of Nôtre-Dame d'Auteuil to my post above.

 

Even if you do not get to play at Nôtre-Dame de Paris, it is worth trying to gain an invite to go up to the tribune for one or more of the Sunday morning Messes.

:rolleyes:

 

 

And if you use the calendar on the ND site http://www.notredamedeparis.fr you can find out which titulaire is on duty for the weekend that you're there... Also the Sunday recitalists and visiting choirs are listed. It's a big site to navigate around, but well worth it. The mp3 of Yves playing BUxtehude on the Choir organ is very interesting too, I think that's tucked away on the organs info page.

P

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And if you use the calendar on the ND site http://www.notredamedeparis.fr you can find out which titulaire is on duty for the weekend that you're there... Also the Sunday recitalists and visiting choirs are listed. It's a big site to navigate around, but well worth it. The mp3 of Yves playing BUxtehude on the Choir organ is very interesting too, I think that's tucked away on the organs info page.

P

 

Thank you for this, Paul.

 

Surprisingly, I was not aware of this website.

 

I am amazed....

 

:rolleyes:

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Thank you for this, Paul.

 

Surprisingly, I was not aware of this website.

 

I am amazed....

 

:blink:

Wow. That Buxtehude's just too beautiful. What an artist Castagnet is (his Dupré Symphonie-Passion recording is a favourite of mine). Nice too to hear l'orgue de choeur au naturel, rather than through the triforium loudspeakers!

 

I know we're well off topic now...but Lefebvre's classical French alternatim Magnificat is also to die for (audio file on Grand Orgue page). Stylish singing, sublimely beautiful organ colours and a model of improvisation in that style.

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Wow. That Buxtehude's just too beautiful. What an artist Castagnet is (his Dupré Symphonie-Passion recording is a favourite of mine). Nice too to hear l'orgue de choeur au naturel, rather than through the triforium loudspeakers!

 

I know we're well off topic now...but Lefebvre's classical French alternatim Magnificat is also to die for (audio file on Grand Orgue page). Stylish singing, sublimely beautiful organ colours and a model of improvisation in that style.

 

Yes indeed, it is excellent. The organ sounds superb and Lefebvre's playing seems to be stylistically authentic - more so than Cochereau's own improvisations in this style, which were recorded on the Phillips label (15 and 18-iii-1977) and subesquently re-mastered on to CD (FYCD 059).

 

I also found the Buxtehude performance excellent.

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Wow. That Buxtehude's just too beautiful. What an artist Castagnet is (his Dupré Symphonie-Passion recording is a favourite of mine).

 

I have him playing the Dupré Stations of the Cross and the Second Symphony (sorry too early to type the French and spell it correctly!) at the West end of Notre Dame, recorded two years ago which is really fabulous... I play it in the car quite a lot and get some interesting looks at traffic lights if they coincide with the chamades kicking in!

 

I think YC is an amazing player in every respect. His improvisations at Vespers (on the Choir Organ) on Saturday evening at ND are always so beautiful...

 

Which organ is the Passion Symphony recorded on?

P.

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