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Tierce Mixtures


Guest Cynic

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Pierre has written eloquently of the many cases 'sur le continent' where instruments have only Tierce mixtures and where these choruses are accepted as both authentic and effective even in Bach.

 

I have to confess, I was brought up with two sounds of organ in my head - at home the Archiv recordings of Helmut Walcha at Alkmaar and Cappel and at prep school the sound of a four-manual Father Willis rebuilt by Rushworth and Dreaper, where every mixture had a Tierce.

 

I start off by saying that any mixture (provided it is correctly tuned) is a hell of a lot better than no mixture. I can also say that I have played some of the great European organs of which Pierre writes. St.Jan's Cathedral at Hertogenbosch is an typical example. Yes I enjoyed playing Bach there, and (particularly) Mendlessohn.

 

The problem that some English organists have with Tierce Mixtures, Pierre, is that these are all some of us had when we grew up. That reedy tang, sometimes a pretty gritty one because of poor standards of tuning. Even perfectly tuned Tierce Mixture in equal temperament can be pretty gritty let alone the ones where the Tierce rank has been tuned sharp by a useless tuner. I happen to dislike some makes of Neoclassical Mixture. I'd better not name the firm who built the worst ones, rehearsing one of my pet hates, but their efforts even with pure octaves and quints do not always help. The firm I have in mind used to voice each rank so brightly that they all have plenty of harmonic left. This is a problem because (correct me if I'm wrong) but the second harmonic of a quint rank is (in effect) an out-of-tune ninth so the note C with Mixture drawn can be heard to produce off-key Ds if one has good ears!

 

Some of my favourite mixtures of the last half century have been by Walkers. I have not heard a really bad one....stories of other firms, however....!

H&H know how to voice mixtures when left to themselves, though sometimes advisers have got in the way. To the end of his time directing the firm, Henry Willis 4 preferred the Willis style 17.19.22, sometimes with a quint and octave mixture on the Swell, but his secret, so far as I was able to gather it was that Willis tuners were always instructed to 'bend' the initial scale (the 'bearings' ) so as to favour the key of C major. The moment you improve some of your basic chords, a Tierce mixture beds in better - obviously there will be some keys where it is worse, but if these are remote keys, this is a price worth paying.

 

If I'm nailing my colours to the mast, I don't mind a Tierce Mixture, but the Tierce rank has to be carefully handled and it has to be really well in tune. I would prefer, in selecting a chorus, a quint mixture. Polyphonically I think it causes me less pain. In the end, the greatest music ever written (Bach) sounds cleaner to me without a Tierce. Now for colour purposes in an overture-style movement or a variation, no problem. On the Great at St.Paul's Cathedral it is interesting to compare the two Father Willis III-rankers and the Mander quint mixture. Both are useful. The Willis stops give brightness and colour, the Mander gives clarity and brilliance.

 

If I were designing an organ, I would specify two Great mixtures if possible. If there isn't space, a single stop of IV ranks gives a better spread and can be arranged to meet the Diapason chorus properly. There should also be an independant (principal scale) Tierce for that extra spice at the right moment. It's a while since David Coram posted anything on this site, but 'his' stunning 1850ish Walker chorus at Romsey Abbey is arranged this way. And it works so well!

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The matter must of course be handled with care, like Eberhard Friedrich

Walcker did, along with many german builders.

Before any discussion, here is an example of what I mean with

"Tierce Mixtures for Bach":

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pY08e_tdtA...ch=organ%20bach

 

Here is an example from a german romantic organ (Schlimbach):

 

http://www.aeoline.de/Schultheis_Schlimbac...R_Mix223_HW.mp3

 

Pierre

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Yes Holz,

 

This is an option often encountered.

In the flemish organ you have the Sesquialtera, beginning 1 1/3'-4/5',

breaking to 2 2/3'- 1 3/5', and the Mixtuur, without Tierce. So the

player has the choice.

It is the same with the northern organ: Quint Mixtures+ Sesquialtera,

Terzian, Terzzymbel.

The french dropped the Sesquialtera introduced by the flemish builders,

and forbidded to mix the Diapason chorus with the reeds altogheter.

 

The post-restoration british organ offers -as always- an interesting picture.

You can find something akin to the flemish model (sesqui+ Quint Mixture) or

a Sesqui-like-only design !

 

The central and southern Germany (Austria included) display a completely

different situation....There, the 4/5' tierce was overall present.

 

Then comes Gottfried Silbermann with his frenchified conceptions.

From then on, we find Quint Mixtures (sometimes yes with a seperate Tierce rank,

but G.S. never indicated it could go in the Pleno...) or Tierce Mixtures.

Hildebrandt followed Silbermann's practice, while Wagner found a completely

new and original way: French Cornet, french jeu de Tierce (5 seperate stops),

Quint Mixture (Mixtur) and the traditionnal Tierce Mixture (Scharff, with the 4/5' rank).

So everybody should be happy....

 

The question is not: do we like it or not. I'm only interested with the facts, and the

facts are, the Tierce belongs to the Mixtures like the chips with the fish in 80% of

the ancient organ styles.

The french organ being the exception, with the italian one.

The first had the Cornet to go with the reeds, the second had no, or very few reeds.

 

Spain is very interesting: no tierce in Castille, but in Catalonya, the Mixtures have those

ranks. Jordi Bosch litterally crammed his Mixtures with (several!) tierce ranks.

 

This is history, not Pete Flower's mania....

 

Pierre

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In my mis-spent youth, when I worked in organ-building fairly briefly, I recall going to tune a number of quite old organs in Eastern Lancashire, around the Trough of Bowland. There were quite a few organs in that pleasant area which had a much "older" style than many of the organs built at the same time elsewhere, and most of them contained Tierce Mixtures which might easily have come straight from the 18th century. They were strongly piquant, and not at all unattractive, but ultimate clarity did suffer a little. The composition was usually 17,19,22, with no attept to throttle back the tierce component.

 

These were the perfect Walond, Stanley, Handel Concerti instruments, and showed that in small provincial areas, things hadn't changed very much in a century.

 

So in a way, I grew up with that sound, and actually liked it.

 

When I eventually ended up at the console of a Fr Willis, I always felt that the Mixtures were a bit tame as a consequence.

 

Perhaps the greatest glory of the organ I play is the fact that it has THE most wonderful principal chorus, with only 8ft and 4ft, a superb IVrks Mixture and the option of a 2 rks Sesquialtera. So well voiced are the components, the Sesquialtera is a magnificent register with which to colour the chorus and impart a reedy zest to the whole, and I wouldn't dream of NOT using it for Bach. Of course, having the 2 rks Sequialtera, means that all sort of solo possibilities are available.

 

Imagine my horror when it was discovered that the dead length of certain Mixture pipes was wrong, and when the wind pressure was sorted out with repairs to the Schwimmer, some of the pipes would not tune down to where they should be!!!!

 

Thus, the decision was made to push the entire Mixture pipes up a note, and to use different bottom note pipes at each break!

 

Fortunately, it has all worked out well, but currently, we are running on a few second-hand pipes (nicely matched) at the break points, but when everything has finally settled down, my hope is that we may obtain new pipes and blend them in. (The old discarded ones are carefully stored on top of the organ).

 

It was a fairly heart-stopping moment; realising that changes needed to be made, and hoping that it would all work out for the best. Fortunately, it did, and the end result is every bit as good as before.

 

I think it's when you live with superb mixtures, that you begin to realise how poor many others are.

 

Of course, what I love (who wouldn't?), are the options available at the Bavokerk, where there is a choice between Quint and Terzchor on every manual, but that sort of luxury only comes at a price.

 

Personally, I have always loved the 4/5ths rank, which adds reedy colour without disturbing the clarity of an otherwise quint chorus. That is, I expect, the Tertian type of mixture, and I have memories of just this type of sound while listening to the Bach A-minor at Zwolle (F C Schnitger)....another of those "best organs to die at."

 

MM

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Why not just have the Seventeenth drawing independently? Then you can colour the quint mixture, and use it for Sesquialtera effects in conjunction with a Twelfth? <_<

 

A local organ which I play has the Tierce drawing independently as you say, and this works very effectively. The only drawback about the mixture is that it is voiced quite loud so it dominates the Great chorus.

The best Tierce mixtures I have heard are the Willis ones, but the Great Mixture at the Wellington Town Hall comes up fairly close in my opinion.

 

JA

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Here is an unique Video which features an intact 2 2/3'-2'- 1 3/5' Walcker Mixture

of 1886:

 

http://www.walckerorgel.de/gewalcker.de/20...cert0301107.wmv

 

First are extracts played on the Aeoline, just restored by Gerhard Walcker, then,

in Messian, the chorus topped by that Mixture.

This does NOT sound like a three ranks Cornet...

 

(Walcker organ of Grecia, Costa Rica, Op 407, 1886).

 

Specification (inchanged since 1886):

 

MANUAL

 

Principal 8'

Gedeckt 8'

Salicional 8'

Aeoline 8' (did not speak any more)

Octave 4'

Mixture 3 ranks: 2 2/3'- 2'- 1 3/5'

 

PEDAL

 

Subbass 16'

 

Pierre

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First are extracts played on the Aeoline, just restored by Gerhard Walcker, then,

in Messian, the chorus topped by that Mixture.

This does NOT sound like a three ranks Cornet...

 

Absolutely gorgeous colours. NB the first extract is Messiaen; the second is the Duruflé Fugue sur le Carillon des heures de la Cathedral du Soissons. Pity the last chord is chopped!

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Absolutely gorgeous colours. NB the first extract is Messiaen; the second is the Duruflé Fugue sur le Carillon des heures de la Cathedral du Soissons. Pity the last chord is chopped!

 

Isn't it ?

 

The tierce here has two roles: 1) To supply that "golden color"; 2) It conveys

the impression there is a reed stop, a "complete" Tutti also.

This Mixture is deep, so it gives "grandeur" in the basses. But the treble

is indeed very bright, simply because there are no breaks.

 

Pierre

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Yes Holz,

 

This is an option often encountered.

In the flemish organ you have the Sesquialtera, beginning 1 1/3'-4/5',

breaking to 2 2/3'- 1 3/5', and the Mixtuur, without Tierce. So the

player has the choice.

It is the same with the northern organ: Quint Mixtures+ Sesquialtera,

Terzian, Terzzymbel.

The french dropped the Sesquialtera introduced by the flemish builders,

and forbidded to mix the Diapason chorus with the reeds altogheter.

 

The post-restoration british organ offers -as always- an interesting picture.

You can find something akin to the flemish model (sesqui+ Quint Mixture) or

a Sesqui-like-only design !

 

The central and southern Germany (Austria included) display a completely

different situation....There, the 4/5' tierce was overall present.

 

Then comes Gottfried Silbermann with his frenchified conceptions.

From then on, we find Quint Mixtures (sometimes yes with a seperate Tierce rank,

but G.S. never indicated it could go in the Pleno...) or Tierce Mixtures.

Hildebrandt followed Silbermann's practice, while Wagner found a completely

new and original way: French Cornet, french jeu de Tierce (5 seperate stops),

Quint Mixture (Mixtur) and the traditionnal Tierce Mixture (Scharff, with the 4/5' rank).

So everybody should be happy....

 

The question is not: do we like it or not. I'm only interested with the facts, and the

facts are, the Tierce belongs to the Mixtures like the chips with the fish in 80% of

the ancient organ styles.

The french organ being the exception, with the italian one.

The first had the Cornet to go with the reeds, the second had no, or very few reeds.

 

Spain is very interesting: no tierce in Castille, but in Catalonya, the Mixtures have those

ranks. Jordi Bosch litterally crammed his Mixtures with (several!) tierce ranks.

 

This is history, not Pete Flower's mania....

 

Pierre

 

Although, as I have given ample evidence to support in previous postings, there were a good number of exceptions to this. In fact, it is simply not a clear-cut case. Of course there are numerous examples of historical instruments which contain tierce mixtures (which were designed to be used as part of the choruses) - but to deny that there were also many historical instruments (in Germany as well as Holland) which possessed quint mixtures (with those which contained tierce ranks being reserved for solo effects, etc), is not the case.

 

In any case, whist we are likely to be influenced by historical details (either positively or negatively), what concerns me now as a player is precisely 'do I like it?'. Whilst I am interested in what has happened in the past, tonally (and mechanically, to an extent) the design of the organ is constantly evolving. I do not consider myself bound by the dictates of any school of thought - in fact, as a performer, I would maintain that this would be a hindrance, rather than an advantage.

 

Like Cynic, my preference is for quint mixtures - particularly in Bach. Interestingly, in the current issue of Choir & Organ, there is a further obituary to Stephen Bicknell (written, I believe, by Jonathan Ambrosino). In it, he alludes briefly to the fact that Stephen highlighted certain points with regard to Trost's tonal design - whilst I cannot recall precisely the wording, I do remember that it was quite strong.

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"In any case, whist we are likely to be influenced by historical details (either positively or negatively), what concerns me now as a player is precisely 'do I like it?'. Whilst I am interested in what has happened in the past, tonally (and mechanically, to an extent) the design of the organ is constantly evolving. I do not consider myself bound by the dictates of any school of thought - in fact, as a performer, I would maintain that this would be a hindrance, rather than an advantage."

(Quote)

 

So far, so good.

The problem, then, is to know where the limits are.

Fact is, the majority of the baroque organs have been rebuild

in the 19th century after "what was liked" then, an then again

in the 20th century, after "what we do like in Bach", "what

we feel convenient for Bach", etc.

Then comes this damned historian, who says: "he, guys, the organs

Bach knew weren't that way".

Aha.

Annoying !

Maybe the "best" compromise would be to decide:

 

1)- We do it our way for new organs.

 

2)- We keep a sufficient numbers of ancient organs as they were.

 

.....Because the alternative is: we "correct" all instruments after the way

we like. And in 50 years, we hear Bach only after a Jazz-band or heavy metal

manner.

We are only dust, etc.

 

Pierre

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"In any case, whist we are likely to be influenced by historical details (either positively or negatively), what concerns me now as a player is precisely 'do I like it?'. Whilst I am interested in what has happened in the past, tonally (and mechanically, to an extent) the design of the organ is constantly evolving. I do not consider myself bound by the dictates of any school of thought - in fact, as a performer, I would maintain that this would be a hindrance, rather than an advantage."

(Quote)

 

So far, so good.

The problem, then, is to know where the limits are.

Fact is, the majority of the baroque organs have been rebuild

in the 19th century after "what was liked" then, an then again

in the 20th century, after "what we do like in Bach", "what

we feel convenient for Bach", etc.

Then comes this damned historian, who says: "he, guys, the organs

Bach knew weren't that way".

Aha.

Annoying !

Maybe the "best" compromise would be to decide:

 

1)- We do it our way for new organs.

 

2)- We keep a sufficient numbers of ancient organs as they were.

 

.....Because the alternative is: we "correct" all instruments after the way

we like. And in 50 years, we hear Bach only after a Jazz-band or heavy metal

manner.

We are only dust, etc.

 

Pierre

 

Pierre, I agree with you to an extent. The problem is that, particularly in the case of J S Bach, history is anything but clear. To quote (or at least, to allude to) the writings of Stephen Bicknell once more: he stated (at a lecture given as part of the St. Albans International Organ Festival) that the 'missing' instrument which would provide the necessary link between Trost and Bach simply did not exist.

 

However, it is also hardly realistic to expect me to play the music of Bach on a registration which I dislike greatly, purely because it may be historically correct - which itself is debatable.

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Nobody will ever impone a dedicate registration to anyone.

What we need is only to keep the ancient organs.

There is room for many kinds of interpretations, the ones

trying to be historically accurate, the others not.

Both are interesting.

(I would certainly never dare to make a speech in St-Alban's.

So I understand Mr Bicknell !)

 

Besides this, what do you think of that Video ?

Pierre

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"In any case, whist we are likely to be influenced by historical details (either positively or negatively), what concerns me now as a player is precisely 'do I like it?'. Whilst I am interested in what has happened in the past, tonally (and mechanically, to an extent) the design of the organ is constantly evolving. I do not consider myself bound by the dictates of any school of thought - in fact, as a performer, I would maintain that this would be a hindrance, rather than an advantage."

(Quote)

 

So far, so good.

The problem, then, is to know where the limits are.

Fact is, the majority of the baroque organs have been rebuild

in the 19th century after "what was liked" then, an then again

in the 20th century, after "what we do like in Bach", "what

we feel convenient for Bach", etc.

Then comes this damned historian, who says: "he, guys, the organs

Bach knew weren't that way".

Aha.

Annoying !

Maybe the "best" compromise would be to decide:

 

1)- We do it our way for new organs.

 

2)- We keep a sufficient numbers of ancient organs as they were.

 

.....Because the alternative is: we "correct" all instruments after the way

we like. And in 50 years, we hear Bach only after a Jazz-band or heavy metal

manner.

We are only dust, etc.

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

It seems to me that there is so much nonsense talked about historical authenticity, even though I revere those baroque instruments which are either original (very rare), re-built within the same style, or more likely, restored to the best of the organ-builder's knowledge and ability.

 

In point of fact, if you travel to Holland, even the 19th century re-builds of much older organs, very often retained the character of the instrument. A 19th century Batz organ is not very different from what went before, save for the introduction of double Tierce ranks in some of the Mixtures, and rather broader voicing etc.

 

Go to the Groningen area, and the organ-builders were still building in a style not far removed from Schnitger and Hinsz, even well into the 19th century.

 

If you took the identical period in English organ-building, it could not have been more different.

 

Even in the 20th century to the present day, styles and opinions differ greatly about what is "a Bach organ," and yet, all the music requires is nobility and clarity in the chorus-work. Thus, Bach is as good on a Steinway as it is on a harpsichord of the period, because clarity has not been lost.

 

The old organs teach us a great deal about tempi, balance, structural considerations and what was actually physically possible, but they do not compromise a set of rules as such.

 

So when I hear "extreme" Bach, I do not worry too much, unless it happens to be an American organist soloing out the countersubjects on a chamade!!!!! (Vrigil Fox would do this often).

 

There are so many other considerations, such as suitable (rather than slavish copying) of ornamentation, the acoustic in which one is playing and even the type of action employed, but the chances are, a good Bach player will make Bach sound like Bach, even if he/she is playing a theatre extension organ.

 

I'm afraid that trying to suggest that Bach played "romantic" and colourful instruments, is no argument for the proposition that we should return to romantic organs, which always seem to be the hidden agenda in Pierre's writings.

 

I cannot think of a single romantic organ which would "improve Bach", but by the same token, I can think of an awful lot that will detroy it; especially when heavy pedal woods and over-powerful reeds are employed.

 

As for symphonic Bach, there were organists in my youth who would pride themselves in playing Bach in a symphonic way, and of course, that meant that almost every fugue eventually disappeared into a sea of oozing Tubas, pedal woods and Ophicleides. Then they would turn and smile, assuring everyone that "If Bach had been alive to-day, he would have loved this organ, but he had to make do with what he had."

 

A loaded Luger was possibly the kindest response!

 

MM

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"I'm afraid that trying to suggest that Bach played "romantic" and colourful instruments, is no argument for the proposition that we should return to romantic organs, which always seem to be the hidden agenda in Pierre's writings."

(Quote)

 

Not at all, save if you consider 18th century german organs are "romantic" organs.

 

Pierre

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Besides this, what do you think of that Video ?

Pierre

 

To be honest, I found it hard to appreciate the 'gorgeous colours' cited by Ian, over the audience and traffic noise which was clearly audible over my speakers.

 

I liked the opening of the Duruflé - right up until the mixture was added. A pity about the fifty-four-note compass, too. There was certainly brightness - but I simply prefer a reedy registration to be supplied by reeds, as opposed to mixtures. However, I do enjoy hearing (and viewing) the clips which you post, Pierre - please do not stop!

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To be honest, I found it hard to appreciate the 'gorgeus colours' cited by Ian, over the audience and traffic noise which was clearly audible over my speakers.

 

I liked the opening of the Duruflé - right up until the mixture was added. A pity about the fifty-four-note compass, too. There was certainly brightness - but I simply prefer a reedy registration to be supplied by reeds, as opposed to mixtures. However, I do enjoy hearing (and viewing) the clips which you post, Pierre - please do not stop!

Well, there was enough thru my speakers to make out some real quality - etheral Aeoline; sonorous, stringy, Hill-like Principal; and a versatile mixture that's very easy on the ear. I admire little organs and bold organists who make big music work successfully. I'd rather hear this than a 50-stop digital or knit-your-own-yoghurt chamber organ (well, who wouldn't?). :)

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... I'd rather hear this than a 50-stop digital or knit-your-own-yoghurt chamber organ (well, who wouldn't?). :angry:

 

With this, I would agree! Although I am intrigued at the idea of knitting in yoghurt....

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