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Thomas Trotter At The Rah


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Did anyone go to the Thomas Trotter recital at the RAH last wednesday?

 

It was poorly attended (may have been 700-800 in the audience), which is a shame, because it was an unusual recital for the RAH, but fairly typical of what Thomas does every week in Birmingham.

 

I thought the organ was better presented than in any of the recitals I have attended since the organ was re-opened, in that there was plenty of scope to show of the softer stops, in pieces by Whitlock etc, through the full range of the organ's resources, to full organ (and Thomas is noted for keeping something in reserve, rather than blasting everyone with the tubas from first to last).

 

He seems to have gained a penchant for bells. We heard them twice at Birmingham Town Hall a week or two ago, and last week we were treated to two sweetmeats utilising the RAH Carillons (Solo), as well as a little demo of the Tubular Bells stop. Incidentally these are more subtle than the rather brazen (new) bells on the Birmingham organ, and nicer for it I thought, (although of course very different "species"). He also used the Bass Drum!!!

 

The recital was typical "town hall" with a bit of Bach (that P&F), followed by some transcriptions, lighter organ fayre, then some big French stuff.

 

The RAH organ always seems to me to have a big jump from f to ffff. The pp stops are very quiet indeed. Mr trotter managed his programme and attendant registrations whithout the customary leap in volume - the crescendi were very smooth (or at least I thought so). This playing was as usual masterly!

 

it was great - not hifalutin - just great!

 

I suppose the organisers won't go for a repeat because of the poor attendance which is a real shame.

 

Regards to all

 

Will

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Did anyone go to the Thomas Trotter recital at the RAH last wednesday?

 

It was poorly attended (may have been 700-800 in the audience), which is a shame, because it was an unusual recital for the RAH, but fairly typical of what Thomas does every week in Birmingham.

 

I thought the organ was better presented than in any of the recitals I have attended since the organ was re-opened, in that there was plenty of scope to show of the softer stops, in pieces by Whitlock etc, through the full range of the organ's resources, to full organ (and Thomas is noted for keeping something in reserve, rather than blasting everyone with the tubas from first to last).

 

He seems to have gained a penchant for bells. We heard them twice at Birmingham Town Hall a week or two ago, and last week we were treated to two sweetmeats utilising the RAH Carillons (Solo), as well as a little demo of the Tubular Bells stop. Incidentally these are more subtle than the rather brazen (new) bells on the Birmingham organ, and nicer for it I thought, (although of course very different "species"). He also used the Bass Drum!!!

 

The recital was typical "town hall" with a bit of Bach (that P&F), followed by some transcriptions, lighter organ fayre, then some big French stuff.

 

The RAH organ always seems to me to have a big jump from f to ffff. The pp stops are very quiet indeed. Mr trotter managed his programme and attendant registrations whithout the customary leap in volume - the crescendi were very smooth (or at least I thought so). This playing was as usual masterly!

 

it was great - not hifalutin - just great!

 

I suppose the organisers won't go for a repeat because of the poor attendance which is a real shame.

 

Regards to all

 

Will

 

I am a great fam of Thomas and I believe that he is one of the finest organists in the world the moment. My teacher has lessons from him and therefore his style passes on to me. It is a great shame that the audience was low in number as he really is a great of the age.

 

Andy

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I am a great fam of Thomas and I believe that he is one of the finest organists in the world the moment. My teacher has lessons from him and therefore his style passes on to me. It is a great shame that the audience was low in number as he really is a great of the age.

 

Andy

 

The size of the audience was par for the course for the RAH recitals. Agree that it was very enjoyable. I went to the Birmingham recital on the preceding Monday so had heard much of the repertoire already that week. The RAH organ illustrated that despite its restoration the Brum instrument sounds bland in comparison. I regret that they have gone for handbells rather than chimes such as the St Gile's, Edinburgh, Rieger.

 

I liked TT's bell pieces at the RAH especially the encore.

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The size of the audience was par for the course for the RAH recitals. Agree that it was very enjoyable. I went to the Birmingham recital on the preceding Monday so had heard much of the repertoire already that week. The RAH organ illustrated that despite its restoration the Brum instrument sounds bland in comparison. I regret that they have gone for handbells rather than chimes such as the St Gile's, Edinburgh, Rieger.

 

I liked TT's bell pieces at the RAH especially the encore.

 

 

I forgot to say in my post that I thought that his rendition of the Durufle 'Alain' Prelude and Fugue was dull.

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Guest Lee Blick
It was poorly attended (may have been 700-800 in the audience)

 

That is very poor attendance for a top draw organ recitalist and the largest concert hall organ in this country.

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I forgot to say in my post that I thought that his rendition of the Durufle 'Alain' Prelude and Fugue was dull.

 

...if that was dull - Hungarian Rock was excruciating (I loathed it with a passion).

 

That said - a very worthwhile trip into town.

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Transcriptions and "lighter organ fare"? I suspect these put off the dyed-in-the-wool organ purists like myself without attracting anybody else. I really don't understand why organists feel compelled to adulterate their recitals with this crap. It doesn't happen in any other branch of what might be called serious music - i.e. music you are expected to sit still and listen to in complete silence for an hour or more at a stretch. It's no wonder other musicians don't take the organ and organists seriously.

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Having said that, transcriptions were exactly the sort of thing the RAH organ was built to play. The last time this came up I posted John Stainer's programme for the opening of the Father Willis at the Guildhall, Plymouth in 1878:

 

Sonata no.2 - Mendelssohn

Slow Movement in E Flat - Schubert, arr. Prout (from string 4tte op.123)

Minuet and Air with Variations - Handel (arr. from one of the oboe concertos)

Adagio in D - Spohr (arr. from a string 4tte)

Toccata in D minor - Bach (from the programme notes this was evidently BWV 565, including the fugue)

Andante in F from a Symphony - Haydn

March in D - Mendelssohn (the "Cornelius March")

Pastorale - Corelli, arr. E. J. Hopkins (from 8th concerto for strings)

Variations on "God Save the Queen" - A. Hesse

 

The following evening someone (not named, but could no doubt be discovered with a bit of delving) gave the following recital:

 

Concerto in F - Handel

Barcarole - Spohr (orig. for violin)

March in C - Spohr (from Notturno for wind)

Choral with Variations - Smart

Andante from the Italian Symphony - Mendelssohn

Adagio & Fugue in C - Bach (evidently from BWV 564)

Pastoral - Kullack (orig. for piano)

March in E flat - Smart

Slow Movement in D - Mozart (from piano concerto in A)

Variations on "God Save the Queen" - A. Hesse

 

Not too much genuine organ music amongst all this!

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Not too much genuine organ music amongst all this!

Very true, but it is fair to say these programmes were designed for the tastes of the day with the sole intention of getting the punters in, i.e. to be "populist" in the true sense of the word.

Mr Trotter's recital failed by the same yardstick because it demonstrably did not get the punters in. Saying all that, if any of us were giving a recital at the RAH, I doubt we would manage 800!!

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Guest Lee Blick
Saying all that, if any of us were giving a recital at the RAH, I doubt we would manage 800!!

 

I think that is very true. Organ playing is very much a minority interest in the classical music world.

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Nick Bennett - I would like to agree with you on this, as I prefer to go to a recital and hear music written for the organ, but one has to accept that it's "bums on seats" and TT attracts large audiences in Birmingham, and I've a feeling that numbers would reduce if he stuck with what appeals to you and me. I attend recitals regularly which, as a rule, only include organ music and often I ask what other people there thought of the recital, and it's surprising how often I get negative comments about pieces I, and I'm sure you, enjoy. Reubke, Alain and Langlais always seem to be particular bete noirs for some reason and anything pre Buxtehude, forget it. They still come but grumble.

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Very true, but it is fair to say these programmes were designed for the tastes of the day with the sole intention of getting the punters in, i.e. to be "populist" in the true sense of the word.

 

Isn't it also true to say that, in the days before records, CDs, Radio 3, Classic FM, touring orchestras etc and (relative) ease of travel for audiences, for many people these sorts of organ recital were often the only opportunity they would have to hear some of this music at all?

 

Brass band performances - featuring a large proportion of transcriptions rather than original compositions for the medium - would have served a similar purpose.

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Having said that, transcriptions were exactly the sort of thing the RAH organ was built to play. The last time this came up I posted John Stainer's programme for the opening of the Father Willis at the Guildhall, Plymouth in 1878...Not too much genuine organ music amongst all this!

 

Absolutely - and check this out too -

 

romprog.jpg

 

Definitely not much organ music there! (Spot the deliberate mistake, anyone?)

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Excellent, David. Thank you.

 

Why is the Choir Gamba "8' tone"? Grooved bass??

 

Don't know - a misprint, maybe, or perhaps the original 1858 organ was TC only (several additions were made when it was moved 30 years later, including a second Great double, sharp mixture and Clarion, plus the pedal 32'). The misprint which always catches my eye is "On Wednesday Morning... commencing at Three o'Clock Precisely." I've heard of organ builders burning the midnight oil to finish a job, but that's ridiculous... I would be surprised if 800 people turned out to that.

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The size of the audience was par for the course for the RAH recitals. Agree that it was very enjoyable. I went to the Birmingham recital on the preceding Monday so had heard much of the repertoire already that week. The RAH organ illustrated that despite its restoration the Brum instrument sounds bland in comparison.

 

The problem is 800 is a good crowd for an organ recital, and about the average for the RAH, but looks so sparse in the building.

 

I did not go to TT's RAH concert as after several visits I find the RAH organ unpleasant and overblown, but I did attend the Birmingham recital the previous Monday given to a near capacity audience (Town Hall capacity 1100 I beleive). It is the first time (and probably last) I have queued for nearly 45 minutes to get a ticket to an organ recital. If they want to keep their audiences they need to find a better way of selling tickets - long queue with three sales people using computerised ticket system whereas because they were unreserved tickets all it needed was someone collecting £5 notes at the door. Sorry to disagree but I found the restored Birmingham Town Hall instrument a much more attactive experience than the RAH.

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Transcriptions and "lighter organ fare"? I suspect these put off the dyed-in-the-wool organ purists like myself without attracting anybody else. I really don't understand why organists feel compelled to adulterate their recitals with this crap. It doesn't happen in any other branch of what might be called serious music - i.e. music you are expected to sit still and listen to in complete silence for an hour or more at a stretch. It's no wonder other musicians don't take the organ and organists seriously.

 

Is a point of view i suppose.

 

Oddly enough hundreds of organs have been build in the last 120 years to play exactly "that crap" and very few really suitable for the repertoire that serious lovers of orgn music also fail to turn up in droves to hear. More curious still that millions of pounds have been spent in the last decade on restoring these monsters!!

 

There is room for all types of music to be played on the organ, and I venture to think that if people were a bit less snooty about organs and organ music, then it may be viewed a bit more fairly.

 

As for organists (of every calibre) who dare to desecrate their keys with "crap", well perhaps a few of those talented people might like to respond - at least they can do it (which i suspect many of their critics can't).

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Is a point of view i suppose.

 

Oddly enough hundreds of organs have been build in the last 120 years to play exactly "that crap" and very few really suitable for the repertoire that serious lovers of orgn music also fail to turn up in droves to hear. More curious still that millions of pounds have been spent in the last decade on restoring these monsters!!

 

There is room for all types of music to be played on the organ, and I venture to think that if people were a bit less snooty about organs and organ music, then it may be viewed a bit more fairly.

 

As for organists (of every calibre) who dare to desecrate their keys with "crap", well perhaps a few of those talented people might like to respond - at least they can do it (which i suspect many of their critics can't).

 

 

Not taking sides exactly, but IMHO I think Willy is right. Less snobbery, more broad-mainded acceptance of 'what works' would help matters, so long as each programme contains music which really is music. Town hall recitals in particular demand some items which would be largely unsuited to church performance.

 

Having said that, I remember a TT recital when I came away gob-smacked (I think this is the appropriate contemporary description) at his technique and presentation but, for me, no actual music made its way through. I decided that this was down to his programme selection in that instance. Not scoring points, just an observation.

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Guest Barry Oakley
Is a point of view i suppose.

 

Oddly enough hundreds of organs have been build in the last 120 years to play exactly "that crap" and very few really suitable for the repertoire that serious lovers of orgn music also fail to turn up in droves to hear. More curious still that millions of pounds have been spent in the last decade on restoring these monsters!!

 

There is room for all types of music to be played on the organ, and I venture to think that if people were a bit less snooty about organs and organ music, then it may be viewed a bit more fairly.

 

As for organists (of every calibre) who dare to desecrate their keys with "crap", well perhaps a few of those talented people might like to respond - at least they can do it (which i suspect many of their critics can't).

 

First of all, Willy, let me tell you that I don't consider myself as having an iota of talent when it comes to playing the organ. I think that what talent I may have lies on the construction side.

 

I wholeheartedly agree that too many organs built in recent times (I'm thinking particularly of concert hall organs in Europe and the UK) have been heavily biased towards whatever the trend is in repertoire. I once asked the question of a world-famous recitalist why recently built concert organs in this country have been constructed by foreign organ builders. I was told it was "repertoire ." Whilst I have no proof, the cynic in me has not dismissed the thought that back-handers may have played a part in who got the contracts. I strongly maintain that a well conceived concert hall organ is capable of dealing properly with any repertoire.

 

I am quite inclined towards agreeing with "Cynic" regarding choice of repertoire. A problem, IMHO, that affects the success of most organ recitals is because the organ is somehow indelibly associated with church and religion. And with the Western world fast becoming a Godless society, organ music is seen by the uninitated entirely as a form religious expression.

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I wonder if the choice of music really matters terribly much beyond attracting or putting off a handful of organ aficionados. There may be two other reasons why organ recitals are poorly attended:

 

1) Most of them happen in churches where the audience often sits on hard, uncomfortable wooden benches, and

2) The lack of a visual element

 

What is the point of going to see a performer if you cannot see them?. OK, so you get to 'feel' the pipes. Unfortunately, that isn't a good enough reason for most people. The music can be enjoyed perfectly well at home on a decent stereo.

 

Can you imagine going to an orchestral performance only to find all the musicians were hidden behind a curtain? Would you go to an orchestral performance if you knew you wouldn't be able to see anyone?

 

I've been to a few recitals where they had cameras on the console, projectors and screens. That helps a little bit. But it's still weird to go to a concert and look at a screen over the sanctuary while the actual performance is going on somewhere behind you.

 

It's a pity, and I don't know what can be done about it, but the organ is an inherently non-concertgoer-friendly instrument. It would be wonderful if someone could think of a way of changing that because the repertoire itself is really exciting.

 

Best wishes

 

J

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Not taking sides exactly, but IMHO I think Willy is right. Less snobbery, more broad-mainded acceptance of 'what works' would help matters, so long as each programme contains music which really is music. Town hall recitals in particular demand some items which would be largely unsuited to church performance.

 

Having said that, I remember a TT recital when I came away gob-smacked (I think this is the appropriate contemporary description) at his technique and presentation but, for me, no actual music made its way through. I decided that this was down to his programme selection in that instance. Not scoring points, just an observation.

 

 

Aren't organists rather like disc jockeys who just play the music they like, rather than what the punters want to hear ?

Wouldn't the average audience be happy with light classical ?

Colin Richell.

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Not taking sides exactly, but IMHO I think Willy is right. Less snobbery, more broad-mainded acceptance of 'what works' would help matters, so long as each programme contains music which really is music. Town hall recitals in particular demand some items which would be largely unsuited to church performance.

 

Having said that, I remember a TT recital when I came away gob-smacked (I think this is the appropriate contemporary description) at his technique and presentation but, for me, no actual music made its way through. I decided that this was down to his programme selection in that instance. Not scoring points, just an observation.

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Transcriptions and "lighter organ fare"? I suspect these put off the dyed-in-the-wool organ purists like myself without attracting anybody else. I really don't understand why organists feel compelled to adulterate their recitals with this crap. It doesn't happen in any other branch of what might be called serious music - i.e. music you are expected to sit still and listen to in complete silence for an hour or more at a stretch. It's no wonder other musicians don't take the organ and organists seriously.

 

Sorry, venture to disagree here. I play quite a few transcriptions, not necesarily to get people in the door (I don't think I know anyone who has ever said, 'I'll try out organ recitals because they are playing orchestral/piano music'), but to give them a satisfying experience that might make them come back. I don't do programmes solely of transcriptions, its a question of balance and picking music suitable for the instrument (I didn't play any at Queen's, Oxford, for example). Like it or not, transcriptions are an important part of the history of our repertoire (and they've been around for a long time, do we not include the Bach transcriptions in our recitals for the same reason?).

 

Let's face it, if Lemare/Best et al. hadn't popularised the organ in the way they did, we wouldn't have the Birm Town Hall organs and the like. These organs were almost designed for this purpose and of course we can broaden the appeal by playing some Bach/Guilmant/Reger/Howells etc, but are we really doing the instrument justice if we don't bother with the orchestral stops.

 

Rant over and prepared for flack.

 

Come one, I know there are loads of you out there who do the odd transcription, stand up and be counted...

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