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Prom Concert 21/7/05


Tony Newnham
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Hi

 

I listened with interest to last night's prom. Despite the fact that I'm not really "in to" modern classical music, I found the organ concerto interesting. The organ sounded well - although the interior shots on BBC4 seemed to bear no relevance to the pipes actually being used at the time!

 

I only wish we heard more of this unique instrument - especially in the Proms - the organ needs all the exposure it can get these days.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I thought the MacMillan Bestiary was a superb piece.

 

I was surprised how punchy the organ sounded. The reeds sounded quite splashy. Was this an artifact of microphone placement, or does it really sound like that in the hall?

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I thought the MacMillan Bestiary was a superb piece.

 

I was surprised how punchy the organ sounded.  The reeds sounded quite splashy.  Was this an artifact of microphone placement, or does it really sound like that in the hall?

 

 

I had the enormous and quite undeserved privilege of playing the RAH organ in the wee small hours one day last year shortly after the restoration was finished. Yes, the reeds are truly superb and in such variety of power and tonal palette. I was much taken with the Great Harmonic Trumpets which have tremendous vitality and "zizz". The unenclosed Bombarde Tubas still "shout down" everything else, but the big 32 reed does not seem quite as rampaging as it once was. None of this can be fully appreciated from the console, of course. The best place to experience the broadside of full organ is the gallery or the balcony. From there the sound sails over the orchestral canopy and nearly lifts you off your feet. The Arena - alas for prommers - is an odd sort of acoustic dead spot.

 

I've listened to Dame Gillian's recording of the restored organ and must say Priory have done a fine job of capturing the beats's enormous dynamic range. The only snag is that you turn up the volume to savour the delicacies of the Solo Unda Maris and Glockenspiel, when along comes a Tuba or three and nearly blows up your woofers!

 

John S

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.

 

Was this an artifact of microphone placement, or does it really sound like that in the hall?

This was no trick! Unfortunately TV and radio presentations tend to artificially "down" the organ in balancing the sound - so you don't usually get it loud and clear. Live in the hall the organ knocks you off your feet! It is something else. I am hoping for a significant contribution in the RVW Sea Symphony tonight and Gerontious tomorrow!!

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[. Was this an artifact of microphone placement, or does it really sound like that in the hall?

 

I saw the BBC4 production of RVW's Sea Symphony, and as predicted the organ was not very evident (on the broad cast at least).

 

I was at last night's Gerontius, sitting at the top of the Circle, about as high as you can get, at about 2o'clock from the organ. Darius Battiwala played the organ, and was pretty restrained for all of the piece - but nonetheless I could hear the diapasons ringing quite clearly above the chorus and orchestra in Part 1. In Part 2 - especially Geronius' "It floods me, like the deep and solemn sound" - you could here the full swell acidly biting through the rising and falling of the orchestra . In "Praise to the Holiest", again a restrained "full organ" sound which was undoubtedly well short of the organ's maximum output - but topped the rest of the ensemble without annahiliating it. In the fabulous "I go before my judge" with the paean-like crescendo, the pedal reeds blasted forth and with the big reeds deployed the final splinter like crack of the day of judgement was awsome and litterall made you start out of your seat! Fabulous!

However...........listening to it again on line this evening (apart from the last bit) the organ seemed very subdued. You really have to be there I guess. Broadcasts just don't do it.

 

I also listened to the "Bestiary" from the other night...ooo-er! Did anyone actually write that down!

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[. Was this an artifact of microphone placement, or does it really sound like that in the hall?

 

I was at last night's Gerontius, sitting at the top of the Circle, about as high as you can get, at about 2o'clock from the organ............... You really have to be there I guess. Broadcasts just don't do it (end of qote)

 

 

It really does depend very much where you are sitting or standing in the Hall, and the Circle, or even the Gallery, are undoubtedly the best aural vantage points.

 

I stood at the front of the Arena for Gerontius last night and, whilst there was lots of decent 32 foot rumble at all the right moments, the organ did not come through at what Elgar called the "great blaze" of Praise to the Holiest or at any of the other fortissimo outbursts. The same was true in the quieter passages where the organ accompanies the semi-chorus. A shame, as the organ is indispensable in this work.

 

Prommers get short measure, alas, where the organ is concerned, all due, no doubt, to the acoustic shadow cast by the wretched orchestral canopy which turns the Arena into a dead spot. I suspect the lion's share of the organ sound simply goes over the top of it.

 

I note that most of the microphones seem to be placed below the level of the canopy.

 

John S

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I have not been that impressed with any broadcasts of the organ either at the A.H. or of choral evensong, I have been told that the BBC and others like classic fm as the sound is always compressed. I have recorded an organ piece of radio 3 and its at the same level , nearly, all the way through fom pp to ff. I hear Dame Gillian Weir is doing a concert at the Albert Hall in October, that should fill the hall nicely ;)

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I was disappointed by the volume of the organ in Elgar's Cockaigne Overture from the First Night of the Proms. I gather that at the rehearsal the organist was told to reduce the level, with the result, for me at least, that it was virtually inaudible for viewers at home.

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I have not been that impressed with any broadcasts of the organ either at the A.H. or of  choral evensong, I have been told that the BBC and others like classic fm as the sound is always compressed. I have recorded an organ piece of radio 3 and its at the same level , nearly, all the way through fom pp to ff. I hear Dame Gillian Weir is doing a concert at the Albert Hall in October, that should fill the hall nicely :P

 

Hi

 

If you've got access to Sky, the BBC R3 feed on there is uncompressed (except for the digital data reduction), and reflects most accurately the balance engineers' intentions. Most SKY digiboxes have an audio output that can be connected to a Hi-Fi system.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Hi

 

If you've got access to Sky, the BBC R3 feed on there is uncompressed (except for the digital data reduction), and reflects most accurately the balance engineers' intentions.  Most SKY digiboxes have an audio output that can be connected to a Hi-Fi system.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

thanks for that Tony, I have the sky+ system, so I will have to put it throgh the hi fi, trouble is the mrs ain't into classical music especially if it has more than one keyboard and 9000 plus pipes (and she calls me an anorak) so I will have to keep the volume down :P

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thanks for that Tony, I have the sky+ system, so I will have to put it throgh the hi fi, trouble is the mrs ain't into classical music especially if it has  more than one keyboard  and 9000 plus pipes (and she calls me an anorak) so I will have to keep the volume down :P

 

Hi

 

I sympathise - I have the same "problem" - not so bad now we have enough space for her to have a seperate study with a TV, etc. Having said that, finding time to just sit and listen is a problem - most of my listening is while I'm working in my study, so I can't access the Sky audio outs either.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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  • 4 weeks later...
thanks for that Tony, I have the sky+ system, so I will have to put it throgh the hi fi, trouble is the mrs ain't into classical music especially if it has  more than one keyboard  and 9000 plus pipes (and she calls me an anorak) so I will have to keep the volume down :P

Wear your anorak with pride.
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I listened with interest to last night's prom.  Despite the fact that I'm not really "in to" modern classical music, I found the organ concerto interesting.  The organ sounded well - although the interior shots on BBC4 seemed to bear no relevance to the pipes actually being used at the time!

 

I only wish we heard more of this unique instrument - especially in the Proms - the organ needs all the exposure it can get these days.

 

 

 

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

 

After listening to the awful wheezing and gasping noises of an apparently always out-of-tune Royal Albert Hall organ for nigh on forty years, it is wonderful to hear the organ sounding so good these days.

 

Unfortunately, no-one will ever be able to do much to rectify the natural short-comings of the acoustic; possibly only matched by that of St.Pancras' Station; which leads me to another thought.

 

Why does London still not have a truly good large concert-hall with an organ in it?

 

They wasted zillions on the Millenium Dome, contributed so splendidly to the visual environment with the "London Eye" and now look set to waste ten times as much money on the sweaty jock-strap brigade for the Olympics.

 

Ask if they ever intend to install a organ at the Barbican, and you are met with the sort of stunned reaction more familiar of those who have just heard Tuvan throat-singing for the first time.

 

Compare this to almost ANY capital city anywhere in the world, and it is a national disgrace. They do better than this in Bulgaria and even Azerbijan!

 

MM

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