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Organists And Pianists


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When I was at school, in the days of shillings and pence, I remember our music teacher (B.Mus, ARCO) telling me that it was impossible for anyone to be equally good as an organist and a pianist. Organists could not develop the sensitivity of touch that a pianist needs and pianists would not have the finger strength that an organist needs.

 

As a rule of thumb for the majority of us mere mortals, I actually think he may have had a point. Speaking for myself, I love playing Debussy, but always feel like an elephant playing in wellingtons. Nevertheless, without doubt there are some very notable exceptions who have proved themselves equally professional on both instruments. I can think of:

 

Jeremy Filsell

Wayne Marshall

Francis Grier

 

Also, if I am correctly attributing one or two clips I have come across on the web, our own David Coram is no mean pianist either.

 

Who else?

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When I was at school, in the days of shillings and pence, I remember our music teacher (B.Mus, ARCO) telling me that it was impossible for anyone to be equally good as an organist and a pianist. Organists could not develop the sensitivity of touch that a pianist needs and pianists would not have the finger strength that an organist needs.

 

As a rule of thumb for the majority of us mere mortals, I actually think he may have had a point. Speaking for myself, I love playing Debussy, but always feel like an elephant playing in wellingtons. Nevertheless, without doubt there are some very notable exceptions ......(snip)

 

 

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

 

 

Well, I can think of a few exceptions.

 

Francis Jackson could play the Ravel one-hand thing, and as a young man, impressed at the piano.

 

The late Bill Davies was a fantastic pianist, and what a pleasure it was to stand beside him as he played the Litolff Scherzo.

 

Of the theatre organists, Sidney Torch was a fabulous pianist, and so too was Quentin Maclean, but of course, the theatre organ tends to be played in a pianistic rather than an organistic way: one of the reasons why organists find it such a difficult instrument to master.

 

Reger played both, but he was principally a pianist I believe.

 

Saint-Seans certainly springs to mind, as a dual virtuoso, and one must assume that Mendelssohn was no slouch on either instrument. Presumably Liszt and Reubke could do better than "Three blind mice," and Mozart certainly dabbled as an organist

 

Speaking personally, I don't have a problem with sensitivity at the piano, and I did learn a couple of Beethoven Sonatas, bits of Debussy and one of the big Brahms Rhapsodies. However, I would never regard myself as a pianist.

 

So I'm not sure that your music-teacher's general rule necessarily applies, but we all know what he meant.

 

MM

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When I was at school, in the days of shillings and pence, I remember our music teacher (B.Mus, ARCO) telling me that it was impossible for anyone to be equally good as an organist and a pianist. Organists could not develop the sensitivity of touch that a pianist needs and pianists would not have the finger strength that an organist needs.

 

As a rule of thumb for the majority of us mere mortals, I actually think he may have had a point. Speaking for myself, I love playing Debussy, but always feel like an elephant playing in wellingtons. Nevertheless, without doubt there are some very notable exceptions who have proved themselves equally professional on both instruments. I can think of:

 

Jeremy Filsell

Wayne Marshall

Francis Grier

 

Also, if I am correctly attributing one or two clips I have come across on the web, our own David Coram is no mean pianist either.

 

Who else?

 

My first two piano teachers were anti-organ. :D My piano playing suffered due to this conflict, especially as I was so into the organ in my teens. I gave up the piano at 15.

When I arrived at Music College I had to do a second study, I really didn't want to return to the piano, as I thought the previous conflict would re-surface. Luckily, I had a superb piano teacher (the head of the department - I'm still not sure if that was an admin error at the time, or if he just wanted a break from the string of excellent future concert pianists!!) who respected the organ, worked with me to explore how the two complemented each other and restored my childhood enjoyment of the instrument.

These days I don't get time to practise the piano, and don't have one here. A new piano at school last year inspired me to work up a couple of pieces (the Gershwin Preludes) and that was great fun.

I think with the right approach, and time, you can play both well...

And in answer to the question: Jean Guillou.

P.

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Guest Barry Williams

George Thalben Ball

G D Cunningham

Douglas Hawridge (Royal Academy of Music)

Peter Wright (of Southwark)

Daniel Chorzempa

Carlo Curley

Virgil Fox

Roger Fisher

 

(Dr Thalben Ball and Douglas Hawkridge were both first study pianists, destined for a career on the concert platform.)

 

The list is endless. Not everyone accepts the reason - it has been rehearsed elsewhere on this Board.

 

Barry Williams

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...it was said of Dupré that his piano professor lamented over Marcel's desire to pursue organ rather than piano - I believe he said something to the effect that "alas, the world has been deprived of one of it's greatest pianists"

 

Cheers,

 

-G

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...it was said of Dupré that his piano professor lamented over Marcel's desire to pursue organ rather than piano - I believe he said something to the effect that "alas, the world has been deprived of one of it's greatest pianists"

 

Cheers,

 

-G

 

His daughter later made up for that though.... :unsure:

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When I was at school, in the days of shillings and pence, I remember our music teacher (B.Mus, ARCO) telling me that it was impossible for anyone to be equally good as an organist and a pianist. Organists could not develop the sensitivity of touch that a pianist needs and pianists would not have the finger strength that an organist needs.

 

As a rule of thumb for the majority of us mere mortals, I actually think he may have had a point. Speaking for myself, I love playing Debussy, but always feel like an elephant playing in wellingtons. Nevertheless, without doubt there are some very notable exceptions who have proved themselves equally professional on both instruments. I can think of:

 

Jeremy Filsell

Wayne Marshall

Francis Grier

 

Also, if I am correctly attributing one or two clips I have come across on the web, our own David Coram is no mean pianist either.

 

Who else?

 

Our former Organ Scholar has just gone to one of the London colleges to study piano for 2 years before going to be OS at a certain Oxbridge college which broadcasts an annual carol service. During his 5 years as OS here (after retiring from the treble stalls) he not only gave stunning solo performances of organ "lollipops" (e.g. Widor + Vierne symphonies, Dupré P+Fs, Duruflé) and accompanied all the warhorses of the cathedral repertoire, he also played the Grieg Piano Concerto.

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QUOTE(Barry Williams @ Nov 30 2007, 07:53 AM) *

(Dr Thalben Ball and Douglas Hawkridge were both first study pianists, destined for a career on the concert platform.)

Come to think of it, so was Jane Parker Smith when she first came to the RCM.

Dame Gillian Weir studied both piano (Cyril Smith) and organ (Ralph Downes) at the RCM. It was her success in the 1964 St Albans competition and the impact on her of the sound of Dutch baroque organs that led to her carving a career as an organist.

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Oh dear, there goes my career then, having only mastered that really easy G major one by Mozart (14/15/16, can't remember which one) and the little concerto by Richard Rodney Bennett, and I only managed that one because it was a bit jazzy and required some improvisation!

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Guest Barry Williams

Does anyone recall the old LPs 'Minus One' (I think that was the title), a series that had all the major piano concerti without the solo part? I do not know if these are still available. I also had the Mozart Horn Concerti in minus one, but it may have been a different label or title.

 

I had great fun with them. Subsequently I found myself an unpaid job playing at the rehearsals of a local orchestra. They wanted a pianist to play the solo part(s) for a few weeks before the paid 'big name' came in on the day. That was fun too.

 

I have never come across any Organ Concerti in that format or indeed any CDs, but that is probably because I have not specifically looked.

 

Barry Williams

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I think it was Gillian Weir who said something along the lines of students shouldn't attempt the organ until they have at least one major piano concerto under their belt.

 

 

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

 

 

I can think of quite a lot of organists who never did have a piano concerto under their belt, and some of them I would prefer to listen to.

 

MM

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  • 1 year later...
You can't beat Fillsell of those active and in their prime today. I think he has also recorded both the Reubke's. He played for one of our Rio Grande's, effortless, and his recent Vierne set will take some beating.

 

I heard Jeremy Filsell's recital tonight and it was a disappointment, to say the least. Sure, he has fast fingers, but his playing was unmusical. I thought he didn't have very good control over the Bach pieces. The Durufle Suite was awful, particularly the Sicilienne movement, which was rendered mechanically.

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Does anyone recall the old LPs 'Minus One' (I think that was the title), a series that had all the major piano concerti without the solo part? I do not know if these are still available. I also had the Mozart Horn Concerti in minus one, but it may have been a different label or title.

 

I had great fun with them. Subsequently I found myself an unpaid job playing at the rehearsals of a local orchestra. They wanted a pianist to play the solo part(s) for a few weeks before the paid 'big name' came in on the day. That was fun too.

 

I have never come across any Organ Concerti in that format or indeed any CDs, but that is probably because I have not specifically looked.

 

Barry Williams

 

A long time ago I heard someone mention that recordings had been made of piano concertos minus the piano part and I always thought to myself what fun they would be (though I don't know white how you'd time the sections where just the piano was to be played....but I've never seen them available anywhere so a link would be great. And I think frankly I'd prefer the experience of playing unwaged with an orchestra in rehearsal than to be paid to perform a concert with them, what an experience for a keen non-professional!

 

I say to myself now and again that maybe when I grow older and greyer I'll like to try committing the orchestral part of a piano concerto to three staves, at least way I'd only need to find a pianist and I'd play the rest on the organ. At least it's easier to hire an organ than it is to hire an orchestra.

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I heard Jeremy Filsell's recital tonight and it was a disappointment, to say the least. Sure, he has fast fingers, but his playing was unmusical. I thought he didn't have very good control over the Bach pieces. The Durufle Suite was awful, particularly the Sicilienne movement, which was rendered mechanically.

 

I feel a little guilty, as I had previously mentioned his name as being worth hearing. All of us have a bad day from time to time, but I still rate Jeremy as one of the finest musicians I've had the pleasure of working with. I'm still a big fan of his Vierne cycle, and the Reubke piano disc as well. He's also a pretty handy sportsman (or was in his prime!) and a thoroughly nice chap as well.

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George Thalben Ball

G D Cunningham

Douglas Hawridge (Royal Academy of Music)

Peter Wright (of Southwark)

Daniel Chorzempa

Carlo Curley

Virgil Fox

Roger Fisher

 

(Dr Thalben Ball and Douglas Hawkridge were both first study pianists, destined for a career on the concert platform.)

 

The list is endless. Not everyone accepts the reason - it has been rehearsed elsewhere on this Board.

 

Barry Williams

 

With the very greatest respect to Barry Williams, I must say that Carlo Curley does not belong on a list alongside Dr. Ball, G D Cunningham, and, in particular, Daniel Chorzempa. These three gentlemen all possessed virtuoso technique of a very high order. In short, they were REAL pianists, able to play the repertoire at a moments notice, and with a beautiful tone.

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Guest Roffensis

There's an interesting one. Speaking for myself, I am quite mediocre as a Pianist. I lack much of the extra control needed to sound musical.

 

Organ and piano are totally different, and obviously require totally different approaches.

 

I admire those who can manage both.

 

R

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