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James Goldrick

The Greatest British Organ Work

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For what *instrumental means* was Elgar's Sonata composed ?

 

Does anyone know ?

 

(Yerk yerk yerk....) B)

 

Pierre

 

For many years people believed that it was written for Hope-Jones's rebuilt organ in Worcester Cathedral, indeed there is one textbook which says so. More recently, I believe Dr.Relf Clark and others (based around the University of Reading) have established firmly that the first performance was attempted on Worcester Cathedral's Hill transept organ i.e. before Hope Jones came on the scene. The first performance, however, was a disaster according to every account that has come down to us. It is not hard to imagine the difficulties - large mid-victorian instrument with inadequate stop control, new work still in manuscript written unidiomatically, making no concessions to the young cathedral organist (Hugh Blair) who found himself at fairly short notice in the spotlight with an amazingly difficult piece to perform. At that time, I doubt whether anyone in this country had ever seen anything of equivalent difficulty. Not surprisingly, no British publisher would touch it. Subsequently, it was taken up in Germany where such a dense score did not look quite so out of place!

 

The fourth movement, in particular, still represents a major challenge and because the writing is so reminiscent of music for strings, even when played up to speed and with immaculate phrasing, it still doesn't (quite) sound like real organ music. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a master work, but a problem work for all that.

 

An intriguing question is that if there had not been a major public disaster and the Hill organ had not gained a reputation for being difficult to control would Robert Hope-Jones have been as warmly greeted with his proposal of a state-of-the-art electric console to control all the organs in the cathedral?

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Yes Paul,

 

A question: wasn't the work aimed at the new organ, and played on the Hill

because of delays ?

This would shed a new light on the matter, but I read that somewhere.

 

Gesucht, gefunden:

 

http://www.pykett.org.uk/elgar's_organ_sonata.htm

 

Quote from that page:

 

"Another question also arises. Is it in fact the case that Elgar wrote the work for the Hope-Jones organ? Kent thinks not; he is emphatic that it was intended for the larger of the Hill organs, though his remarks should be set in the context of one who clearly dislikes Hope-Jones and his works (" He initiated some of the most bizarre and grotesque sonorities that have ever emerged from an organ") 6. Elswhere in the same essay Kent maintains that the stop indications in the manuscript "establish beyond doubt" that Elgar composed the work for the four manual Hill organ of 1874. This is arguable if only because the sketches call for a Trumpet, which did not exist on either of the Hill instruments. Therefore it remains legitimate to query whether Elgar would have produced such a monumental work specifically for an organ that was about to be dismantled. It is inconceivable, given his closeness to Blair, that Elgar did not have access to the details of the new organ. This would have enabled him to write the work with some knowledge of what could be expected when the organ was complete. So which instrument was the target for the work? The question has by no means so obvious an answer as some authors insist.

 

Other thoughts also spring to mind. Was Elgar actively involved with the plans for the new organ? Did he and Hope-Jones know each other? Did he even promote Hope-Jones’s work in the area? These issues are not particularly relevant to the story, although they have their own fascination. Elgar certainly had been interested in the organs at Worcester for a long time because at the age of sixteen or seventeen he would sit listening to the Earl of Dudley’s newly installed organ in 1874. So it might not be surprising if he had immersed himself in the background to the new project with characteristic vigour. Although I have yet to find evidence to support these conjectures, this does not mean the evidence does not exist.

 

Did Elgar agree with the Hope-Jones style of tonal design? Evidence pointing to the esteem with which he regarded his composition is incontrovertible, for example he described it as “big” in a letter to Jaeger (Nimrod of the Enigma variations) in 1897 5. So it would be unlikely that he could deliver such a masterpiece if he positively disliked the proposals for this organ, realising at the same time that the two Hill instruments were about to be lost. It seems likely that he did like the new organ, for in 1897 he wrote to Dora Penny (Dorabella of the Variations) suggesting that “some day if you are not rushing away I might arrange to show you over the Cathedral organ” 10. Elgar loved new technology and gadgets (he caused an explosion in his garden while experimenting with chemistry, and he retained to the end of his life a keen interest in the rapidly evolving gramophone), so the sheer novelties on Hope-Jones’s electric organs may have fascinated him at a time when the instruments of other builders contained nothing comparable. "

 

 

 

Pierre

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Guest Cynic
Yes Paul,

 

A question: wasn't the work aimed at the new organ, and played on the Hill

because of delays ?

This would shed a new light on the matter, but I read that somewhere.

 

Gesucht, gefunden:

 

http://www.pykett.org.uk/elgar's_organ_sonata.htm

 

Quote from that page:

 

"Another question also arises. Is it in fact the case that Elgar wrote the work for the Hope-Jones organ? Kent thinks not; he is emphatic that it was intended for the larger of the Hill organs, though his remarks should be set in the context of one who clearly dislikes Hope-Jones and his works (" He initiated some of the most bizarre and grotesque sonorities that have ever emerged from an organ") 6. Elswhere in the same essay Kent maintains that the stop indications in the manuscript "establish beyond doubt" that Elgar composed the work for the four manual Hill organ of 1874. This is arguable if only because the sketches call for a Trumpet, which did not exist on either of the Hill instruments. Therefore it remains legitimate to query whether Elgar would have produced such a monumental work specifically for an organ that was about to be dismantled. It is inconceivable, given his closeness to Blair, that Elgar did not have access to the details of the new organ. This would have enabled him to write the work with some knowledge of what could be expected when the organ was complete. So which instrument was the target for the work? The question has by no means so obvious an answer as some authors insist.

 

Other thoughts also spring to mind. Was Elgar actively involved with the plans for the new organ? Did he and Hope-Jones know each other? Did he even promote Hope-Jones’s work in the area? These issues are not particularly relevant to the story, although they have their own fascination. Elgar certainly had been interested in the organs at Worcester for a long time because at the age of sixteen or seventeen he would sit listening to the Earl of Dudley’s newly installed organ in 1874. So it might not be surprising if he had immersed himself in the background to the new project with characteristic vigour. Although I have yet to find evidence to support these conjectures, this does not mean the evidence does not exist.

 

Did Elgar agree with the Hope-Jones style of tonal design? Evidence pointing to the esteem with which he regarded his composition is incontrovertible, for example he described it as “big” in a letter to Jaeger (Nimrod of the Enigma variations) in 1897 5. So it would be unlikely that he could deliver such a masterpiece if he positively disliked the proposals for this organ, realising at the same time that the two Hill instruments were about to be lost. It seems likely that he did like the new organ, for in 1897 he wrote to Dora Penny (Dorabella of the Variations) suggesting that “some day if you are not rushing away I might arrange to show you over the Cathedral organ” 10. Elgar loved new technology and gadgets (he caused an explosion in his garden while experimenting with chemistry, and he retained to the end of his life a keen interest in the rapidly evolving gramophone), so the sheer novelties on Hope-Jones’s electric organs may have fascinated him at a time when the instruments of other builders contained nothing comparable. "

Pierre

 

I can't say that Elgar did not hope to have it performed on the new organ, but since the Sonata was definitely composed in 1895 and the Hope-Jones installation was completed in 1896 I think any qualities of the 'new' organ that Elgar admired must have been a 'dream' at best while he was actually composing this piece!

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I can't say that Elgar did not hope to have it performed on the new organ, but since the Sonata was definitely composed in 1895 and the Hope-Jones installation was completed in 1896 I think any qualities of the 'new' organ that Elgar admired must have been a 'dream' at best while he was actually composing this piece!

 

Agreed, again,

 

At least we know this organ already had some "Repertoire" before being build, something

the Cavaillé-Coll in St Denis did not. And the work is obviously not written for a 1850-1870

kind of (however romantic) organ...

 

Pierre

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At least we know this organ already had some "Repertoire" before being build ...

Now doesn't this establish jumping to conclusions? I don't know, Pierre.

 

Since there had been nothing around then to give Elgar a clue as to the means Hope-Jones would be able to provide, how should he ever guess what kind of music it would be possibe to play there?

 

What about asking another question: Would the Sonata be more comfortable to play on a console that had all the luxury Hope-Jones had promised -- which would be considered spartan when compared to the commodity modern consoles have at the ready? Is the Sonata in any way less diffcult to play with a Forward-Backward button?

 

I am not an organist, but have turned pages and pulled stops for a very able one performing (and later recording) the piece. The difficulty appeared to be rather in the voice leading, phrasing and articulation, and the organisation of musical levels between the hands, both having to play fistfuls of notes all the way through. In the registration, he mainly worked out ways to bring out the larger lines of the piece, which are quickly lost when there are too many changes in colour and dynamics. So it was a matter of simplification rather than of finding intricate and refined ways to follow the score to the very letter. Some bits, such as the aforementioned octaves, needed a trick or two to work, of course.

 

Could we not call Sir Edward a visionary rather than a failure in this case? Think of "Ad nos", where you wouldn't get away without rearranging the score -- which doesn't diminish its merits a bit. The Sonata clearly points to a symphonic vision that's beyond any precise instrumental means, but still introduces a new style of orchestral grandeur to the instrument.

 

As Beethoven put it when a violinist complained about some difficult passages in the violin concerto:

 

"Was geht mich seine elende Geige an?!" ("What do I care about His pathetic violin?!")

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Now doesn't this establish jumping to conclusions? I don't know, Pierre.

I agree, Friedrich. I am no Elgar scholar, but I do think Pierre may be making an incorrect assumption. What actual evidence is there that Elgar wrote the work with any of the cathedral organs in mind? Even if he did write it specifically for performance in the cathedral, did he really understand the instrument he was writing for? Did he really understand how to play a big organ?

 

Presumably he was able to handle the 15-stop two-manual (with tenor C Swell) at St George's Catholic Church, Worcester, where he served as organist for about three and a half years, but the organ was far from an important instrument in his life and I have never read anything that suggests he had any aspirations as a serious player.

 

Many years ago I annotated my Breitkopf edition from the scholarly edition in the complete Elgar Society Edition. This drew on Elgar's manuscript which usefully contains directions in English. What I stupidly didn't note was whether these directions are all Elgar's own. I am almost certain that they are, but if it transpires they are not, then all that follows is null and void.

 

Firstly it is apparent that Breitkopf simply translated Elgar's "Gt", "Sw" & "Ch" as I, II and III respectively - no surprise there. The first jolt comes on the very last chord of the first page, where instead of the ff in the Breitkopf edition, the Elgar Society Edition has the word "Trumpet". The word appears again where the passage returns on page 6, at the end of which phrase the change to manual II is marked "Full Swell" (which is a bit more encouraging).

 

On the next page, where the right hand has a dialogue between the Choir 4' only and the Great, the latter is marked "Gt Flute and Clarabella". The word "Flute" later reappears on its own as a direction for the right hand for the manuals-only passage starting in the penultimate bar of p.9. Whether Elgar intended an 8' flute or a combination involving a 4' (Harmonic?) Flute one could perhaps argue, but whatever he had in mind he cannot possibly have been referring to any of the Worcester Cathedral organs - not the IIIP Hill, nor the IVP Hill, nor yet the Hope Jones - because none of them had a Great Clarabella. For that matter, none of them had a Great reed called "Trumpet" either, though one could argue that Elgar simply had a generic sound in mind here. Sadly, there are no stop directions in the subsequent movements.

 

On the face of it, I think this is cause enough to be cautious in linking the sonata to the cathedral organs - unless, of course, someone can come up with some more precise information.

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"Did he really understand how to play a big organ?"

(Quote)

 

It may be interesting that exactly the same has been said by the german

neo-baroque crews about....Max Reger.

 

History always repeats itself !

 

Did Bach know on which organs his music sounds best ?

 

A dominant belgian "expert" said, in 1980, "NO".

 

Pierre

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The Whitlock Sonata is, for me, the truly great piece of the lot.

 

I'm surprised that no one else has mentioned Percy yet. This is a monumental work (c 40 mins!) and is undoubtedly a major contribution to the (English) repertoire. It is long but there is certainly passion there and as a whole it works very well indeed-if you have the stamina required to learn/play it!

 

The 3rd mvmt (Scherzetto?) is wonderfully: truly mercurial in nature and well worth learning in itself. The last mvmt-choral-(possibly intended to be the 3rd fantasy choral?[...Franck]) builds to a fantastic climax, full of almost tortured passion only to "wind-down" in such a controlled and "gentlemanly" fashion closing with such satisfaction there is the need for a few seconds silence following it just to let it all sink in!

 

It gets a vote from me!

 

F-W

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I agree, Friedrich. I am no Elgar scholar, but I do think Pierre may be making an incorrect assumption. What actual evidence is there that Elgar wrote the work with any of the cathedral organs in mind? Even if he did write it specifically for performance in the cathedral, did he really understand the instrument he was writing for? Did he really understand how to play a big organ?

 

(snip)

 

On the face of it, I think this is cause enough to be cautious in linking the sonata to the cathedral organs - unless, of course, someone can come up with some more precise information.

 

 

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

 

 

Wasn't the Elgar commissioned specifically for performance at Worcester?

 

I seem to recall something about this, but as I don't particularly enjoy the work, it probably never registered properly at the time.

 

Elgar had been a church-organist at an RC church, so one must assume that he knew how to play an organ; making his Sonata all the more perplexing.

 

I have no evidence for saying this, but perhaps Elgar had become a lapse-organist, who absorbed himself in orchestral writing to the extent that he just scribbled away in an orchestral world all his own.

 

Even orchestras and conductors often complain about the sheer complexity of many Elgar works; so the problem is not restricted to his one big organ work by any means.

 

MM

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"Did he really understand how to play a big organ?"

(Quote)

 

It may be interesting that exactly the same has been said by the german

neo-baroque crews about....Max Reger.

 

History always repeats itself !

 

Did Bach know on which organs his music sounds best ?

 

A dominant belgian "expert" said, in 1980, "NO".

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

Please, please, please!

 

Let's get our facts right Pierre.

 

Max Reger was essentially a pianist, and he relied very heavily on Karl Straube, who acted as a sort of co-composer in many of the works. Writing at a quite furious pace and with total concentration, Reger would then trot along with the ink still wet, and ask Straube to play it. Straube would presumably "interpret" the work, and then make his recommendations.

 

This is precisely the reason why Reger's music can be "transcribed" to a variety of instruments, and possibly the reason why no two performances ever sound quite the same. I can think of only one other composer (J S Bach) for the organ where this can happen, and it isn't about changing the notes, but about using musical imagination and interpreting what the composer had in mind. I'll stick my neck out, and suggest that the mass of registrational information and dynamic markings to be found in Reger's music, are really only valid in Germany, at a particular time, and possibly even at particular venues. Beyond that, everything else must be a type of registrational "approximation."

 

What fascinates me about Reger's music, is that the writing itself suggests what should be done, and even if all the dynamic and registrational marks were removed, a good organist with a good musical imagination, would probably replace them with something very similar.

 

This is exactly why Reger can sound well on a huge range of instruments.

 

One could similarly argue that no-one in the world plays the Reubke Sonata in such a way that it would have sounded at Merseburg. Instead, the whole sonata is re-worked to exploit the entire canvas of whatever organ on which it is played. I just KNOW that the Reubke would sound wonderful at the Bavo-kerk, but I've never heard it played there.....yet.

 

As for the Bach comment by a Belgian expert, that was just plain silly.

 

Even "Forest Gump" travelled around on foot more than Bach did, and you don't have to catch many buses to do the entire "Bach Organ Tour."

 

Of course, Bach may have absolutely hated the organs he played.

 

Has that thought ever crossed the minds of anyone?

 

Speculation doesn't get us anywhere does it?

 

MM

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Please, please, please!

Let's get our facts right Pierre.

Max Reger was essentially a pianist, and he relied very heavily on Karl Straube, who acted as a sort of co-composer in many of the works. Writing at a quite furious pace and with total concentration, Reger would then trot along with the ink still wet, and ask Straube to play it. Straube would presumably "interpret" the work, and then make his recommendations.

This is true as far as it concerns the organ works following op. 16 up to op. 52. Of the latter, Reger sent handwritten copies to Straube, but rather in a complimentary way; he had sent the manuscripts to his publisher before that. Some earlier works, however, appear o have been heavily influenced by "lieber Carl" Straube, most prominently the "Morgenstern" Fantasia op. 40. -- One should keep in mind that there were many more organ works to follow after this period of close creative friendship between Reger and Straube, and more important ones, too: The "Inferno" fantasia op. 57, the Second Sonata op. 60, the Variations op. 73, not to mention the many collections of minor pieces. There has been a debate about Straube's influence on the op. 135b fantasia.

And then, Reger literally grew up with the organ. When his father built a home organ, Max helped him; he played the organ daily over years, and was an accomplished pianist (as MM pointed out before). He was an organ expert and an organist, if not a virtuoso like Straube.

I'll stick my neck out, and suggest that the mass of registrational information and dynamic markings to be found in Reger's music, are really only valid in Germany, at a particular time, and possibly even at particular venues. Beyond that, everything else must be a type of registrational "approximation."

They are valid in Germany, as far as Manuals I, II and III form a dynamic progression of f, mf and p; this was characteristic for German organbuilding in the late 19th century. On the other hand, Reger kept his registrational demands as general as possible (he had an English publisher for a short while btw, Auggener of London). Let me quote from a recent comment I wrote for Piporg-L, when the subject of Crescendo and the Rollschweller was discussed.

When Reger composed most of his organ music in the 1890ies, there were still many organs around which had no registration aids whatsoever. Because he knew that, Reger kept his copious dynamic markings generally unspecific as to how the dynamic change might be obtained. One surprising exception is the chorale fantasy "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn" where, in a footnote, he suggests that the player might use accellerando and allargando *instead of* crescendo and diminuendo. He aimed at increase and decrease of musical tension and left it to the player how to achieve that kind of expressiveness.

What fascinates me about Reger's music, is that the writing itself suggests what should be done, and even if all the dynamic and registrational marks were removed, a good organist with a good musical imagination, would probably replace them with something very similar. This is exactly why Reger can sound well on a huge range of instruments.

Very well put indeed.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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I'm surprised that no one else has mentioned Percy yet. This is a monumental work (c 40 mins!) and is undoubtedly a major contribution to the (English) repertoire. It is long but there is certainly passion there and as a whole it works very well indeed-if you have the stamina required to learn/play it!

 

The 3rd mvmt (Scherzetto?) is wonderfully: truly mercurial in nature and well worth learning in itself. The last mvmt-choral-(possibly intended to be the 3rd fantasy choral?[...Franck]) builds to a fantastic climax, full of almost tortured passion only to "wind-down" in such a controlled and "gentlemanly" fashion closing with such satisfaction there is the need for a few seconds silence following it just to let it all sink in!

 

It gets a vote from me!

 

F-W

Having heard this work "live" at Leeds Parish, Southwell and Durham Cath, its also my choice too

Regards

peter

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This is true as far as it concerns the organ works following op. 16 up to op. 52. Of the latter, Reger sent handwritten copies to Straube, but rather in a complimentary way; he had sent the manuscripts to his publisher before that. Some earlier works, however, appear o have been heavily influenced by "lieber Carl" Straube, most prominently the "Morgenstern" Fantasia op. 40. -- One should keep in mind that there were many more organ works to follow after this period of close creative friendship between Reger and Straube, and more important ones, too: The "Inferno" fantasia op. 57, the Second Sonata op. 60, the Variations op. 73, not to mention the many collections of minor pieces. There has been a debate about Straube's influence on the op. 135b fantasia.

And then, Reger literally grew up with the organ. When his father built a home organ, Max helped him; he played the organ daily over years, and was an accomplished pianist (as MM pointed out before). He was an organ expert and an organist, if not a virtuoso like Straube.

 

They are valid in Germany, as far as Manuals I, II and III form a dynamic progression of f, mf and p; this was characteristic for German organbuilding in the late 19th century. On the other hand, Reger kept his registrational demands as general as possible (he had an English publisher for a short while btw, Auggener of London). Let me quote from a recent comment I wrote for Piporg-L, when the subject of Crescendo and the Rollschweller was discussed.

When Reger composed most of his organ music in the 1890ies, there were still many organs around which had no registration aids whatsoever. Because he knew that, Reger kept his copious dynamic markings generally unspecific as to how the dynamic change might be obtained. One surprising exception is the chorale fantasy "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn" where, in a footnote, he suggests that the player might use accellerando and allargando *instead of* crescendo and diminuendo. He aimed at increase and decrease of musical tension and left it to the player how to achieve that kind of expressiveness.

 

Very well put indeed.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

 

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

 

I am truly indebted to Friederich for teaching me things I did not know about Reger and the Carl Straube connection.

 

The problem is one of sheer quantity, because as an organ-composer, Reger was far bigger than Bach, and with such complex music, only a handful of people would ever dedicate themselves to learning the entire organ opus-list. I have various large articles about Reger, including a re-print of one in "The Diapason," and I sometimes read through it, if only to remind myself of my own shortcomings and ignorance.

 

There is something about which I have often pondered however, and I have yet to discover the answer.

 

I think I am right in saying that Carl Straube became an advocate of the "Orgel Bewebung" movement, and was he not involved in the design of the Steinmeyer at Passau?

 

If so, then it really was an abrupt about-face from the much heavier and clouded sounds associated with the high-romantic organ in Germany, because as I understand it, Steinmeyer went for a much more exciting and brilliant sound. Indeed, as an Englishman, I find the appalling destruction of Steinmeyer's work nothing short of criminal; with very few surviving large instruments if my information is correct.

 

I recall a conversation I had with Martin Haselbock, and he too lamented the demise of the old Steinmeyer factory and the fact that the organs had been changed or discarded. (I believe that the old factory became a furniture manufacturing works).

 

However, the $6m question must be, (sorry, I can't work that out in Euros with the turmoil in the markets), did Reger move with the times and embrace the more neo-classical style of instrument, and if so, is this reflected in the later works?

 

As a final thought about the I,II,III markings in Reger (etc), I played "Hallelujah! Gott zu Loben" at a recital on the Schulze of St.Bart's, Armley here in the UK, many years ago, and I felt then (as I do now) that this really isn't the ideal instrument for this music. Perhaps that demonstrates the enormous changes which German organs went through after 1850 or thereabouts, because the Armley instrument cannot even do what a Harrison & Harrison organ can do......build up slowly and "almost" seamlessly. With the Schulze, the change of manuals (even using couplers) was so marked and so strong in effect, I found that it actually detracted from the music to some extent. I had to work around the problems as best I could, and more or less ignore any markings. (Needless to say, with all those beautiful flutes, the quieter passages sounded quite ravishing).

 

As I discovered, when Gt-Ped was drawn for the inversion of the fugue subject, it completely overwhelmed everything, and in the end, I think I coupled all the manuals together to get the gradual build-up I wanted, and used the 8ft Pedal reed as the marcato for the fugal inversion.

 

I know I spent about an hour just trying to get the registration right to fit this one work , and even then, it was less than ideal.

 

The reason I ask about a possible neo-classical organ influence on Reger, is the fact that "Straf Mich" and the "Inferno" were two works which Simon Preston chose for recitals at the Royal Festival Hall, and they sounded absolutely superb, even in that ghastly acoustic. (I believe I may still have these on tape somewhere, and at least one of these performances is in the BBC archives).

 

There is no doubt in my mind that the organ at the Royal Festival Hall ( as it was) sounded a lot closer to a Steinmeyer than, say, a Walcker instrument, yet the music worked very well.

 

MM

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Dear MM,

 

Don't you realize that with such outings:

 

"heavier and clouded sounds associated with the high-romantic organ in Germany, because as I understand it, Steinmeyer went for a much more exciting"

(Quote)

 

....You spoil with preconceptions entire postings, which are otherwise

very interesting and worth consideration ?

 

Carl Straube did indeed a 180° turnaround. One of his pupils was.....Helmut Walcha !

Fact is, in post-romantic Germany, the one who wanted "promotions" had to obey

the new "Orgelbewegt" tribe !

 

Now about neo-classical Steinmeyers: agreed, it is urgently time to protect them.

Excellent make, fine sound, much character, typical of their period, in short,

historic organs.

 

Pierre

(As this Topic isn't about Reger, I shall open a new Reger one in order not to continue

off-topics on this one)

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If I may jump back to the Elgar debate, with apologies for the late entry: I have always regarded over-'orchestration' of this work on the organ as a big mistake. One of the most illuminating organ lessons I've ever had was an afternoon on the Sonata with Nicholas Kynaston (who is proud of being only 3 links away from Elgar: Edgar Cook --> Ralph Downes --> NK). He is convinced that it can be played perfectly well with the number of pistons found on the Wooster Hill, and employs some ingenious but simple registrational 'tricks' and thumbing downs (from the apostolic succession of teachers) to enable this. Thus, the momentum and tight construction of the work is maintained, without losing appropriate expression.

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My faves include many of the above, particularly the Whitlock, Willan, Howells pieces and Jackson T, C & F (pure Shostakovich 5. Fantastic). As much as I love the Bairstow, it is 2nd division compared with the Elgar which in my view IS real organ music (see my earlier post). Some of what follows is a tad left-field, but I love them all:

 

Bull - Ut re mi fa so la ti doh a deer

Purcell - ye Voluntariee for Ye Duble Orgaine

Wesley - Choral Song & Fugue (such lyricism combined with that astonishingly powerful fugue)

Stanford - Fantasia & Toccata in D minor

nothing by Parry (long-winded and dull - don't try to convince me otherwise, I've tried very hard to like the Wanderer, but in vain)

Lemare - 1st Symphony

Leighton - Martyrs (a duet of incredible sustained intensity); Et resurrexit (that last page...wow!)

Howells - Sonata (grossly underrated thanks to the type of anally retentive, clarity-obsessed critic who called Howells "too clever" and can't get to grips with Missa Sabrinensis :lol: )

Pott - Introduction, Toccata & Fugue

Bednall - Adagio

 

Will someone please commission a major organ work from John Pickard? I see James MacMillan's written quite a few works for the instrument but alas I haven't explored them yet.

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"Howells - Sonata (grossly underrated thanks to the type of anally retentive, clarity-obsessed critic who called Howells "too clever"

(Quote)

 

:lol:B):P

 

Pierre

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"Howells - Sonata (grossly underrated thanks to the type of anally retentive, clarity-obsessed critic who called Howells "too clever"

(Quote)

 

B):P :P

 

Pierre

:lol: I take it you concur with the sentiment behind this? A bee in my bonnet I'm afraid. I have come to the conclusion that innocuous little word, 'clarity', has done more damage to our instrument and the proper interpretation of centuries of music than anything else.

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:lol: I take it you concur with the sentiment behind this? A bee in my bonnet I'm afraid. I have come to the conclusion that innocuous little word, 'clarity', has done more damage to our instrument and the proper interpretation of centuries of music than anything else.

 

YEEEEEESSS.

 

And first in Bach's music.

 

Pierre

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YEEEEEESSS.

 

And first in Bach's music.

 

Pierre

Absolutely! :lol: Was 'clarity' really uppermost in Bach's mind when he wrote the double choir/orch mvts in St Matthew Passion? Or his Fantasia "Komm, heiliger Geist"? One can play this game all night with the densest Monteverdi, Tallis, Palestrina, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Strauss, Reger, Messiaen, Vaughan Williams...and Howells!!! Sadly 'clarity' was the watchword of the teachers of many of the present generation's senior professionals...tho it seems to be more prevalent in the organ/choral world than in the orchestral.

 

I'm not advocating fudging the dots, but precision is only the beginning... Shall we start a new thread? 'You can't see the detail in cathedral roof bosses. Does it lessen their artistic merit or affective impact?' B)

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Absolutely! :lol: Was 'clarity' really uppermost in Bach's mind when he wrote the double choir/orch mvts in St Matthew Passion? Or his Fantasia "Komm, heiliger Geist"? One can play this game all night with the densest Monteverdi, Tallis, Palestrina, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Strauss, Reger, Messiaen, Vaughan Williams...and Howells!!! Sadly 'clarity' was the watchword of the teachers of many of the present generation's senior professionals...tho it seems to be more prevalent in the organ/choral world than in the orchestral.

 

I'm not advocating fudging the dots, but precision is only the beginning... Shall we start a new thread? 'You can't see the detail in cathedral roof bosses. Does it lessen their artistic merit or affective impact?' B)

 

 

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

 

 

This could be a new thread, which I think you should call, "As clear as mud".

 

However, I would just point something out about Bach's music, as if it isn't obvious enough. The smaller choirs, with boy trebles and not an over-vast acoustic, would certainly sound clear enough if they had sung right; which we know they didn't from contemporary reports.

 

The period string bands, quite probably played without vibrato, would be very clear.

 

And what pray, is the point of counterpoint if it isn't to be heard?

 

It seems like an awful lot of hard-work if it could just as effectively be played in block chords with a few added passing-notes. I suspect that people actually listened carefully, and enjoyed the tricks of the trade as one might admire a championship game of chess. Certainly, when I have sat in the Martinikerk, Groningen, I have played the mental game of "spot the entry", "spot the inversion" and "spot the augmentation."

 

Bach may never have heard it like that in real time, but I do think he may have sold his wife and children in exchange for an organ such as that.

 

It begs the question, "Did Bach ever play the best organs?"

 

I've asked that before............proving that what goes around comes around.

 

MM

 

PS: I could see the details in roof bosses perfectly before the age of 45. (20:20)

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"Howells - Sonata (grossly underrated thanks to the type of anally retentive, clarity-obsessed critic who called Howells "too clever"

(Quote)

 

B):P :P

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

Too clever by half, if you ask me.

 

:lol:

 

MM

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

This could be a new thread, which I think you should call, "As clear as mud".

 

However, I would just point something out about Bach's music, as if it isn't obvious enough. The smaller choirs, with boy trebles and not an over-vast acoustic, would certainly sound clear enough if they had sung right; which we know they didn't from contemporary reports.

 

The period string bands, quite probably played without vibrato, would be very clear.

 

And what pray, is the point of counterpoint if it isn't to be heard?

Of course, apart from the assumption that 'mud' is the opposite of perfect clarity. Organs by Sauer, Skinner, JW Walker and Harrison are still sometimes decried as sounding 'muddy' by a certain generation of organists. To my ears, the best of these instruments have perfect clarity, but also overwhelm and move the listener. They may sound dark, but you can still hear what's going on. However, I certainly believe that some composers deliberately use counterpoint to create layers of colour and effect. It is simply impossible to achieve perfect clarity of all the parts in a work like Spem in Alium, Hymnus Paradisi or Turangalîla-Symphonie, nor is it necessarily desirable. In the busiest baroque music, the combined effect of the counterpoint is greater than the sum of the parts - a trite, obvious point I know, but often overlooked.

 

Thankfully, the pendulum has swung well and truly back to a sensible middle, and we are hearing 'muddy' Bach, with melanges of middle-German 8 foot foundations; reeds in fugues (for the sake of clarity :lol: ); and Reger played on instruments with more than one 8' prinzipal supporting the chorus!

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Howells - Sonata (grossly underrated thanks to the type of anally retentive, clarity-obsessed critic who called Howells "too clever" and can't get to grips with Missa Sabrinensis :lol: )
Too clever by half, if you ask me.

 

:P

 

MM

Pass the Movicol. I agree with MM. I've listened to the Sonata many times and I'm blowed if I can find the music in it. It's the nearest he got to sounding like Reger. B) Then again, I can't make anything of the Concerto for Strings either and everyone raves about that. Guess I just have a blind spot for music that sounds like a swarm of busy ants.

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