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Pierre Lauwers

Herbert Howells

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I am convinced these Mixtures are intended to bind flue and reed choruses

togheter, or even the reeds only (Full Swell); not at all to crown a genuine

Diapason chorus.

That is absolutely correct.

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There were mixtures transformed and or added while the last restoration

in Hereford.

Anyone who happens to study Gloucester's specification, both Willis and H&H's,

cannot avoid noting all Mixture work were two "17-19-22" stops.

 

Not quite - it was the previous restoration (1976/78) at which H&H added the excellent quint mixture (19-22-26-29) to the GO at Hereford.

 

If you show that a french, he'll say this stop is a "Carillon"....

Of course this may seem so on paper not in reality -smaller scale, breaks-

but this is a very special kind of Mixture indeed, tough common in Britain.

I am convinced these Mixtures are intended to bind flue and reed choruses

togheter, or even the reeds only (Full Swell); not at all to crown a genuine

Diapason chorus.

 

As far as I know, a C-C Carillon was always 12-17-22 - and a fearsome, anti-social noise it is, too! (At least this is true of the example on the Positif at S. Etienne, Caen.)

However, whilst the Willis-type 17-19-22 mixture may be less disruptive to Howells, it is considerably less use than a good quint mixture - unless one only wishes to play the music of Howells.

 

In this the british romantic and late romantic organ resembles the german one -indeed not the french- which had also these tierce Mixtures, even closer to a Cornet than

the 17-19-22 kind.

There too, these stops were not at all designed for a pure Diapason chorus.

Reger's polyphony had to be made clear by a polyphonic nature of the stops themselves, not the upperwork.

Anyone who knows a little Walcker organs will understand what I mean; there is not an atom of excessive "fat", even in a Pedal 16' wood Violone or Kontrabass.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

 

Even so, in Reger, a tierce mixture will, to my ears, muddy and confuse the clarity of the contrapuntal texture. One of the most satisfying and one of the clearest recordings of a large-scale Reger work which I possess, is of Roger Fisher playing the Chorale Fantasia on Hallelujah! Gott zu loben at Chester Cathedral - before the mixtures were altered again. There were no tierce mixtures on the instrument. The texture was perfectly clear - and entirely devoid of the irritating, reedy jangle one gets with a 17-19-22 mixture. It was, of course, also helped by the superb playing of the then-Titulaire, Roger Fisher.

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"Even so, in Reger, a tierce mixture will, to my ears, muddy and confuse the clarity of the contrapuntal texture."

 

(Quote)

 

Do we know better than Reger himself?

He who never encountered anything else than tierce Mixtures?

He that never talked about "texture"?

 

And yes, my point about Howells is precisely there:

Should we wish not to trash his music simply in the bin,

we need to keep such "stupid" organs as his.

Do never forget there is no one continental organ

with the reeds and Mixtures Howell's music needs;

so if you destroy these ones, you delete Howells as well.

 

It's as simple as that...

Best wishes,

Pierre

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"Even so, in Reger, a tierce mixture will, to my ears, muddy and confuse the clarity of the contrapuntal texture."

 

(Quote)

 

Do we know better than Reger himself?

He who never encountered anything else than tierce Mixtures?

He that never talked about "texture"?

 

Given that Reger was a drunkard (it was prolonged alcohol abuse which preciptated his fatal heart-attack at the age of forty-three) and given that he used to add more and more notes to his organ works, in a futile effort to confound the superlative technique and incredible sight-reading ability of Karl Straube, yes, I think I could safely say that I do not think that he was particularly bothered whether his music was played with - or without tierce mixtures!

 

In any case, I am not sure that it is correct to say that he never encountered anything other than tierce mixtures. I do not have the mixture-schemes for St. Thomas-kirche, Leipzig to hand, but I do have an excellent article by W. L. Sumner - and a specification dating from 1889/1900. From the information which I can find, this instrument (which would have been known to Reger) possessed a total of thirty-one ranks of mixture-work. It is highly improbable that tierce ranks were present in each and every mixture. Certainly, Sumner describes the Hauptwerk chorus as 'clear and satisfying'. He was not known for favouring mixtures containing tierce ranks above those containing only quint and unison ranks.

 

And yes, my point about Howells is precisely there:

Should we wish not to trash his music simply in the bin,

we need to keep such "stupid" organs as his.

Do never forget there is no one continental organ

with the reeds and Mixtures Howell's music needs;

so if you destroy these ones, you delete Howells as well.

 

It's as simple as that...

Best wishes,

Pierre

 

Actually, I quite like the choral music of Howells. I am also reasonably fond of several of his organ pieces. However, I would say that to porgramme several of his Psalm-Preludes (for example) in one recital, would be injurious to his reputation. They are too similar in construction and overall effect. I would, in fact, go so far as to say that I do not personally consider the Psalm-Preludes of Howells to be recital material. I view them primarily as 'mood music' - to establish an atmosphere. As such, they are far more effective as pre- or post-service pieces.

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it was the previous restoration (1976/78) at which H&H added the excellent quint mixture (19-22-26-29) to the GO at Hereford.
Eh? B) Then what's that Mixture on the Barber CD that sounds so out-of-character - like it's wandered in from the nearest neo-classical jobby?

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Eh?  B)  Then what's that Mixture on the Barber CD that sounds so out-of-character - like it's wandered in from the nearest neo-classical jobby?

 

It's the proof of the proposition that one man's meat is another man's poison!

 

I must pull out the CD and have another listen. I cannot say I noticed a particularly offensive sound before. Perhaps my hearing is worse than I thought and my wife's opinion that I am deaf is the correct explanation rather than my belief that I am simply ignoring her !

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So, MM,

 

Reger= Drunk, so he could not tell;

 

Howells= Boring= only his choral works count!

 

A bit heartlighty as a judgment, maybe?

 

Sumner explains extremely well what a "Full Swell" is, tough,

and attributes it to FHW.

Not too bad for the period in which he wrote.

Best wishes,

Pierre

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So, MM,

 

Reger= Drunk, so he could not tell;

 

Howells= Boring= only his choral works count!

 

A bit heartlighty as a judgment, maybe?

 

Sumner explains extremely well what a "Full Swell" is, tough,

and attributes it to FHW.

Not too bad for the period in which he wrote.

Best wishes,

Pierre

 

Reger = drunk - this is well-documented. I doubt that even his great friend Straube would have attempted to disabuse someone who thought this!

 

Actually, I did not say that they were boring - just rather similar in character! This is based on playing most of them on a number of occasions over the last twenty years - and receiving feedback from audiences, who did generally find them 'a bit boring'!

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Perhaps my hearing is worse than I thought and my wife's opinion that I am deaf is the correct explanation rather than my belief that I am simply ignoring her !
No, can't be that, coz I suffer from that too! B)

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Actually, I did not say that they were boring - just rather similar in character! This is based on playing most of them on a number of occasions over the last twenty years - and receiving feedback from audiences, who did generally find them 'a bit boring'!

Reluctantly I have to agree. I think Christopher Palmer had it right in his book about Howells when he said (something like): "I do not believe that in all honesty we can call Howells a great composer. Rather, he is a composer who sometimes achieves greatness." I have all six CDs of the Morning and Evening Canticles (including a couple of communion services) and have to admit that, though you can recognise distinct early, middle and late styles, they do all sound rather the same. Anyway, the best of Howells isn't in the choral music or the organ music - it's in the songs.

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Reluctantly I have to agree. I think Christopher Palmer had it right in his book about Howells when he said (something like): "I do not believe that in all honesty we can call Howells a great composer. Rather, he is a composer who sometimes achieves greatness." I have all six CDs of the Morning and Evening Canticles (including a couple of communion services) and have to admit that, though you can recognise distinct early, middle and late styles, they do all sound rather the same. Anyway, the best of Howells isn't in the choral music or the organ music - it's in the songs.

 

The problem I have with this is nearly the same has been said of:

 

-Cavaillé-Coll. Norbert Dufourcq wrote "All Cavaillé-Colls sound the same. This

is their slightest drawback".

 

-Charles Tournemire was "boring"

 

-Bach was "a machine"

 

Etc etc etc!

 

As for Reger's drunkness, be it the case or not isn't the question, other composers

may have been this or that.

Are they less interesting for such reasons?

Should I abuse of our national beers, would I have to be condemned 100 years

later for that?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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The problem I have with this is nearly the same has been said of:

 

-Cavaillé-Coll. Norbert Dufourcq wrote "All Cavaillé-Colls sound the same. This

  is their slightest drawback".

 

-Charles Tournemire was "boring"

 

-Bach was "a machine"

 

Etc etc etc!

 

As for Reger's drunkness, be it the case or not isn't the question, other composers

may have been this or that.

Are they less interesting for such reasons?

Should I abuse of our national beers, would I have to be condemned 100 years

later for that?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

 

I greatly favour the instruments of C-C. However, up to a point, Norbert Dufourcq was probably correct - in a sense, they do sound the same, just as the big Willis jobs do. However, each organ still has its own personality. Hereford is slightly different to Truro, etc.

 

More later - I am now teaching!

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This has been said of Gottfried Silbermann too.....Standardisation

etc!

 

I really think we should have this "judgment off" cerebral annulator...

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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I really think we should have this "judgment off" cerebral annulator...

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

 

I think I know what you mean - but I am not sure....!

 

Rest assured that I do like the music of Howells, Pierre. It is just that there is a lot of other nice music out there too - all of it eminently suitable for inclusion in the liturgy of the Anglican church. After all - Howells has not yet been canonised!

:rolleyes:

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I mean we should be able to see and listen while temporarily

forgetting all we think we know.

 

Of course there were many other interesting composers

in Britain, no doubt.

The case with Howells is not to decide wether or not he must

be "canonised", but to my mind he could be:

 

-Underrated ("Purgatoire" effect);

 

-Not supported at all outside Britain;

 

-Played on not-that-adequate organs (by lack of interest about

the organs he knew an liked)

 

I have had the chance to be able to compare what kind of effect

a dedicate piece gives with:

-Sliderchest

-Cone valve chest

 

Or:

-Quint Mixtures with all ranks of the same kind and strenght

-Tierce Mixtures in which each rank is of a different kind

(for example Prizipal, Gedackt, Dolce, Spitzflöte) and strenght

 

I can assure you these differences are big enough to transform a piece

from boring to lively...

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Well, indeed; although I have played some pieces by Howells on my own church instrument, (which is bright and lightly-voiced), and they are quite effective. Of course, one avoids such stops as mutations, the Positive Cymbal and the (bright) Swell mixture. Notwithstanding, it is possible to achieve a good sense of gravitas at the appropriate moments.

 

It is true to say that the old Gloucester organ was his 'ideal' - however, there are many instruments in the UK upon which the music of Howells may be played and upon which it will sound effective and stylistically accurate. Bristol is probably a case in point - the acoustic is also similar to that at Gloucester. One may wish to omit the IV rank GO mixture (added by Manders at the most recent restoration). However, all the other sounds are present, including a wonderful full-length 32p diapason, which 'shivers' gently under the Swell strings.

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Yes.

 

On the continent, it may be sometimes advisable to use the Cornets

instead of the Mixtures, and to use the reeds quite carefully, for

instance by choosing a Basson-Hautbois instead of a far too crude

Trompette.

But with such a kind of music nothing will equals the correct

instrument!

In this Howells music may be compared with the baroque french,

very tied with the french organ of the time.

 

Imagine this: suppose there were only some baroque french organs

available today.

Would we still know about de Grigny?

 

Pierre

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I would recommend that you obtain a recording of the instrument in Bristol Cathedral - if you have not already done so. I think that you would like it. It has a different tone to a Willis or an Arthur Harrison - but one that is sympathetic and quite lovely in the building.

 

I had the pleasure of playing it for a number of services a few years ago. There was not an unpleasant stop anywhere - everything blended, yet there were a number of beautiful solo stops.

 

It made a refreshing change from a number of other instruments.

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The problem I have with this is nearly the same has been said of:

 

-Cavaillé-Coll. Norbert Dufourcq wrote "All Cavaillé-Colls sound the same. This

  is their slightest drawback".

 

-Charles Tournemire was "boring"

 

-Bach was "a machine"

Well, the "Bach is a machine" jibe is just obviously wrong-headed.

 

But you simply cannot draw parallels between organ building and composition. There is no absolute requirement for every organ to be different (except insofar as to ensure it is suitable for its environment). It does not matter if one turns out to be exactly the same as another one around the corner. But a musical composition that in every respect is an exact copy of another is no composition!

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Bristol is probably a case in point - the acoustic is also similar to that at Gloucester.

Well you know my admiration for the Bristol organ (although not its manual actions), but you must be joking re. acoustic similarity to Gloucester. Gloucester has a far heavier, more resonant acoustic.

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Well you know my admiration for the Bristol organ (although not its manual actions), but you must be joking re. acoustic similarity to Gloucester. Gloucester has a far heavier, more resonant acoustic.

 

Not intentionally so!

 

It is true that Gloucester has a longer decay - but not by much. As far as I can remember, by the ear alone, I made the difference barely more than a second or so.

 

I am not entirely certain what you mean by a 'heavy' acoustic. Certainly, at Bristol, I enjoyed 'watching' the Pedal Trombone traverse from bay to bay, upon releasing a chord played on the tutti.

 

One or two contributors have over-estimated the length of decay in the reverberation at Gloucester - for example, one made it ten seconds. This is clearly not so. St. Paul's has been measured at only slightly longer than this.

 

Bristol has a far livelier acoustic than, for example, Exeter. It certainly compares favourably with Truro, Winchester - and Gloucester.

 

With regard to the tubular-pneumatic transmission: this may, at some stage, be changed in favour of electro-pneumatic, or similar. I understand that the present D of M is also not entirely convinced by the response, repetition and general well-being of the Bristol action.

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"With regard to the tubular-pneumatic transmission: this may, at some stage, be changed in favour of electro-pneumatic, or similar"

 

(Quote)

 

This is no more acceptable in today's restoration work!

 

By the way, I would like to know:

 

-Which kind of action and chests FHW built at Gloucester

(I suppose it was: Pneumatic, slider-chests)

 

-Which kind of action Arthur Harrison used for the 1920 rebuild

(I suppose electro-pneumatic with slider chests)

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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"With regard to the tubular-pneumatic transmission: this may, at some stage, be changed in favour of electro-pneumatic, or similar"

 

(Quote)

 

This is no more acceptable in today's restoration work!

 

Well, it may be good to aim for a restoration of the existing mechanism; however, this was the option chosen when the organ was rebuilt in the mid 1980s. It is now apparent (to anyone who plays it) that the action is simply not up to the job. Some pneumatic actions are notoriously slow - particularly in repetition.

 

It should be further borne in mind that this is an observation made by someone who knows the instrument intimately and plays it on a regular - if not daily - basis.

 

The fact remains that the Bristol action is sluggish and the key repetition is lacking in response. It is therefore becoming a hindrance to hearing the instrument as Walker's probably intended when they rebuilt it - incidentally, discarding much of the former instrument, including its action!

 

By the way, I would like to know:

 

-Which kind of action and chests FHW built at Gloucester

(I suppose it was: Pneumatic, slider-chests)

 

-Which kind of action Arthur Harrison used for the 1920 rebuild

  (I suppose electro-pneumatic with slider chests)

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

 

Gloucester actions:

 

FHW: Pedal, GO and Swell were on pneumatic; the Choir was tracker. (Slider chests.)

 

H&H (1920): Tubular-pneumatic to everything, except the clavier to pedal couplers - which were mechanical.

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FHW: Pedal, GO and Swell were on pneumatic; the Choir was tracker. (Slider chests.)

 

H&H (1920): Tubular-pneumatic to everything, except the clavier to pedal couplers - which were mechanical.

 

Many thanks!

Pierre

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