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John Lambert: Organ Mass


Peter Clark
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Stockhausen's death recently got my mind wondering and indeed wandering, and I recalled reading in the Organists' Review a couple of years ago about a chap whose Organ Mass had been recorded and which was likened to Stockhausen and Boulez and others of that school. Rummaging through my back issues I discovered that that chap was, of, course John Lambert. The OR, unusually, was quite scating of this composition and so naturally I became interested, that being my perverse way. Here are my questions: does anyone know or play it? Is the score available? Is it one of those do-ityourself jobs where you can play clusters with your arms (or leave them out if you can't be bothered)? Would it get me in trouble with 95% of any given congregation?*

 

Thanks

 

Peter

 

 

* A question anticipating, gleefully, the answer "yes".

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Stockhausen's death recently got my mind wondering and indeed wandering, and I recalled reading in the Organists' Review a couple of years ago about a chap whose Organ Mass had been recorded and which was likened to Stockhausen and Boulez and others of that school. Rummaging through my back issues I discovered that that chap was, of, course John Lambert. The OR, unusually, was quite scating of this composition and so naturally I became interested, that being my perverse way. Here are my questions: does anyone know or play it? Is the score available? Is it one of those do-ityourself jobs where you can play clusters with your arms (or leave them out if you can't be bothered)? Would it get me in trouble with 95% of any given congregation?*

 

Thanks

 

Peter

* A question anticipating, gleefully, the answer "yes".

 

 

For the sake of completeness, I bought a copy of this work more than twenty years ago.

I will not be learning it.

 

My answer to your questions is:

I would worry about your congregation if this did turn out to be their sort of thing!

I imagine pharmacalogical substances would be needed in order to send one into a sufficiently receptive mental state for this work to induce pleasure.

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If it is the work I am thinking of I heard it in Westminster Cathedral many years ago (I guess 1968-70) in the days when they held regular mid-week recitals. It was not a pleasant experience or one I would wish to repeat. I can't remember who performed it but I probably have the programme in my loft so next time I am up there I will try and dig it out. Along with Cynic my sympathies would go with your congregation!

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If it is the work I am thinking of I heard it in Westminster Cathedral many years ago (I guess 1968-70) in the days when they held regular mid-week recitals. It was not a pleasant experience or one I would wish to repeat. I can't remember who performed it but I probably have the programme in my loft so next time I am up there I will try and dig it out. Along with Cynic my sympathies would go with your congregation!

 

 

Well as I said in another thread, the Entree from Messe de la Pentecote earned me an anonymous letter, si it looks like I won't be doing the Lambert Mass (as opposed to the Lambeth Walk).

 

Cheers

 

Peter

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If it's of any interest, a recording of the Organ Mass seems to be available

 

TIMOTHY BOND Plays 20th Century English Music by Britten, Tippett Howells and Lambert - Timothy Bond, the organ of Schneeberg Church, Germany

 

Regent, REGCD205

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What exactly is so unpleasant about this work then and what did OR say about it? Anticipating answers along the lines of "it's just a horrible noise", in what ways is it a horrible noise? Genuine questions: I don't know the piece at all.

 

I suppose the crucial question is: would those who like Stockhausen and Boulez also dislike it? A lot of ultra-modern organ music does not work well to my ears (though players should maybe share some of the blame), but some of it certainly does, given the right sort of organ, which tends not to be English Romantic ones. Ligeti and Berio come to mind.

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What exactly is so unpleasant about this work then and what did OR say about it? Anticipating answers along the lines of "it's just a horrible noise", in what ways is it a horrible noise? Genuine questions: I don't know the piece at all.

 

I suppose the crucial question is: would those who like Stockhausen and Boulez also dislike it? A lot of ultra-modern organ music does not work well to my ears (though players should maybe share some of the blame), but some of it certainly does, given the right sort of organ, which tends not to be English Romantic ones. Ligeti and Berio come to mind.

 

It's interesting that the recording I mentioned (and I haven't heard it, to be fair) which is all English organ music, is played on a modern German organ. I might be wrong, but I think this is it...

 

http://www.jehmlich-orgelbau.de/englisch/o.../organ_1128.htm

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What exactly is so unpleasant about this work then and what did OR say about it? Anticipating answers along the lines of "it's just a horrible noise", in what ways is it a horrible noise?

 

Sorry I can't help (it was forty years ago) except I remember hearing it at Westminster Cathedral, that it was long and dissonant, and could not understand what it was about. This extract from John Lambert's obituary in The Independant gives some indication of general style - "The crucial work in Lambert's output at this period was the Organ Mass, composed over a five-year period from 1964 to 1968, which traces his path through serial techniques towards a more experimental manner".

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What exactly is so unpleasant about this work then and what did OR say about it? Anticipating answers along the lines of "it's just a horrible noise", in what ways is it a horrible noise? Genuine questions: I don't know the piece at all.

 

The review appeared in OR May 2995. The reviewer, David Whittle, seems unimpressed with the entire CD. Timothy Bond on this:

 

http://www.jehmlich-orgelbau.de/englisch/o.../organ_1128.htm

 

as Partick rightly pointed out.

 

David Whittle says of the Organ Mass that it "leaves me completely cold, if not worse. Its austere adherence to the world of Stockhausen and Boulez leaves no room for the harmonic, rhythmic and melodic sesnibilities that make, for me, a successful piece of music."

 

So there we are, then.

 

Peter

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David Whittle says of the Organ Mass that it "leaves me completely cold, if not worse. Its austere adherence to the world of Stockhausen and Boulez leaves no room for the harmonic, rhythmic and melodic sesnibilities that make, for me, a successful piece of music."

Which would seem to imply that he has no time for the world of Stockhausen and Boulez. Fair enough; there's no law that says you have to. Personally I don't object to them in small doses. I wonder if I might quite like the Lambert.

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