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Bach Passacaglia In C Minor


organist32
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I am learning the passacaglia and fugue, and wondered what thought others had on registration. I want to keep it fairly simple, with perhaps manual changes (Gt. Principals 8 & 4, with Pos. Principals 8 & 4) for the first few pages, and then using a lighter flute reg. with a principal chorus/plenum from b. 128. It all has to be hand registration, as I don't "approve" of pistons etc. for Bach!

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I am learning the passacaglia and fugue, and wondered what thought others had on registration. I want to keep it fairly simple, with perhaps manual changes (Gt. Principals 8 & 4, with Pos. Principals 8 & 4) for the first few pages, and then using a lighter flute reg. with a principal chorus/plenum from b. 128. It all has to be hand registration, as I don't "approve" of pistons etc. for Bach!

 

I did mostly what you described at a recital recently, except I went for a little more than you described, up to mixture on the Gt and up to 2' on the second manual.

 

I also once went the whole hog and played it a la Resphigi's orchestration with lots of romantic colour and articulation throughout. This approach will clearly have its detractors, but on the large romantic instrument I played it on, there was no 'Bach' registrations that were readily or easily utilised. Remember Kevin Bowyer's very succesful 'Edwardian Bach' recording at St Mary, Redcliffe?

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I once heard it on a 1950s Marcussen in Denmark played flat out full flue plenum and Pedal reeds from start to finish - the player was convinced that this was the way to do it. Many of the audience (including myself) were not so sure - does anyone still do this?

 

AJJ

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
I once heard it on a 1950s Marcussen in Denmark played flat out full flue plenum and Pedal reeds from start to finish - the player was convinced that this was the way to do it. Many of the audience (including myself) were not so sure - does anyone still do this?

 

AJJ

 

Ah! Having heard ALL players in a competition Final in Alkmaar do this, I was driven to distraction after nearly 2 hours. It is a fad and fashion I think. For a start I suggest for such a length of piece organo pleno, that practically for the poor folk pumping in olden days, this would severely strain the relationship with the organist and perhaps jeopardize any future collaboration!

At least with two or three keyboards a change of timbre can be created without detracting from the architecture. It may possibly enhance, of course. I find the kaleidoscopic style of registration a trifle odd as it seems the player is just using the instrument and his prowess at thumbwerk at the expense of the music. Rarely have I been impressed by such a reading. But - all things (thankfully) are in the ear of the hearer and thus makes for so many thought-provoking performances. As organists, we have the unenviable task or re-orchestrating this monumental composition every time we go to another organ. Therefore, (so far for me) the most rewarding and illuminating performances have always been from resident organists - such as Piet Kee (when he was there), at Alkmaar and the Sint Bavo in Haarlem. Total fusion.

 

CHAN 0510 (CD from Haarlem) for those interested.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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You may get some good ideas there:

 

 

(With apologies for "bad tastes", by advance)

 

That was lovely, Pierre. Thank you for drawing attention to it. :)

 

Play it to anybody daft enough to want to perform this on full organ throughout. :o

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Ah! Having heard ALL players in a competition Final in Alkmaar do this, I was driven to distraction after nearly 2 hours. It is a fad and fashion I think. For a start I suggest for such a length of piece organo pleno, that practically for the poor folk pumping in olden days, this would severely strain the relationship with the organist and perhaps jeopardize any future collaboration!

At least with two or three keyboards a change of timbre can be created without detracting from the architecture. It may possibly enhance, of course. I find the kaleidoscopic style of registration a trifle odd as it seems the player is just using the instrument and his prowess at thumbwerk at the expense of the music. Rarely have I been impressed by such a reading. But - all things (thankfully) are in the ear of the hearer and thus makes for so many thought-provoking performances. As organists, we have the unenviable task or re-orchestrating this monumental composition every time we go to another organ. Therefore, (so far for me) the most rewarding and illuminating performances have always been from resident organists - such as Piet Kee (when he was there), at Alkmaar and the Sint Bavo in Haarlem. Total fusion.

 

CHAN 0510 (CD from Haarlem) for those interested.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

 

-------------------------------------------

 

 

I don't know how Nigel plays his Bach, but I personally like to hear Bach played largely "straight" with minimal changes of registration, but with perhaps equal and balanced contrasts.

 

That said, I make one very big exception to this, which is the Bach Passacaglia.

 

I've always preferred the "romantic" approach of ever increasing texture, power and complexity, for the simple reason that the work just seems to cry out for it.

 

One of my favourite performances on disc was E Power-Biggs at Harvard: so clean, and so stylish.

 

However, at risk of being branded a heretic, I just love the energy, power and excitement of Virgil Fox playing this work at Boston Symphony Hall, on the big Aeolian-Skinner which once was there. I don't like any other Bach performance he ever recorded, but that one is quite stunning, and just grabs the listener by the throat.

 

I'll see if I can find the link, and everyone can judge for themselves.

 

MM

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My absolute favourite recording of my favourite piece of Bach is Michael Dudman's stunning performance at Sydney Opera House (not least for his amazing cadanza near the end that runs off the climactic Db major chord). And his choice of registrations to my ears could have followed Bach's written instructions. That aside, I see no excuse for not varying registrations at least during the Passacaglia (there seems less scope for varying during the Fugue). After all, isn't that what other manuals were made for? And as for pistons, sure they aren't needed on a three manual organ with a stop assistant, but I'm sure if Bach were alive today he'd make full use of them. At the end of the day the P&F is a set of variations, and I sincerely hope noone would dream of playing Organo Plenum throughout the Sei gregrusset variations!

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I suppose that the purists would argue that there is opportunity to change the stops between each of the Sei gegruesset variations (and the other three sets of variations). But I feel that the Passacaglia cries out for this and I'm not ashamed to say that I change registration - judiciously - for each variation.

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I once heard it on a 1950s Marcussen in Denmark played flat out full flue plenum and Pedal reeds from start to finish - the player was convinced that this was the way to do it. Many of the audience (including myself) were not so sure - does anyone still do this?

 

AJJ

Many in the 1950s knew exactly what 'the way to do it' was; some in our time still do, unfortunately.

 

Anyway, Ton Koopman also used to play the Passacaglia&Fuge flat out, I think there's a recording of it in Maassluis.

 

Just wondering, what could one do with this piece on a large organ like Waltershausen or Grauhof?

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However, at risk of being branded a heretic, I just love the energy, power and excitement of Virgil Fox playing this work at Boston Symphony Hall, on the big Aeolian-Skinner which once was there.

Is that the one with the clarinet arpeggios or am I thinking of someone else? :)

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I once heard it on a 1950s Marcussen in Denmark played flat out full flue plenum and Pedal reeds from start to finish - the player was convinced that this was the way to do it. Many of the audience (including myself) were not so sure - does anyone still do this?

 

AJJ

The texture of the arpeggiated variations (14 and wide-ranging 15) suggests - to my ears - any registration other than a plenum. Why are players' ears often so insensitive to such matters in the architecture of music?

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Guest Cynic
The texture of the arpeggiated variations (14 and wide-ranging 15) suggests - to my ears - any registration other than a plenum.

 

snip

 

 

Absolutely - a use for a Brustwerk or Oberwerk if I ever saw one.

 

I don't see Bach's own habits as restricted by precedent in anything, let alone registration.

We are always told how remarkable his use of an organ was, how inventive, how unexpected and always how effective it turned out to be in practice. If that isn't a recommendation for full exploitation of whatever resources we have at our disposal, what is it?

 

Incidentally, in his design scheme for the rebuild at Muhlhausen, I think I'm right in saying that Bach asks for the manuals to be close together to facilitate both manual changes and thumbing across. This ought also to be seen as an encouragement for us not to bore our listeners with vast un-varied blocks of sound.

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I don't see Bach's own habits as restricted by precedent in anything, let alone registration.

I think this is probably a very fair comment and quite possibly one that deserves to be writ large above every organ console. Having said which...

 

We are always told how remarkable his use of an organ was, how inventive, how unexpected and always how effective it turned out to be in practice. If that isn't a recommendation for full exploitation of whatever resources we have at our disposal, what is it?

Maybe this exaggerates the evidence ever so slightly - just maybe. You could still be right of course. But, as far as I know, all that is recorded was that Bach "drew the stops in his own manner" which caused onlookers to shake their heads - yet when he played they were astounded and saw the logic of what he was doing.

 

I think the most we can conclude from this is that Bach's registration was not what the average Thuringian hack-organist expected. What the Thuringian hack-organist did expect was quite likely something along the lines of what Kaufmann recommended (Pierre provided a link to a thesis on this recently). Speculation about this has been rife, e.g. that Bach's registration was heavily French-influenced, or that it was North German influenced, etc. My own contribution to this speculation is that Bach's registration surprised people because, instead of being stereotypical, it was resourceful - in the same way that someone who presides at a seven-stop one-manual organ learns to be resouceful. His autograph registration markings for the opening movement of his D minor concerto (omitted from the Novello edition because of a misunderstanding) are surely a classic example of stops being used in an unconventional manner. In short he used his ears instead of simply relying on "textbook" registrations. Surely this phenomenon rings just as true today. But it's just a theory.

 

Incidentally, in his design scheme for the rebuild at Muhlhausen, I think I'm right in saying that Bach asks for the manuals to be close together to facilitate both manual changes and thumbing across. This ought also to be seen as an encouragement for us not to bore our listeners with vast un-varied blocks of sound.

Hmm... With respect, I suspect a teensy spot of Chinese whispers here. I have just consulted my Bach Reader (albeit an old edition) about the Mülhausen rebuild and don't find anything of the sort mentioned there. Not saying your conclusion about the blocks of sound is wrong though!

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Guest spottedmetal
Incidentally, in his design scheme for the rebuild at Muhlhausen, I think I'm right in saying that Bach asks for the manuals to be close together to facilitate both manual changes and thumbing across. This ought also to be seen as an encouragement for us not to bore our listeners with vast un-varied blocks of sound.
We have a regular performer from Poland, Jerzy Owczarz, who now 19 this year. He is a pianist and approaches Bach from the point of view of a pianist. In frustration with this I introduced him to the harpsichord and his natural musical instinct took him to adopt an interesting manner of performance which would no doubt be considered quite "wrong", but effective nonetheless.

 

He used the buff-stop on the 8ft and used the pedal to introduce and release the 4ft. This meant that conventional harpsichord bright tone could be achieved and changed in an instant by releasing the 4ft. The effect is the very opposite of "vast un-varied blocks of sound".

 

This can be heard in

http://www.jungleboffin.com/mp3/jerzy-owczarz-2007/

and perhaps more dramatically the previous year:

http://www.jungleboffin.com/mp3/jerzy-owcz...al-temperament/ particularly in the toccata at the top of the directory.

 

Whether such intuition holds any inspiration for organ performance might be intriguing. To what effect on organ performance could practice on a harpsichord be ascribed?

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

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Is that the one with the clarinet arpeggios or am I thinking of someone else? :)

 

 

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

 

 

You are quite right, that is the one, even though it is probably a Krummhorn.

 

That sort of thing sounds wonderful in the Netherlands, where they have just the right type of old reeds.

 

This business of Bach registration being derived from either France or Northern Germany, I think tends to overloook the "stylus fantisticus" which Bach would have known and loved from his brief spell in Lubeck. There is simply no way that all those stops would not have been utilised to the full in the "Abend Musik" concerts, and you only have to look at what Bruhns wrote, to realise that contrast was a pre-requisite of the music. You can't imitate the effect of solo strings using the pleno, and it is perfectly obvious to me, that kaleidoscopic registration was the order of the day.

 

I have always regarded Bach as the first true romantic, because he wrote with such passion and such as sense of dramatic rhetoric.

 

As for the Virgil Fox performance, it may be "super duper technicolor" in parts, but it makes you sit up and take notice like no other, with quite overwhelming energy throughout.

 

Fox probably did many silly things, but that was not one of them, I suspect. It can't have been too bad, because 40 - 50 years on, people still refer to it and talk about it.

 

It's a unique performance, rather like the no.2 Schumann BACH fugue played by Francesco Finotti, where he finds such devil and fire, it completely redefines ones' perceptions. We need performers like that from time to time.

 

MM

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Well, the Kaufmann dates 1733. 17 years before Bach's death...Who could not

have "reacted" against a summary of the transformations the registration practices

went trough in the course of the first half of the 18th century in Germany.

 

Bach had his part in that process.

 

Before Silbermann went back the german registration was quite free, with a severe

restriction: the Engchor (Principal chorus) and the Weitchor (Flutes) could not

be mixed; such things as Prinzipal 8'+ Flöte 4' were not allowed.

 

Then landed unser lieber Gottfried.

With "frenchy" reed and Tierce stops (the Jeu de Tierce and the Cornet, and those

fiercefull Trompettes. TATATAAAA!!!)

 

How to have such things acclimated into a german Plenum?

By arranging all stops being usable with any other.

In a Silbermann organ all stops have about the same strenght (and rather big!), and you

can do about what you want.

The Engchor-Weitchor segregation was abolished.

 

If Bach brake the rules, it could only have been that one, because it was the only one.

(The all-too-famous "Aequalverbot" derived from that rule. Because if you have, as only 8',

a Principal and a Flute, you could not use them togheter. But Bach had up to five 8' on

the Hauptwerks he knew...).

 

After Silbermann's introduction of french stops, his followers very rapidly integrated them,

the german way, in their "hotch-potch-Plenum". Joachim Wagner already did not hesitate

for a minute to scale and voice the Jeu de Tierce 8-4-2 2/3-2-1 3/5 and the Cornet 5r

in order they can join his traditional Tierce Mixtures in the Plenum.

 

Here is the result:

 

http://www.orgellandschaftbrandenburg.de/M...mannsperger.MP3

 

(I shall eat the hat I do not have if any of you feels this is no "Bach sound"...

Think of the Cantates!)

 

Now about the "dutch reeds" MM alludes to.

 

Amaï seg efkes, mein Gott....Well, maybe we should export them to the isle of Skye,

in order you could enjoy them. There is a risk, however, to spoil the malt they produce

there for a drink we badly need -after having listened to those reeds-.

 

Bach's organs were indeed somewhat terzy-frenchy, reeds included. Listen to the

sound file which is available on this page ("Klangbeispiel"):

 

http://www.angermuender-sommerkonzerte.de/wagner_orgel.htm

 

(This is the same organ as the one featured in the previous link).

 

Two more interesting examples, on the same organ:

 

http://www.angermuender-sommerkonzerte.de/tontraeger.htm

 

Listen to the two first files, by Dieter Glös and Gerhard Weinberger.

 

Again, hold the Cantates in mind. As far as the documentation we have allows,

I have the conviction that this might be the closest approximation we have

to the actual, authentic Bach's tonal world.

 

Pierre

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Well, the Kaufmann dates 1733. 17 years before Bach's death...Who could not

have "reacted" against a summary of the transformations the registration practices

went trough in the course of the first half of the 18th century in Germany.

 

Bach had his part in that process.

 

Before Silbermann went back the german registration was quite free, with a severe

restriction: the Engchor (Principal chorus) and the Weitchor (Flutes) could not

be mixed; such things as Prinzipal 8'+ Flöte 4' were not allowed.

 

Then landed unser lieber Gottfried.

With "frenchy" reed and Tierce stops (the Jeu de Tierce and the Cornet, and those

fiercefull Trompettes. TATATAAAA!!!)

 

How to have such things acclimated into a german Plenum?

By arranging all stops being usable with any other.

In a Silbermann organ all stops have about the same strenght (and rather big!), and you

can do about what you want.

The Engchor-Weitchor segregation was abolished.

 

If Bach brake the rules, it could only have been that one, because it was the only one.

(The all-too-famous "Aequalverbot" derived from that rule. Because if you have, as only 8',

a Principal and a Flute, you could not use them togheter. But Bach had up to five 8' on

the Hauptwerks he knew...).

 

After Silbermann's introduction of french stops, his followers very rapidly integrated them,

the german way, in their "hotch-potch-Plenum". Joachim Wagner already did not hesitate

for a minute to scale and voice the Jeu de Tierce 8-4-2 2/3-2-1 3/5 and the Cornet 5r

in order they can join his traditional Tierce Mixtures in the Plenum.

 

Here is the result:

 

http://www.orgellandschaftbrandenburg.de/M...mannsperger.MP3

 

(I shall eat the hat I do not have if any of you feels this is no "Bach sound"...

Think of the Cantates!)

 

Now about the "dutch reeds" MM alludes to.

 

Amaï seg efkes, mein Gott....Well, maybe we should export them to the isle of Skye,

in order you could enjoy them. There is a risk, however, to spoil the malt they produce

there for a drink we badly need -after having listened to those reeds-.

 

Bach's organs were indeed somewhat terzy-frenchy, reeds included. Listen to the

sound file which is available on this page ("Klangbeispiel"):

 

http://www.angermuender-sommerkonzerte.de/wagner_orgel.htm

 

(This is the same organ as the one featured in the previous link).

 

Two more interesting examples, on the same organ:

 

http://www.angermuender-sommerkonzerte.de/tontraeger.htm

 

Listen to the two first files, by Dieter Glös and Gerhard Weinberger.

 

Again, hold the Cantates in mind. As far as the documentation we have allows,

I have the conviction that this might be the closest approximation we have

to the actual, authentic Bach's tonal world.

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

This is all well and good, and probably a vital part of understanding, but does it really take us any nearer?

 

It is equally vital to understand the composer works in a world of complete self-enclosure. Anyone who composes away from an instrument has only imagination and experience with which to work, rather than specific instruments or even individual sounds.

 

Did Bach write the passions for a relatively poor provincial choir and whatever soloists were available in Thuringia?

 

Of course not!

 

I wonder how many people can truly bring to mind the specific sounds made by the organ they play, and imagine that with an accuracy?

 

Do we think and dream in colour or in black & white?

 

Does an organ-builder create a specific sound in such a way that it begins with imagnination and the exact sound they wish to create, or does an organ begin to take on a life of its own as work commences and the first sounds emerge?

 

I would suggest the latter, whatever plans were made in the first instance.

 

My feeling is, that in limiting music to very specific sounds, we are actually changing the music.

 

So when Francis Jackson played the Finale from the 1st Synphony of Vierne at the opening recital, on the little neo-classical tracker I play, it was not even close to what Vierne had in mind or the organs he played. However, it worked rather well, in spite of what misgivings we may have had on the night.

 

Surely, the creative process of both composer and performer, is an interactive one shaped by resources, acoustic and musical imagination?

 

So if something works for the music, that is all that is required, even if it means playing a Trio Sonata on a 16ft Waldhorn, a Vox Humana with 1ft Sifflote, and a Viole d-Orchestra with a 2.2/3 Nazard. What sounds right on one organ, or even in one place, is not a good reason to limit the imagination or the alternative possibilities on different instruments, and this is the danger of musical pedantry and "the historically informed" way.

 

Doing this would emaciate the creative, interactive process, and if "Bach used his ears" he was doing what all musicians have to do. Anything less demonstrates a lack of artistic ability and musical intergity.

 

It's one thing to play Scarlatti on the Piano, but unless you've heard Bach (P D Q of course!) played on the Ardwark and Hoover suction pipe, you haven't truly lived.

 

Didn't Carlo Curley play a Trio Sonata movement on a Wurlitzer, using the percussion Chrysoglott, an 8ft Viole and 4ft Flute, and a Pedal 8ft Cello. It may not have been authentic registration, but it was a real joy to hear, and perfectly suited to the intricate weave of the counterpoint.

 

If I were capable of thinking in colour, I could almost imagine Bach wearing purple and red, but he may have worn nothing that wasn't deep black.

 

In other words, we look at the music, decide what will work, and then have the courage of our convictions AS PERFORMERS AND CREATIVE ARTISTS.

 

MM

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That too is a point, MM,

 

But if we follow you, after a decade, the Dominant male

of the day will impone "his Truth" to all the others.

And we shall lose the originals...

 

For this reason I believe it is important to have backups!

 

Besides this: since 75 years, we were told we had to modify

the organs for the sake of "Bach's authenticity", up to innocent,

but not-conform true baroque organs, and now we should not

bother with authenticity?

And be content with something we know today was not authentic?

 

Why continue to speculate on "Poor Bach had not the means he deserved",

he had "bad organs", "poor orchestral means" ? If he dreamt of something else,

fact is, we shall never know, but rather imagine -and of course, again, do whatever

please ourselves!-

 

This Angermünde organ, among some others, delivers an outstanding performance

in Bach. The fact that it is a rather little, "provincial" organ, is not a problem for

me ; it is absolutely all I want for that music..

Why should we want something else? Pour aller chercher Midi à quatorze heures?

 

Pierre

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Guest Barry Williams

"Pour aller chercher Midi à quatorze heures?"

 

I thought the language of this Board was English. Please translate, for the benefit of thise of us who have no French.

 

Barry Williams

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"Pour aller chercher Midi à quatorze heures?"

 

I thought the language of this Board was English. Please translate, for the benefit of thise of us who have no French.

 

Barry Williams

 

"To fetch Noon at 2 P.M.", i.e., to complicate simple matters.

An idiosyncratic expression, like the british "It rains like cats and dogs",

untranslatable as such.

 

Pierre

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That too is a point, MM,

 

But if we follow you, after a decade, the Dominant male

of the day will impone "his Truth" to all the others.

And we shall lose the originals...

 

For this reason I believe it is important to have backups!

 

Besides this: since 75 years, we were told we had to modify

the organs for the sake of "Bach's authenticity", up to innocent,

but not-conform true baroque organs, and now we should not

bother with authenticity?

And be content with something we know today was not authentic?

 

Why continue to speculate on "Poor Bach had not the means he deserved",

he had "bad organs", "poor orchestral means" ? If he dreamt of something else,

fact is, we shall never know, but rather imagine -and of course, again, do whatever

please ourselves!-

 

This Angermünde organ, among some others, delivers an outstanding performance

in Bach. The fact that it is a rather little, "provincial" organ, is not a problem for

me ; it is absolutely all I want for that music..

Why should we want something else? Pour aller chercher Midi à quatorze heures?

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

We could probably argue the finer points forever, if we stick to the question of "authenticity." Even a change of pitch makes something less authentic, but few would notice.

 

Is St Bavo any worse for being tuned in equal temper at modern concert-pitch?

 

Of course, I would agree that we need points of reference and scholastic understanding, but I would suggest that this is only a part of a proper understanding.

 

I mentioned recently, the fact that a completely expressionless score of Reger would "speak" to an organist in such a way, that one may well arrive at the same conclusions as those scores in which all the original expression-marks are included.

 

This is really about the power of interpretation, which derives from observation, experience, scholarship and musical instinct.

 

It was fairly standard practice not to include any registrational or dynamic markings/manual changes on, I would think, a majority of Baroque music scores. The performer was much freer to "do his own thing" and even add ornamentation or improvised sections at will BUT WITHIN CERTAIN ACCEPTED CONVENTIONS.

 

It is only in the 19th century, that total control of the creative process came to be dominated by the composer, which happens to co-incide with the emergence of the dedicated professional performer and vastly increased virtuosity. Prior to that, the performer was very much an essential component in the whole creative process.

 

Some of that control was wrestled back with the expressionist style of playing, which when it became associated with baroque music, meant that certain musical liberties were often taken, or points of scholarship ignored or never learned.

 

In this day and age of "authentic Bach" (so far as possible), we find ourselves reacting strongly against anything which does not conform to the narrow conceptions we have of "authentic style" or "authentic sound."

 

Thus, the most obvious example is how people react against the performances of the late Virgil Fox, and others who continue to have the courage to break the mould of musical convention.

 

For instance, is Ton Koopman any less an expressionist than someone like Virgil Fox, or does he represent artistic licence under some new guise?

 

Koopman would claim that his performances are rooted in the conventions of Baroque performance, yet few would ever regard them as remotely conventional, while others (myself included) would suggest that they are positively idiosyncratic.

 

Perhaps the most extreme examples are not to be found with the performances by Virgil Fox or Tom Koopman, but with the likes of Edwin Lemare, who would quite happily play the "Gigue Fugue" on nothing other than heavy pressure reeds. (The appalling truth being, that they are fast, furious and utterly compelling!)

 

My own view is, that when faced with almost any organ, it should be possible to combine knowledge with musical imagination, and perform music never written for that particular style of instrument. Hence, when I played Bach at Halifax PC last summer (Arthus Harrison organ) , my registration used NO PEDAL STOPS WHATSOEVER; the pedal part covered entirely by coupled manual registers.

 

This is exactly the same as Francis Jackson playing the Vierne Finale (1st Symph) on a neo-classical organ, in which the quieter parts were heard played on an 8ft Gedact and a 4ft Koppelflute.

 

Perhaps all I am suggesting, is that musicians have to make musical and interpretive choices, based on great knowledge, great experience and sure instinct.

 

Knowing about "authentic Bach organs" is really only a point of reference, and a part of the intellectual armoury which enables someone to pull off a good or even great performance, using less than perfect musical resources.

 

Isn't that a part of the fascination we have for the instrument?

 

MM

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"To fetch Noon at 2 P.M.", i.e., to complicate simple matters.

An idiosyncratic expression, like the british "It rains like cats and dogs",

untranslatable as such.

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

We get so much rain, we need these descriptions.

 

Only an Englishman knows the subtle difference between it "Raining cats and dogs" and "Rain like stair-rods."

 

It's all to do with trajectory, the shape of the rain-drops and their relative velocity.

 

We are connoisseurs of rain in the UK.

 

 

 

:)

 

MM

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

We get so much rain, we need these descriptions.

 

Only an Englishman knows the subtle difference between it "Raining cats and dogs" and "Rain like stair-rods."

 

It's all to do with trajectory, the shape of the rain-drops and their relative velocity.

 

We are connoisseurs of rain in the UK.

 

:)

 

MM

On which, see Douglas Adams: http://voluntaryxchange.typepad.com/volunt.../rain_gods.html (pity about the cuts though).

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I have heard many performances of the Passacaglia & Fugue, some in kaleidoscope-mode, some of the Blockwerk type, on organs big and small. Some were convincing, good, even glorious, and in most cases it had little to do with the registrational approach the performer chose.

 

I believe timing and rhythm and articulation are far more important in this case. It has been said: there is so much in the texture of the piece already that it, just by that, offers a certain dynamic curve no matter what sounds are used. This curve might be enhanced by stop or manual changes. It might just as well be let alone. It will work nevertheless, because Bach knew his instrument and its generic characteristics so well. (Btw, the ingenious texture of the passacaglia if considered an organ piece convinced me that there is nothing to the pedal harpsichord rumor that haunts the organists' world time and again.)

 

Everyone can set his pistons (or just pull 8-4-3-2-Mx), but not everyone has the feeling for timing and breathing that, e. g., Karl Richter had. Musicality in organ playing is, I feel, all about rhythm.

 

That said, the passacaglia can be most exciting if played on full 16-foot plenum, complete with reeds 16+8. It's like driving the Rallye Monte Carlo on a truck (which must be exciting, as you will readily admit). As to the fugue, it is pure articulation drama and works best if it has all the bite it can get.

 

IMHO.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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