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Bach Passacaglia In C Minor


organist32
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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

 

No !

 

We have exactly two times more rain in eastern Belgium than in England

-only Scotland has as much, in its western half-. They need to water roses

in Mottisfont, you know, while we never do here. Indeed, we have to improve

soil drainage instead !

 

Pierre

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Guest Geoff McMahon
You may get some good ideas there:

 

 

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

 

I am not a fan of Karl Richter by and large, in part because of his theatricals, but this is a musical interpretation to my mind, even if a little dated. But it shews that even a dated interpretation can be musical and who are we to judge if it is correct (and does it matter anyway).

 

Readers may be amused by a story from my Beckerath days. A couple of my colleagues were working on the organ in the Musikhalle in Hamburg in preparation for a concert by Richter. They heard a door slam followed by purposeful footsteps across the stage and a thump as somebody sat at the console. When this happened a further couple of times they investigated and discovered Karl Richter practising his entrance for the evening's recital.

 

John Pike Mander

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Readers may be amused by a story from my Beckerath days. A couple of my colleagues were working on the organ in the Musikhalle in Hamburg in preparation for a concert by Richter. They heard a door slam followed by purposeful footsteps across the stage and a thump as somebody sat at the console. When this happened a further couple of times they investigated and discovered Karl Richter practising his entrance for the evening's recital.

 

Simon Preston tells a terrific tale about Richter. Richter was due to give a recital at the RFH. Ralph Downes met him, let him in, and then listened outside the auditorium for a few minutes. He heard Richter play the last bar of the fugue in D (BWV 532). Diddle-iddle dum. DUM DUM. The last two notes, of course, on the pedal. After a few seconds, there it was again Diddle-iddle dum. DUM DUM. Well, this went on for about 10 minutes. In the end, Downes couldn't resist his curiosity, and went in to see what was happening. Richter was practising pushing himself off the stool with the last pedal note, spinning round as he did it to land on the floor behind the organ console, and taking a bow all in one swift movement.

 

Preston decided to do the same at his next recital where he was playing on a detached console in full view of the audience, and he chose to finish his recital with this piece. There was a piece of carpet behind the organ stool. Unbeknown to him, between his rehearsal and the recital, one of the church ladies decided that the floor behind the console should be polished so that it would look good for the concert. So, she removed the piece of carpet, polished the floor, and then replaced the carpet. Preston played through the programme, finishing with the D major, sprang off the pedal board, onto the carpet, which slid, with the result that Preston ended up flat on his back at the end of the recital!

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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!

A possible minimalistic scheme for a classically voiced three-manual organ, without stop changes except for one point in the pedal, might be the following (though whether it would work would be very dependent on the stops at hand). This scheme could be adapted for a two-manual organ, but you would need to draw some manual stops as well as pedal stops at bar 128.

 

Hauptwerk: plenum (without reeds)

II: Principals 8' 4'

III: To balance II, preferably flutes, e.g. 8', 2'

Pedal: Initially to balance II

 

Start on II.

Bar 80: RH stays on II, LH plays the chords on III.

Bar 88: the semiquavers continue on II, the RH plays the theme on III.

Bar 96: both hands back on II.

Bar 113: On II and III (the ascending arpeggios on III, the descending phrases on II).

Bar 120: Both hands on III.

Bar 128: from the pedal entry to the end on I (adding pedal stops to balance).

 

I very much doubt you could get away with this on the Romantic instruments that most of us play though. They are just not up to being played with unvarying tone colour for extended periods. :) (Mind you, that's probably true of some classically voiced instruments too.)

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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

 

 

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

 

 

I think Herr Sprondel should stick to organ-matters!

 

I have just spent a sleepless night considering the viability of driving across the Col-de-Turini in a 540bhp 6 X 4 Iveco tractor-unit on snow. Even with a differential-lock and traction-control, I just do not think it would ever get around some of those bends without demolishing the stone-walls; beyond which are vertical drops of over 1,000 metres.

 

Have any organists ever driven the Monte Carlo Rally I wonder?

 

I know that at least one vicar did: the Rev.Rupert Jones.

 

The closest I've got to that sort of thing, was driving very fast on frozen lakes in Finland, and where if you went too fast, you just disappeared with a "plop" into a conveniently located snowdrift, where everything went dark and very quiet.

 

You knew it was Finland when your co-driver yelled, "Oy Oy Oy" followed by gales of laughter.

 

:lol::ph34r:

 

 

MM

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Simon Preston tells a terrific tale about Richter. Richter was due to give a recital at the RFH. Ralph Downes met him, let him in, and then listened outside the auditorium for a few minutes. He heard Richter play the last bar of the fugue in D (BWV 532). Diddle-iddle dum. DUM DUM. The last two notes, of course, on the pedal. After a few seconds, there it was again Diddle-iddle dum. DUM DUM. Well, this went on for about 10 minutes. In the end, Downes couldn't resist his curiosity, and went in to see what was happening. Richter was practising pushing himself off the stool with the last pedal note, spinning round as he did it to land on the floor behind the organ console, and taking a bow all in one swift movement.

 

Preston decided to do the same at his next recital where he was playing on a detached console in full view of the audience, and he chose to finish his recital with this piece. There was a piece of carpet behind the organ stool. Unbeknown to him, between his rehearsal and the recital, one of the church ladies decided that the floor behind the console should be polished so that it would look good for the concert. So, she removed the piece of carpet, polished the floor, and then replaced the carpet. Preston played through the programme, finishing with the D major, sprang off the pedal board, onto the carpet, which slid, with the result that Preston ended up flat on his back at the end of the recital!

 

 

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

 

 

Well I hope Jenny Setchell can include this wonderful tale in her book.

 

The usual pitfall is to hit the wrong pedal-note at the end, as Francis Jackson once did in recital. With terrific presence of mind, he improvised an ending which went through just about every known circle of fifths and dominant 7ths, until he arrived back at D again.

 

His comment afterwards, was, "Oh dear! I think that bottom D must be in a different place to the one at York."

 

(They were, and still are, both RCO pedalboards!)

 

MM

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

Just how old are you?

 

:lol:

 

MM

Not old enough to have been around when most organs were tuned to mean-tone - and with a wide variety of different pitches in different places.

 

Old enough to have heard organs live and recorded in several different temperaments, and with quite a lot of experience of different temperaments on other early keyboard instruments.

 

So, (ignoring discussion of what Marcussen did), when the pitch and temperament were changed we lost something of the sound experienced by many earlier hearers of that instrument.

 

Of course there are arguments in favour of preserving historic instruments in as close to an earlier state as possible, and updating them so that they can play a wider repertoire. What would many of us give to hear organs as Bach and Buxtehude played them, even if we had to go elsewhere to hear later compositions.

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No !

 

We have exactly two times more rain in eastern Belgium than in England

-only Scotland has as much, in its western half-. They need to water roses

in Mottisfont, you know, while we never do here. Indeed, we have to improve

soil drainage instead !

 

Pierre

 

:lol::lol: I love the expression the Germans have which is (I think) "Du hat ein Fogel in dem Kopf!"

 

Tr. as: You have a bird in your head.....

 

In other words "You're a bit of a Muppet, Mate!"

 

.......Great! :lol:

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Not old enough to have been around when most organs were tuned to mean-tone - and with a wide variety of different pitches in different places.

 

Old enough to have heard organs live and recorded in several different temperaments, and with quite a lot of experience of different temperaments on other early keyboard instruments.

 

So, (ignoring discussion of what Marcussen did), when the pitch and temperament were changed we lost something of the sound experienced by many earlier hearers of that instrument.

 

Of course there are arguments in favour of preserving historic instruments in as close to an earlier state as possible, and updating them so that they can play a wider repertoire. What would many of us give to hear organs as Bach and Buxtehude played them, even if we had to go elsewhere to hear later compositions.

 

 

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

 

 

I agree that there are exact restorations, close restorations and then the Bavo orgel!

 

I suspect that it has never sounded better, but that's no excuse really, is it?

 

Having done what they did to it, I suspect that with equal temper tuning and concert-pitch, it at least gained as much as it lost, and certainly makes the instrument ideal for much of the repertoire.

 

I don't think you will find other organs in the Netherlands restored by Marcussen. It caused quite a storm, and to this day, there are those who still boycott the place.

 

MM

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No !

 

We have exactly two times more rain in eastern Belgium than in England

-only Scotland has as much, in its western half-. They need to water roses

in Mottisfont, you know, while we never do here. Indeed, we have to improve

soil drainage instead !

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

Mmmmmm!

 

I checked it our, and the figures I came up with were a maximum of 1200mm of annual rainfall in the Ardennes, and over 2000mm of rainfall in the English Lake District.

 

Where I live on top of a moor in Yorkshire, we could survive without washing-machines by hanging the washing out to clean it, and bringing it back in to dry it.

 

The local cats gather in the bus shelters, even on sunny days, because they've learned from experience that dry spells don't last long.

 

MM

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

Mmmmmm!

 

I checked it our, and the figures I came up with were a maximum of 1200mm of annual rainfall in the Ardennes, and over 2000mm of rainfall in the English Lake District.

 

Where I live on top of a moor in Yorkshire, we could survive without washing-machines by hanging the washing out to clean it, and bringing it back in to dry it.

 

The local cats gather in the bus shelters, even on sunny days, because they've learned from experience that dry spells don't last long.

 

MM

Given that t' birds fly back'ards to keep t'muck out o' their eyes, I doubt t' washing would be very clean if tha left it aht!

 

JC (from Back o't Muin)

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MM, 1200mm is exact for me here.

 

2000mm in England ? Check the datas for London, Manchester,

Birmingham, Southampton....Even Hull, Liverpool etc are lower.

You must have choosen your place in order to spare that washing machine...

 

"Given that t' birds fly back'ards to keep t'muck out o' their eyes, I doubt t' washing would be very clean if thee left it aht!"

(Quote)

 

Yerk yerk yerk!!! :lol:

Pierre

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A possible minimalistic scheme for a classically voiced three-manual organ, without stop changes except for one point in the pedal, might be the following (though whether it would work would be very dependent on the stops at hand). This scheme could be adapted for a two-manual organ, but you would need to draw some manual stops as well as pedal stops at bar 128.

 

Hauptwerk: plenum (without reeds)

II: Principals 8' 4'

III: To balance II, preferably flutes, e.g. 8', 2'

Pedal: Initially to balance II

 

Start on II.

Bar 80: RH stays on II, LH plays the chords on III.

Bar 88: the semiquavers continue on II, the RH plays the theme on III.

Bar 96: both hands back on II.

Bar 113: On II and III (the ascending arpeggios on III, the descending phrases on II).

Bar 120: Both hands on III.

Bar 128: from the pedal entry to the end on I (adding pedal stops to balance).

 

I very much doubt you could get away with this on the Romantic instruments that most of us play though. They are just not up to being played with unvarying tone colour for extended periods. :lol: (Mind you, that's probably true of some classically voiced instruments too.)

 

Thanks 'Vox Humana' ; that registration is pretty much along the lines I am thinking of at present.

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MM, 1200mm is exact for me here.

 

2000mm in England ? Check the datas for London, Manchester,

Birmingham, Southampton....Even Hull, Liverpool etc are lower.

You must have choosen your place in order to spare that washing machine...

 

"Given that t' birds fly back'ards to keep t'muck out o' their eyes, I doubt t' washing would be very clean if thee left it aht!"

(Quote)

 

Yerk yerk yerk!!! :lol:

Pierre

 

 

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

 

It's all to do with warm westerly/south westerly winds, mountains, hills and the adiabatic lapse rate.

 

Hence the wettest places are Wales, the Pennines, the West of Scotland and the Lake District. All the places you mention are on low-lying ground; Hull being positively mediterranean in a good summer.

 

Where I live, it is the rare, extended periods of hot, dry weather which most play havoc with organs.

 

As for the washing, the biggest threat is not the birds which fly backwards, but a hawk which hovers, looking for a meal.

 

MM

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I found the link for the Virgil Fox performance, which is as follows:-

 

http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/2003/0310/

 

As it is the last piece, I presume you would need to scroll the timer towards the end.

 

However, if you like to hear unconventional Bach played on the organ, there are some real gems on this excellent and often amusing programme. As for the energy of Fox playing the Passacaglia, it is just astonishing.

 

MM

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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

 

"Looking for Noon at 2pm". Rather a good metaphor to my mind...

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