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Bach Preludes And Fugues - Speed Relationships

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"he is also seeking to suggest that a Trost (or a Walcker) organ would render the music with a greater clarity than perhaps an instrument with bright, transparent quint mixtures - which Pierre dislikes in Bach's music."

(Quote)

 

-Wagner, not Walcker; and Joachim, not Richard.... B)

 

-My point is simply those provincial baroque organs, made first for

the church service, are typically what Bach had. And when

you hear Bach's music on it, it thrives like Howell's on an H&H.,

I mean, it makes sense at once.

 

-Likes and dislikes aren't my business. What I like is to discover

facts.

 

-Single malt wann ééch gelieft.

 

Pierre

 

Of course it was Wagner - clearly I was tired, which is presumably why I typed the wrong name.

 

Facts are fine, but are we not still confronted with the problem that we still do not know exactly what the organs which Bach played were like? I believe that it is correct to state that none of the instruments with which he was associated (by way of professional appointments) were constructed by either Trost or Wagner. The late Stephen Bicknell has also stated (qute strongly) that the link between organs by Trost and those which Bach played has not yet been found. I believe that he was sure that he had found evidence to support this claim.

 

Therefore, I am still cautious about some of your statements, Pierre. Is there any irrefutable proof that Bach played (or favoured) these dark-hued instruments, with colourful tierce mixtures?

 

Do you know of any sound files featuring such surviving instruments, please?

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Of course it was Wagner - clearly I was tired, which is presumably why I typed the wrong name.

 

Facts are fine, but are we not still confronted with the problem that we still do not know exactly what the organs which Bach played were like? I believe that it is correct to state that none of the instruments with which he was associated (by way of professional appointments) were constructed by either Trost or Wagner. The late Stephen Bicknell has also stated (qute strongly) that the link between organs by Trost and those which Bach played has not yet been found. I believe that he was sure that he had found evidence to support this claim.

 

Therefore, I am still cautious about some of your statements, Pierre. Is there any irrefutable proof that Bach played (or favoured) these dark-hued instruments, with colourful tierce mixtures?

 

Do you know of any sound files featuring such surviving instruments, please?

 

 

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

 

 

I quite approve of the idea of a European tour to discover the Holy Grail for ourselves; especially if we can do it with government funding, but I fear that this would be refused.

 

All this talk about Trost organs and the like, is really so much pie-in-the-sky, because I do not believe there are any certain links between these organs and Bach himself. On the other hand, I seem to recall that there may be links with some of the instruments and Bach's near relatives.

 

So far as I can make out, there are two specific organ-builders who could be closely associated with Bach; the first being Gottfried Silbermann, and the other being Hilerbrandt at Naumberg. The latter is of special significance, I suppose, for the "Grailists."

 

Take the wider view, and even among the Silbermann organs, there are wide differences. The later organs were much brighter and more powerful, whereas the earlier instruments were much less strident.

 

Bach himself went to North Germany, where he would have heard organs typical of the area. This probably included Schnitger organs, and may well have been the reason why he was so anxious to go to Hamburg.

 

The fact is, Bach sounds absolutely wonderful on Schnitger organs, as it does on those by Silbermann, Muller, Hinsz, Trost, Metzler, Mander, Flentrop, Frobenius etc etc.

 

In Pierre's statement about Howells and Harrison & Harrison, he is again presenting the "Grail" theory, when in point of fact, the best organ I can think of prostituting to the art of Herbert Howells, would be Liverpool Cathedral, which has everything and more that even the most particular (peculiar?) Howells scholar could ever wish for.

 

We have to be very careful about making "defintive statements" about this or that organ, or we may find ourselves believing that the music of Percy Whitlock is best heard played on a theatre-organ.

 

We MUST go from the music, and not from the distorted perspectives of history, and any subsequent changes made to the organs, which further distort the truth of "the Grail."

 

Perhaps I should quote Trevor Pinnock:-

 

"I do not care whether my performance practices were authentic or not. I played these instruments this way, because I liked the results."

 

Music is NOT about authenticity or re-creating some moment in history. It is a creative process, (especially with music from the baroque), and the performer is just as important as the composer. So when I pick up the 9/8 C major, and add great flourishes in those extended silences, I am adding TO the music, (I hope), rather than spoiling it. If that sounds good to me, that is good enough, and if people don't like it, they can always stay away next time.

 

It is for the precise reason that I like to hear Bach at Haarlem, either using the Terzchor registers, or the Quint Mixtures. Both sound wonderfully appropriate, but quite different, yet neither of them is "authentic" except in the widest possible sense of the word.

 

Is there actually something WRONG with Virgil Fox bringing his own style of expressionist energy to Bach, or the early 20th century German organists who would sometimes play Bach using Celestes?

 

Was Horowitz a musical phillistine, or Murray Pariaha a heretic? How dare Karl Tausig transcribe Bach's organ-works to the piano, or Kodaly transcribe the 48 Preludes and Fugues to the organ?

 

They dared to do this because they were (and are) performers and artists, and it is up to the listener to decide what they want, what they like and whether they would pay good money to repeat the experience.

 

How far do we have to be authentic, I wonder?

 

Do I need to transpose all Bach's organ-works into different keys, and play them at the correct pitch using all the wrong notes?

 

My feeling is, that when Bach was sat at home with the family, busily writing music and sucking at his pipe, the last thing he would have thought about would have been a poorly regulated bottom B on the pedal Posaune, or the annoying chiff of the Rohrflute on tenor A.

 

In his head would have been the perfect organ, and that is where the holiness of the grail resided, and was then lost for all time when he died.

 

MM

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In any case, the recordings by DJB, whilst being utterly musical, are not particularly slow - yet all is clear; I would suggest that this is due partly to the articulation of the performer - but also in part to the clarity of the voicing of this particular instrument.

But recordings can also change the clarity compared to what a listener on the floor would hear.

 

Paul

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I already placed links to sound files !

 

The Wagner and Trosts are example among others -Scheibe et al.- which were

all of this style...Heavy, colorfull, "tiercy", etc...

 

Wagners are particularly interesting because as hybrid instruments -like all are in that area-

they have just the right amount of "northern" flavour in them, both Silbermann and Schnitger

influencies, but without "Werkprinzip", and with the traditionnal central german choruses.

And believe me or not, it sounds !

 

Of course, there are facts that can *disturb* somewhat......

 

So let's work in order.

 

1)-Here is a sample of the Angermünde flue chorus:

 

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

 

2)-Here are two Bach samples on the same organ. These are the two first

from the top of the page:

 

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

 

3)- As for Stephen Bicknell; do you really think that if I were british, and involved

in the british organ world, rather than a "sell-off-by-date" old nail lost in the

Ardenne's forest, I would ever have dared posting things such as mines here?

 

4)- May I suggest someone here to plan a visit to Angermünde whenever possible ?

It is not a big organ, but it should be given a try in the big stuff, P&F, Passaglia, etc.

There is absolutely no need for a big, hanseatic-rich-town Schnitger for Bach.

(Besides Angermünde, which I know in Situ, there are also Brandenburger Dom, and

Berlin, Marienkirche, this last a rebuild after the original state by Daniel Kern).

 

"Bach himself went to North Germany, where he would have heard organs typical of the area."

(Quote)

 

As I did in Britain: as a guest !

Or I am a british organ historian.... B)

 

"there are two specific organ-builders who could be closely associated with Bach; the first being Gottfried Silbermann, and the other being Hilerbrandt at Naumberg."

(Quote)

 

The closest organ-builder to be associated with Bach was Scheibe.

And particularly about his organ in the Paulinerkirche, Leipzig, 1717:

 

HAUPTWERK

 

Gross Principal 16'

Gross Quintatön 16'

Klein Principal 8'

Fleute allemande 8'

Gems-Horn 8'

Octav 4'

Quinta 3'

Quint-Nassat 3'

Octavina 2'

Wald-Flöte 2'

Grosse Mixtur 5-6r

Cornetti 3r

Zinck 2r

Schalmei 8' (Wood)

 

HINTERWERK

 

Lieblich Gedackt 8' (Wood)

Quinta-tön 8'

Fleute douce 8'

Principal 4'

Quinta decima 4'

Decima nona 3'

Holl-Flöte 2'

Viola 2'

Vigesima nona 1 1/2' (1 1/3')

Weit-Pfeiffe 1'

Mixtur 4r

Helle Cymbel 2r

Sertin 8'

 

BRUSTWERK

 

Principal 8'

Viol di Gamb naturell 8'

Gross Gedackt 8'

Octav 4'

Rohr-Flöte 4'

Nassat 3'

Octav 2'

Sedecima 1'

Schweitzer-Pfeiffe 1'

Largo 1 1/3' (Larigot)

Mixtur 3r

Helle Cymbel 2r

 

PEDAL

 

Gross Principal-Bass 16' (Borrowed from HPTW!)

Gross Quinta-Tön-bass 16'(HPTW)

Sub-bass 16'

Octav-bass 8' (HPTW)

Jubal-Bass 8'

Nacht-Horn-Bass 8'

Gross-Hell-Quintbass 6'

Octav Bass 4' (HPTW)

Quint-Bass 3' (HPTW)

Octav-Bass 2'

Holl-Flöten-Bass 1'

Mixtur-Bass 6r (HPTW)

Posaunen-Bass 16'

Trompeten-Bass 8'

 

.....The spec was by a certain Adam-Horatio....Casparini.

 

(You know, the topic I opened, and which interested nobody.....)

 

 

Pierre

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As for Stephen Bicknell; do you really think that if I were british, and involved

in the british organ world, rather than a "sell-off-by-date" old nail lost in the

Ardenne's forest, I would ever have dared posting things such as mines here?

 

 

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

 

Pierre, you underestimate yourself!

 

Stephen Bicknell, of blessed memory, was a superb historian as we all know. He was also, presumably, someone who knew how to design and build an organ without it falling down at the opening-recital.

 

However, he was not infallable by any means, and in correspondence with me, managed to lose a whole Schulze organ of which he seemed to have been unaware, at Christ Church, Doncaster.

 

Also, he was no performer, and could not bring that level of musical insight which makes a mockery of authenticity, but which often illuminates and delights. (I was thinking of Nigel Kennedy and Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" as I wrote that).

 

Performance practice, keyboard technique, pedal technique and the organs themselves: all have changed radically since Bach's day, and even neo-baroque organs are far removed from that to which they allude.

 

We MUST see history and authenticity in perspective, AS A POINT OF HONEST REFERENCE which can teach us much, but there are no hard and fast rules which prevent Colin Harvey increasing the tempo at the Turner Sims because of the acoustic, or Virgil Fox doing his thing on a big EP action, American Classic back in the late 50's and early 60's.

 

Artistic expression can be as wild and whacky as one wants, and in studying Bach (for example), there is even "truth" in the crazy pastiche presentations of P D Q Bach, which is why we laugh nervously.

 

Could anyone copy....would anyone want to copy.....the artistic genius of Florence Foster Jenkins and her co-star Cosmo Moon at Carnegie Hall?

 

The fact is, the performer is a part of the process, and in our world, so too is the organ being played.

 

Whatever we do, we cannot win every heart and mind. Some people will be delighted, and others will be confused and bewildered; especially if they don't hear full swell and the pedal ophicleide creeping into the Fantasia & Fugue in G minor.

 

It really comes down to, "You pays your money and you makes your choice."

 

The problem with history, informed scholarship, authentic performance practice and every other aspect of musical technique, is that they move in waves; even fashions. What would have delighted people in the 1930's, and posed as authentic Scarlatti played on a Goble concert-harpsichord, would not cut much ice to-day. The more important question, is whether someone like George Malcolm was any less a musician than someone like Kenneth Gilbert, or any less capable of presenting Bach's superlative music?

 

Kenneth Gilbert, Gustav Leonhardt, Ralph Kirkpatrick and others, may well have been important points of reference, but when it came to the musical "wow" factor of red-blooded Bach, it didn't come much better than George Malcolm, a concert Goble and a bottle of whisky. :wacko:

 

This is why someone like Virgil Fox can still thrill and delight; no matter how wide of the mark he was in terms of authenticity.

It's also fascinating to switch from his recordings to those of E Power-Biggs; at which point you begin to wonder if they were playing the same music. :unsure:

 

Hopefully, there will come the day when everything is digital and played by computers. B) Then there will be no arguments whatsoever.

 

If you believe that, you will believe anything! :o

 

 

MM

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We MUST go from the music

Like the "Bach would have used a swell box if he had one" brigade do? Well good luck to you, but I think I'll dip out, thank you. B)

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You may like Virgil Fox's Bach, like I myself do.

But, again, besides this, we need backups!

I have some recordings here, but none historically

correct for Bach....Isn't that a problem ?

 

And as Vox just said, if this is only secondary matters, then I decide

Bach would have loved W......(sauce).

And don't forget the brick Swellbox with its reed chorus in the Preludes, please!

 

Pierre

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But recordings can also change the clarity compared to what a listener on the floor would hear.

 

Paul

 

Whilst this is true, I have also heard him play this instrument live - and have played it myself on numerous occasions. The recordings are faithful representations of what might be heard in the building. No forced or unnatural balances appear to have been made.

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Stephen Bicknell, of blessed memory, was a superb historian as we all know.

MM

 

Which, as far as I am concerned, is precisely the point. The fact that he may have 'mislaid' an organ built by Schultze is neither here nor there. His comment to which I referred was made at The Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, in the presence of an audience in which there were many distinguished organists. I think that in this case he would have been very sure of his facts. This is why I pressed Pierre for more substantive proof; not because I wished to prolong an argument, but because I believed genuinely that he had made a leap, a connection if you will, which was difficult to justify with the evidence available.

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No evidence ?

 

Back to basics, then.

 

Here is a map with a red point in the Länder Bach lived in:

 

http://www.deutschland-navigator.de/THU/99310_arnstadt.html

 

Not really near Hamburg, nor really a dutch-speaking area....

 

Here is another map, which features the several places Bach lived in -his trip to Lüneburg included-:

 

http://www.bach.de/leben/index.html

 

(Again -a trip is just a trip, how long it could have been- or I am a british indeed...)

 

Pierre

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No evidence ?

 

Back to basics, then.

 

Here is a map with a red point in the Länder Bach lived in:

 

http://www.deutschland-navigator.de/THU/99310_arnstadt.html

 

Not really near Hamburg, nor really a dutch-speaking area....

 

Here is another map, which features the several places Bach lived in -his trip to Lüneburg included-:

 

http://www.bach.de/leben/index.html

 

(Again -a trip is just a trip, how long it could have been- or I am a british indeed...)

 

Pierre

 

Pierre, I did not write 'no evidence', but '...is difficult to jusitfy on the evidence available'. The map alone is hardly the irrefutable proof for which I was looking. Or is this an opportunity to highlight my ineptitude with the German language once more?

 

I was thinking particularly of a statement I am fairly sure I read in one of your posts recently, to the effect of '[these] are the type of organs which Bach liked'.

 

To clarify the evidence available:

 

Were any of the instruments at places where Bach was employed (or strongly associated) built by Trost?

 

Is there written documentation of him playing organs by Trost (for example) - together with his comments regarding these instruments. Or, did he examine any instruments by Trost in a professional capacity and if so, are there records of his judgements and opinions. These are the things which I would like to see.

 

As you know, I make no secret of the fact that I have very limited knowledge of reading or speaking German. I am aware you think that this is vital for one who wishes to research the music of Bach and the organs on which it was originally played.

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I would be interested to hear Bach's P&Fs played two times slower

than usually, on a rather ponderous, "teutonic" central german 18th

century organ (Wagner, Trost...), without any attempt to french

or italian "lightness" (despite obvious influencies, but rather on

musical Substanz than in style.)

"Substanz" -this word might be the key-. A substantial Bach, a meal

with sparse spices, rather than spices without meal. (but with the traditionnal

Tierce Mixtures, of course, without which Bach appears naked).

 

Any takers ?

 

Pierre

Then there is the above post.

 

Pierre, to play a prelude and fugue by Bach two times slower than usually is not practicable - or desirable. I agree that some performers currently play Bach's music in a manner which seems to be too fast. However, to cut the speed in half is a huge difference. It would make Vierne's recorded performance of the 'little' E minor Prelude and Fugue sound very sprightly indeed.

 

I am also not sure that Bach would have expected his preludes and fugues to be played at such a speed and without any attempt at [French or Italian] lightness, but in a 'substantial' way. There is written evidence that Bach astounded and surprised his contemporaries with his playing. One writer (I cannot recall who at present) mentioned that he was able to play passages fluently with his feet which others had difficulty playing with their hands. Take, for example, the Fugue, in D major (BWV 532). I am aware that for many years, French players used to play this slowly ; Widor spoke in strong terms regarding the need to keep this fugue diginfied and un-hurried. However, in musical terms alone, surely the subject alone mitigates against this.

 

Tomorrow evening we are due to perform excerpts from The Passion According to Saint John. There are a number of movements in this (for example, one or two of the arias), in which the lightness of texture and the linear movement of the writing suggest to me the exact opposite of the type of performance Bach may have expected, as suggested in your post. Of course, I realise that a prelude and fugue written for the organ is not quite the same as an aria lifted from a setting of the Passion of Christ (and scored for orchestral instruments). I further realise that there were (and are) instruments upon which it would be difficult and un-rewarding to play Bach's organ music quickly, the action alone making this a thankless task.

 

However, was not Bach's music (and performance, from that which we do know) partly about pushing boundaries; of taking the commonly-held beliefs of the time and then proving them wrong? Did he not write in exactly the way he desired - and then demonstrate that it was possible to play in a way which many of his contemporaries had not thought to be possible?

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Then there is the above post.

 

Pierre, to play a prelude and fugue by Bach two times slower than usually is not practicable - or desirable.........

 

.............I am also not sure that Bach would have expected his preludes and fugues to be played at such a speed and without any attempt at [French or Italian] lightness, but in a 'substantial' way. Tomorrow evening we are due to perform excerpts from The Passion According to Saint John............

 

 

.............However, was not Bach's music (and performance, from that which we do know) partly about pushing boundaries?

 

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

 

Musical instinct suggests this to be common-sense.

 

Leipzig does not enjoy a huge acoustic by any means, and with a full church (which it would have been), the musical pace must have been ratchetted up a bit if the music was to sound right.

 

I'm not sure that Bach pushed boundaries, so much as consolidated them. I suspect that Bach was more EU minded than he was a revolutionary, and therefore happy to embrace Italian panache, French colour and teutonic thoroughness.

 

MM

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Here are the names of the builders whose organs we know have

been played by J-S Bach:

 

-Wender

-Scheibe

-Trost

-Wagner (in recitals)

-Hildebrandt

-Silbermann (Gottfried)

-Finke

-Sterzing

-Dropa (Lüneburg)

-Niehoff rebuild by Hoyer/Kretzchmar/Stellwagen (Lüneburg)

-Schnitger (St-Jacobi Hamburg, played two times)

-Hohlbeck

-Contius (esteemed rather poor by Bach)

 

In his reports Bach is particularly enthusiast about Trost (Altenburg)

and Scheibe (Leipzig).

He was in conflict with Silbermann about his temperament (mean tone).

 

"I suspect that Bach was more EU minded than he was a revolutionary, and therefore happy to embrace Italian panache, French colour and teutonic thoroughness."

(Quote)

 

Yes, this seems to be fully correct.

And the organs in Bach's area corroborate that fully: synthesis made with:

 

-Northern elements (through Niehoff Renaissance style imported in northern Germany)

-French elements (through Silbermann)

-Italian elements (through Casparini)

 

That area was a meeting point of those three influencies, and it shows both

in Bach's music and in the organs.

 

Pierre

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Here are the names of the builders whose organs we know have

been played by J-S Bach:

 

-Wender

-Scheibe

-Trost

-Wagner (in recitals)

-Hildebrandt

-Silbermann (Gottfried)

-Finke

-Sterzing

-Dropa (Lüneburg)

-Niehoff rebuild by Hoyer/Kretzchmar/Stellwagen (Lüneburg)

-Schnitger (St-Jacobi Hamburg, played two times)

-Hohlbeck

-Contius (esteemed rather poor by Bach)

 

In his reports Bach is particularly enthusiast about Trost (Altenburg)

and Scheibe (Leipzig).

He was in conflict with Silbermann about his temperament (mean tone).

 

"I suspect that Bach was more EU minded than he was a revolutionary, and therefore happy to embrace Italian panache, French colour and teutonic thoroughness."

(Quote)

 

Yes, this seems to be fully correct.

And the organs in Bach's area corroborate that fully: synthesis made with:

 

-Northern elements (through Niehoff Renaissance style imported in northern Germany)

-French elements (through Silbermann)

-Italian elements (through Casparini)

 

That area was a meeting point of those three influencies, and it shows both

in Bach's music and in the organs.

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

By strange co-incidence, this is probably why St Bavo, Haarlem, is such a splendid organ for Bach's music. Muller came from the Harsz mountain region of Saxony-Anhalt in Germany.

 

Many of those self same elements are combined in that particular instrument.

 

I personally see no advantage in studying further than this instrument; though it is interesting without doubt.

 

I think what Trost, Hilerbrandt and Muller demonstrate, is that the neo-classic style was possibly ill-founded, and that Bach would have enjoyed warmer, richer and more colourful organs than we have been led to believe.

 

MM

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"I personally see no advantage in studying further than ...."

(Quote)

 

:lol:

 

Well, each to his own....You could go on....Even less far: the closest thing

you have -had?- to a german late baroque organ in England are Snetzlers (the guy who

helped Müller at St-Bavo before becoming a Gastarbeiter in Britain).

 

Pierre

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"I personally see no advantage in studying further than ...."

(Quote)

 

:lol:

 

Well, each to his own....You could go on....Even less far: the closest thing

you have -had?- to a german late baroque organ in England are Snetzlers (the guy who

helped Müller at St-Bavo before becoming a Gastarbeiter in Britain).

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

The organ I play is a lot closer to a late German baroque organ than any Snetzler I know, even if it is Dutch in character.

 

Snetzler may have delivered great tonal beauty and considerable refinement, but he didn't exactly set anything on fire.

 

I suspect the fact that most of the older organs were destroyed or rebuilt beyond recognition, was for the precise reason that they lacked power. That's why Schulze proved to be such a sensation.

 

MM

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Do you speak of Snetzler, or Green, or both ?

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

To a certain extent, I speak of both.

 

The Snetzler ranks I have come across, rarely have great power. In a large church, it is the sort of sound which would fill an empty space, but which would struggle to hold a full congregation in check.

 

That was entirely in keeping with the requirements of the age, because church attendances were very poor, and choral music was restricted to cathedral and collegiate choirs; more often than not entirely contained within the chancel area, and even behind a large stone screen. I very much doubt that the congregation did anything more than mumble along to the hymns and psalms in hushed tones.

 

There was a certain gentlemanly way in which worship was carried out, and most clergyman were not exactly firebrand preachers or enthusiasts.

 

The process became ever more refined with Samuel Green, and the only organ I have played by Green, is at Heaton Hall, Manchester. A lovely sound perhaps, but the last thing you want to hear is someone shuffling in their seat, or gently opening a packet of mints; both of which would be a terrible distraction. The sound is quite definitely more "chamber organ" than anything else.

 

With the advent of congregational singing and a new choral tradition, real power was required from the organ, and before Schulze, that hadn't really been achieved even in the largest British instruments, or those by Snetzler.

 

Fr Henry Willis soon put that right, of course.

 

MM

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Then there is the above post.

 

Pierre, to play a prelude and fugue by Bach two times slower than usually is not practicable - or desirable. I agree that some performers currently play Bach's music in a manner which seems to be too fast. However, to cut the speed in half is a huge difference. It would make Vierne's recorded performance of the 'little' E minor Prelude and Fugue sound very sprightly indeed.

 

I am also not sure that Bach would have expected his preludes and fugues to be played at such a speed and without any attempt at [French or Italian] lightness, but in a 'substantial' way. There is written evidence that Bach astounded and surprised his contemporaries with his playing. One writer (I cannot recall who at present) mentioned that he was able to play passages fluently with his feet which others had difficulty playing with their hands. Take, for example, the Fugue, in D major (BWV 532). I am aware that for many years, French players used to play this slowly ; Widor spoke in strong terms regarding the need to keep this fugue diginfied and un-hurried. However, in musical terms alone, surely the subject alone mitigates against this.

 

Tomorrow evening we are due to perform excerpts from The Passion According to Saint John. There are a number of movements in this (for example, one or two of the arias), in which the lightness of texture and the linear movement of the writing suggest to me the exact opposite of the type of performance Bach may have expected, as suggested in your post. Of course, I realise that a prelude and fugue written for the organ is not quite the same as an aria lifted from a setting of the Passion of Christ (and scored for orchestral instruments). I further realise that there were (and are) instruments upon which it would be difficult and un-rewarding to play Bach's organ music quickly, the action alone making this a thankless task.

 

However, was not Bach's music (and performance, from that which we do know) partly about pushing boundaries; of taking the commonly-held beliefs of the time and then proving them wrong? Did he not write in exactly the way he desired - and then demonstrate that it was possible to play in a way which many of his contemporaries had not thought to be possible?

 

I agree with this entirely. I take Pierre's point about the colourful organs of Sachsen and Thüringen, and the desirability for weight, but tempo is an elusive thing. As MM reminds us, Thomaskirche (and, for that matter the Nikolaikirche) have relatively dry acoustics, particularly when full, and the whole feel is considerably more intimate and human than that of a great gothic cathedral.

 

For the performer, the first thing that dictates tempo, as well as articulation, is the style and affekt of the music. It matters not whether it is for the organ, violin, oboe or harpsichord, to my mind. Surely the tempi Bach might have chosen for his organ works weren't vastly different from those suggested by other instrumental or vocal music written in the same styles. Granted, certain 'early music' bands arguably pushed tempi too fast during the 80s and 90s (driven perhaps by the recording industry's lust for something novel), and we've all had our fill of 'sewing machine' Bach from so-called 'international concert organists' (in haste to catch the next plane?) but the pendulum has swung back now, in some instances to speeds slower than those indulged by Beecham's generation. But the average 'tempo ordinario' passage (as Handel might describe it) actually varies little from period to modern instruments, in my experience. I know this is a generalisation, but you see my point.

 

Another consideration is that even post-renaissance music was arguably still governed by the natural world - our heartbeats (c. 60 MM), horses trotting (duple time) or cantering (triple time) etc. Such things are no different today. Let's remember too that even the English Edwardian (with his leathered diapasons and harmonics mixtures) were brisk, no-nonsense fellows. Their Bach, like their Elgar, didn't slouch. In my view, the allowances one makes for acoustic, action and voicing are actually in a fairly narrow band, otherwise the affekt of the music changes entirely.

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....because church attendances were very poor, and choral music was restricted to cathedral and collegiate choirs....I very much doubt that the congregation did anything more than mumble along to the hymns and psalms in hushed tones.

 

Some things don't change much, do they! :lol::lol:

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Here is a page featuring a good series of Bach samples, played on the

Altenburg Trost organ (halas.....A bit too fast!):

 

https://www.abella.de/detailanz/produktanze....rt?prid=536557

 

It is interesting to compare with the Wagner I linked to above.

Bach played a vast number of organs, but the majority of them share

much in common; note, here, the importance of the Tierce, both Principal

and Flute ranks (In the Mixtures, Cornet, Jeu de Tierce), exactly like

with the Wagner organ.

 

 

 

Pierre

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As a new member of this forum, I'd like to try and tie up 2 threads. Firstly the question of Bach, tempo and time signatures.

 

Nigel Allcoat wrote:

 

"For me it is all found in the time signatures and thus self explanatory."

 

For an excellent and practical tool for finding the relationships between tempi and time signatures in Bach, please refer to the book, "Bach Tempo Guide with 200 practical Excercises" by Clemens-Christoph von Gleich and Johann Sonnleitner. Published in 2002 by the Gothenburg Organ Art Centre. It also comes with a free CD of Jacques van Oortmerssen playing Bach on several of the most beautiful historic organs of Northern Europe including Roskilde, Trondheim and Kampen.

 

And then to Haarlem.

 

MM wrote:

 

"By strange co-incidence, this is probably why St Bavo, Haarlem, is such a splendid organ for Bach's music. Muller came from the Harsz mountain region of Saxony-Anhalt in Germany."

 

I think the perception of Haarlem as a "splendid" Bach organ is tied up with the ideals about Bach playing from the first generation of the organ reform movement. These ideals are of course the same ideals which caused the Haarlem organ to be changed in the way it was in 1960. The idea that Bach's music can only be heard to best advantage when all the polyphonic lines are clearly audible for instance. The mere fact of Haarlem's Hoofdwerk chorus being based on 16' was, presumably, un-stomachable, hence the addition of the new 8' Scherp. I know the Haarlem organ reasonably well, both as a player and as a listener. One of the things which is so strange is that the Hoofdwerk 8' Octaaf is SO quiet, (like a Salicionaal). When you pull the 16' Praestant and play in the equivalent octave it is dis-proportionately louder. The best preserved stop in the organ is perhaps the 32' reed, but unless you couple all 3 manuals with reeds, mixtures, Sesquialteras, the works, it is too loud. I think perhaps that Marcussen more or less left alone the things which they considered wouldn't be used very much. In other words the 32 stops, the 16' manual stops etc.

 

With a little thinking out of the box however I agree that Bach still sounds great in Haarlem (but it takes some experience and a good teacher to show you how!). The organ is also fortunate to speak into one of the largest churches in the Netherlands, and one where the plaster remains on the walls throughout the church. (Very often plaster was removed from interior walls in Dutch churches during 20th century restorations, with profound implications for the acoustics).

 

Incidentally, no scholarly study of the life and work of Christiaan Muller has yet been published. However, my colleague Gerben Gritter is working on such a project at the moment although it will be some years before it is finished. I believe he intends to publish it in English.

 

Not so far away from Haarlem is, of course, Alkmaar. The larger (Van Hagerbeer/F.C. Schnitger) organ is surely one of the really great Bach organs, (actually one of the very greatest organs in the world) even if its reputation as such dates only from the recordings of Walcha, Germani et al. Whatever, the Alkmaar organ is much better preserved.

 

MM also wrote (in another thread)

"My own view, is that the instrument is so perfect, it is no less good than what Christian Muller created, but make no mistake, a lot of history was lost when Marcussen "had a go" at it.

 

Since then, Flentrop have possibly improved the organ quite a bit, and every time I go there, I learn of bits being re-voiced. Now less severe, and perhaps ever so slightly more "romantic" (for lack of a better word), the Bavo orgel is probably half-way back to where it started originally, but without evidence, it is impossible to state that as fact."

 

I think that Flentrop's revoicing has to be considered in the context in which they did it, ie on Marcussen's wind pressure, with Marcussen altered pipes, and Marcussen's winding system (or lack of). In this sense, they have I think taken the harshest edges off Marcussen's tonal ideal, but, if you know the better preserved Muller organs in the Netherlands, and especially those at Beverwijk and Leeuwarden (mentioned by Michael Hedley) than you realise that the sound world of Muller is still far far away. The one highly admirable element of Marcussen's work is the engineering of the action (balanced, with a self-regulating 'floating lever') which, for a such a big organ is disarmingly easy to play and extremely reliable.

 

For anyone who still doubts the profound affect Marcussen's work had on the Bavo organ, here are some online recordings of it firstly before 1960, and then afterwards. Firstly, Anton Heiller improvising (wonderfully) in the final of the 1952 improvisation competition.

 

http://orgelconcerten.ncrv.nl/ncrv?nav=vlsiuCsHtGAkBbCeBA (then click on 'beluister')

 

and then Daniel Roth improvising in the 1965 final.

 

http://orgelconcerten.ncrv.nl/ncrv?nav=emmguCsHtGAkBbCeBuB (once again, please click on 'beluister')

 

The poor condition of the organ in 1952 is of course audible, please try to listen 'around' it if you can.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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Very interesting comments, beste Bazuin,

 

I just question this one:

 

"...Alkmaar. The larger (Van Hagerbeer/F.C. Schnitger) organ is surely one of the really great Bach organs"

(Quote)

 

I just spent some dozens postings to explain how widely different

the organs Bach played were - 6OO kilometers away from the Netherlands-.

 

Pierre

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Hello Pierre and others

 

"I just question this one:

 

"...Alkmaar. The larger (Van Hagerbeer/F.C. Schnitger) organ is surely one of the really great Bach organs"

(Quote)

 

I just spent some dozens postings to explain how widely different

the organs Bach played were - 6OO kilometers away from the Netherlands-."

 

Sure, I know. I don't argue with anything you wrote. The historical link between Bach and Alkmaar is of course tenuous, via his visits to Hamburg to play the organs of Arp Schnitger, the father of Franz Casper. The Alkmaar organ was still tuned in 1/4 comma meantone until around 1765, (Bach would have had a fit...). Next year in the festival in Alkmaar there will be a weekend dedicated to Bach, during which there will be a discussion about 'Bach organs' which will include for example, Dietrich Wagler, the now-retired organist of Freiberg.

 

In recent years Naumburg has been much discussed as an ideal Bach organ, and here the link is much stronger. Bach played and tested the organ in 1746. But the % of original pipework in that organ is now around half, or even less and the reconstructed material is, to my ear (and not exclusively) variable. There are actually other, less-known, but better preserved Hildebrandt organs incidentally.

 

I was merely suggesting that in fact Bach's music, when one sees beyond the ideals of the first generation of the organ reform movement, sounds better in Alkmaar than in Haarlem. To my ears it also sounds better than in Naumburg. In any case Alkmaar is one of the best preserved large Northern European organs from Bach's lifetime. And it is an organ of a quality which could hardly be bettered. Although I admire Trost (and I enjoyed very much playing the organ in Altenburg last year) I don't believe I can say the same about him.

 

met vriendelijke groet

 

Bazuin

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