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Bach Preludes And Fugues - Speed Relationships

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"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."

(Quote)

 

Here we agree zonder enkel probleem (without any problem).

I went several times to Alkmaar (from before the restoration in the 80's),

it is in fact one of my preffered organs (with the Aa kerk's in Groningen and a dozen others).

 

But we destroyed so many excellent organs- from all areas and periods- to

"follow the Holy Truths" (which change every 20 years), that I believe we need

to be more strict; a "Bach-organ" it is not. But we may enjoy Bach with it !

 

Bach liked Hildebrandt, no doubt. But we also know he criticized the finish

at Naumburg. Bach was a difficult customer, who inspected the details

with an acute scrutiny...

Moreover, Hildebrandt built Quint Mixtures -like Silbermann-, something which

does not fit in the central german Orgellandschaft. Beautifull they may be, they

were exceptions in the Bach area.

 

Pierre

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...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.

 

Bazuin

 

Thank you for the interesting information, Bazuin. (Incidentally, is your namesake Pedal rank at Sint Bavokerk still suspended from the roof by means of chains?)

 

I agree particularly with your last paragraph. There are some superb recordings of some of Bach's organ music made by Helmut Walcha on the organ at Alkmaar. I also preferred it to the sound of the Naumburg organ. I remain un-convinced that tierce mixtures, for example (tuned in any temperament), render Bach's music with greater clarity than that which I maintain can be attained with well-voiced quint mixtures.

 

In any case, Naumburg, apart from a Sesquialtera II and a Cornet IV on the Hauptwerk, had entirely quint mixtures in the time of J.S. Bach:

 

PEDAL

 

Mixtur (15-19-22-26-29-33-36) VII

 

RÜCKPOSITIV

 

Rauschpfeife (19-22) II

Zimbel (19-22-26-29-33) V

 

HAUPTWERK

 

[sesquialtera (12-17) II]

Mixtur (15-19-22-26-29-33-36) VIII

[Cornet (8-12-15-17) IV]

 

OBERWERK

 

Scharf (22-26-29-33-36) V

 

Whilst I am unable presently to find a scheme of the breaks, save for that of the Oberwerk Scharf*, it can be seen that most begin comaratively high-pitched.

 

* OBERWERK

 

Scharf:

 

C01: 22-26-29-33-36

C13: 19-22-26-29-33

G20: 15-19-22-26-29

C25: 15-19-22-22-26

G32: 12-15-19-22-26

C37: 12-15-19-19-22

G44: 08-12-15-15-19

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"render Bach's music with greater clarity than that which I maintain can be attained with well-voiced quint mixtures."

(Quote)

 

Do we know if "clarity" was what Bach wanted ?

 

I could as well advocate he'd have loved a Viole celeste.

 

But we know he liked "Gravität".

 

Pierre

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"render Bach's music with greater clarity than that which I maintain can be attained with well-voiced quint mixtures."

(Quote)

 

Do we know if "clarity" was what Bach wanted ?

 

I could as well advocate he'd have loved a Viole celeste.

 

But we know he liked "Gravität".

 

Pierre

 

Well, apparently he liked 32ft. reeds, if that is what you mean.

 

Again, examine the type of orchestration which Bach employed in many of his larger-scaled works. I would maintain that there is plenty of evidence of clarity there. Nothing seems superfluous, there is no unnecessary doubling, no thick or turgid effects. I find it hard to imagine that such a great genius could write and orchestrate in such a way - then promptly turn to the organ and deliver the musical equivalent of kartoffelklösse or spaetzle.

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Well, apparently he liked 32ft. reeds, if that is what you mean.

 

Again, examine the type of orchestration which Bach employed in many of his larger-scaled works. I would maintain that there is plenty of evidence of clarity there. Nothing seems superfluous, there is no unnecessary doubling, no thick or turgid effects. I find it hard to imagine that such a great genius could write and orchestrate in such a way - then promptly turn to the organ and deliver the musical equivalent of kartoffelklösse or spaetzle.

 

 

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

 

Additionally, look at the instruments of the orchestra, which were not so colourful or indiviualustic as their modern counterparts.

 

Blend, rather than solo colour, was very much the order of the day, and I would suggest that a baroque orchestra has quite a "flat" sound right across the musical spectrum.

 

The moment you introduce modern Oboes, Clarinets, valved trumpets, violas and cellos (for example), the music itself is changed radically, and both lyricism and relative dynamic power start to assert themselves, and either diminish linear counterpoint, or render it muddled and obscure.

 

I would suggest that contrapuntal wriritng was rather more than the use of correct musical grammar, or a lot of pretty tunes doing the round. Rather, it is a way of thinking, in which musical debate and rhetoric is the MAIN enjoyment, rather than whether the Violin can play a melody better than the Oboe da Caccia player.

 

A question which, of course, can never be answered, is whether Bach would have been inspired to write more great organ-works, in the event that he might have been successful in being apppointed at Hamburg.

 

MM

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I agree. On the other hand, I think it is beyond reasonable question that Bach liked rich sonorities. His insistence on Gravität in organs is an example of this, but so is his orchestration in his cantatas - just compare his textures to those of people like Buxtehude, or, well, anyone really.

 

Further, we may note that his pupil Johann Ludwig Krebs, much of whose music is so similar in style to Bach's that it is he who really deserves the title of the last Baroque composer, was famed for his very full style of playing. What was meant here can be seen in the very rich texture of his varied harmonies for the chorale Wir glauben all. Krebs may well have inherited this love of full textures from Bach; the last variation of Bach's Sei gegrüsset is very similar. Then there is Burney's admittedly anecdotal account of Bach being so fond of full harmony that "besides a constant and active use of the pedals, he is said to have put down such keys by a stick in his mouth, as neither hands nor feet could reach". It fits, at any rate.

 

But of course a love of richness does not necessarily mean that he did not care about clarity - and nor is it any indication that he would have embraced the sonority of Walcker organs.

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"and nor is it any indication that he would have embraced the sonority of Walcker organs."

(Quote)

 

Of course we shall never know, but we can imagine Bach could have disputed

E-F Walcker scalings an grave mixtures. After all, he criticized the french

Plein-jeu as "too deep"...

Krebs -yes...- guess where he was titular?

 

Pierre

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Pierre wrote:

 

"I went several times to Alkmaar (from before the restoration in the 80's),"

 

The organ is now considerably more impressive than then! The nave of the church has also been re-plastered (I think in about '97) which has also added to the result. It is simply extraordinary.

 

and pcnd5584 wrote

 

"I remain un-convinced that tierce mixtures, for example (tuned in any temperament), render Bach's music with greater clarity than that which I maintain can be attained with well-voiced quint mixtures."

 

Please don't misunderstand me - I wasn't trying to put different organ types into some kind of hierarchy. I like tierce mixtures a lot. It is important to realise though that, in the Netherlands and North Germany, the Sesquialteras are also tierce mixtures, intended to be used in the plenum (see Mattheson!). In Alkmaar the Sesquialteras (Rugwerk and Bovenwerk) are once again at 16'pitch (since the restoration in 1986, are they the only ones in the world?) and can therefore ONLY be used in the plenum. The concept of a tierce mixture in a plenum context is not limited then to Bach's geographical area. And, pncd5584, clarity isn't the 'be all and end all' as has already been stated.

 

In the Netherlands there are exceptions, some sesquialteras are only in the treble, and are intended therefore as solo stops. The organ in the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam has both types, that in the Bovenwerk is clearly intended as a solo stop (treble only), that in the Rugwerk as a plenum mixture.

 

"In any case, Naumburg, apart from a Sesquialtera II and a Cornet IV on the Hauptwerk, had entirely quint mixtures in the time of J.S. Bach:"

 

The Mixtures in Naumburg (at least those in the Oberwerck and Ruckpositive) are reconstructed, and aren't entirely successful I think.

 

Bazuin

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"in the Netherlands and North Germany, the Sesquialteras are also tierce mixtures, intended to be used in the plenum"

(Quote)

 

And this is also a very characteristic feature of the flemish baroque organs -which

were built up to...1850!-: the Sesquialter made with Principal pipes, intended to

go in the "Vulwerk".

It even had a break, so:

 

C: 1 1/3'- 4/5'

Middle of the manual: 2 2/3'- 1 3/5'

 

When french builders came in Belgium during the 18th century, they despised

that stop they did not understand (since 1700 the Sesqui was dropped in France),

as " a Flander's taste".

 

So this stop you can use exactly like the Wagner's "Scharff" !

 

Pierre

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Pierre wrote:

 

"I went several times to Alkmaar (from before the restoration in the 80's),"

 

The organ is now considerably more impressive than then! The nave of the church has also been re-plastered (I think in about '97) which has also added to the result. It is simply extraordinary.

 

and pcnd5584 wrote

 

"I remain un-convinced that tierce mixtures, for example (tuned in any temperament), render Bach's music with greater clarity than that which I maintain can be attained with well-voiced quint mixtures."

 

Please don't misunderstand me - I wasn't trying to put different organ types into some kind of hierarchy. I like tierce mixtures a lot. It is important to realise though that, in the Netherlands and North Germany, the Sesquialteras are also tierce mixtures, intended to be used in the plenum (see Mattheson!). In Alkmaar the Sesquialteras (Rugwerk and Bovenwerk) are once again at 16'pitch (since the restoration in 1986, are they the only ones in the world?) and can therefore ONLY be used in the plenum. The concept of a tierce mixture in a plenum context is not limited then to Bach's geographical area. And, pncd5584, clarity isn't the 'be all and end all' as has already been stated.

 

In the Netherlands there are exceptions, some sesquialteras are only in the treble, and are intended therefore as solo stops. The organ in the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam has both types, that in the Bovenwerk is clearly intended as a solo stop (treble only), that in the Rugwerk as a plenum mixture.

 

"In any case, Naumburg, apart from a Sesquialtera II and a Cornet IV on the Hauptwerk, had entirely quint mixtures in the time of J.S. Bach:"

 

The Mixtures in Naumburg (at least those in the Oberwerck and Ruckpositive) are reconstructed, and aren't entirely successful I think.

 

Bazuin

 

 

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

 

 

We seem to have abandonded the subject of speed, but I couldn't agree more with "Bazuin."

 

The fact that many of the organs in the Netherlands (including both Alkmaar at Haarlem) have tierce mixtures, some very interesting solo voices and a superb pleno, means to me, that I never feel the need to dig further or make an extended tour of Thuringia.

 

After Alkmaar, almost anything else in the world is, if not second-best, perhaps a "tad" short of musical perfection.

 

The description "extrordinary" understates the case, and in a land of quite extrordinary instruments, Alkmaar could really be considered peerless for much of the organ repertoire, and for most of the rest, Haarlem satisifes like few other instruments.

 

How dare the good people of the Netherlands have such superb instruments?

 

Next you know, they'll be putting oil on canvas!! :)

 

MM

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Ask Den Haag for Asylum, MM !

 

Among my 12 favorites, 2 are in the Netherlands, so I reckon

the value of these instruments.

But the fact I like the Maatjes does not prevent me to explore

the french, italian, chinese (etc) cuisine.

Life is too short to stay hanged!

 

Pierre

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Ask Den Haag for Asylum, MM !

 

Among my 12 favorites, 2 are in the Netherlands, so I reckon

the value of these instruments.

But the fact I like the Maatjes does not prevent me to explore

the french, italian, chinese (etc) cuisine.

Life is too short to stay hanged!

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

As part of the EU, I think I could just go to Den Haag without recourse to asylum; not that I would immediately notice the difference between England and Den Haag these days.

 

In any event, I can be in Holland in 2 hours, and I have sometimes journeyed out to a recital, had a stroll around Amsterdam and then made it back home before midnight.

 

I hate making food, and I know all the short cuts. I can see no value in eating a boiled-egg in a top restaurant, where they pour a little Marie Rose sauce around, sprinkle a few fragments of paprika on top of it, and then throw a small piece of lettuce beside it. The charge for this culinary masterpiece is about £15 + VAT, which I can replicate with a bit of tinned white sauce, a dash of ketchup, a bit of supermarket Paprika, one egg and a solitary lettuce leaf for the princely sum of 70p.

 

So what I save in restaurants, I can spend on air-miles, home-made beef sandwiches (with a reckless sprinkling of raw onion) and organ recitals in Holland.

 

MM

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