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Pierre Lauwers
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After lots of discussion about Bach, here is a video that might be interesting:

 

 

Compared with a Trost organ:

 

-The scales are bigger, particularly in the basses;

 

-The Mixtures are the same, but an octave lower;

 

-The attacks are already smoother -but not like in a 1890 organ!-

 

So if this is not "historically correct", of course, the colors are the same.

 

The Walcker organ shares one big thing with the late-baroque german organ

(central and southern): it relies heavily on its Tierce ranks. And its Tutti is

actually a Grand jeu.

 

Pierre

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I like the playing.

 

So if this is not "historically correct", of course, the colors are the same.

Are they though? I don't know because I have no knowledge of early nineteenth-century organs, but I would still question this. Isn't the thing about the German Romantic organ - the late ones anyway - that the colours are made as smooth as possible in order to facilitate blend and isn't this why they are comparatively monochrome compared to French and English instruments of the time?

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I like the playing.

Are they though? I don't know because I have no knowledge of early nineteenth-century organs, but I would still question this. Isn't the thing about the German Romantic organ - the late ones anyway - that the colours are made as smooth as possible in order to facilitate blend and isn't this why they are comparatively monochrome compared to French and English instruments of the time?

 

I also like the playing - but I would make the same point as Vox.

 

I remember reading (and can find the article easily) in a back-issue of The Organ an account of the Walcker instrument in Saint Thomas' Church, Leipzig. In it W.L. Sumner makes the point that, whilst there is a wealth of unison ranks, there is not a great range of tone-colours. He further states that the instrument (at that time) contains nothing which could not be voiced as well, if not better, than anything in England.

 

I include the above, not as a criticism, but to add confirmation of the point regarding blandness of tone, made by Vox.

 

In addition, given the resonant acoustic, the (arguably) slightly too-fast pace and the number of reeds used, this would not sound that dissimilar if played on a moderate-sized English Romantic organ.

 

However, thank you for the interesting link, Pierre. I shall keep searching for a clip which gives a more clear idea of the choruses without reeds.

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I like the playing.

Are they though? I don't know because I have no knowledge of early nineteenth-century organs, but I would still question this. Isn't the thing about the German Romantic organ - the late ones anyway - that the colours are made as smooth as possible in order to facilitate blend and isn't this why they are comparatively monochrome compared to French and English instruments of the time?

 

Not really *monochrome*, Vox,

 

I give again the link to this page with lots of sound-files

featuring individual stops:

 

http://www.aeoline.de/

 

On the left, the families of stops. Each has a page, with the links

to the sound files.

Under "Gedäckte" und "Flöten", more sound files on a 1903 Sauer organ

(click on the stop tablets on the console at the bottom of the pages). You'll *see*, euh, hear, that even such late

an organ still can provide a "Grand jeu".

 

The problem is how one use them!

 

The point here is simple: the romantic organ wasn't a "break in the tradition": it was completely

within the tradition.

 

Oh, yes, for a chorus without mixtures, it is available here:

 

http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=xWyotKuxx0U

 

....With the "goldene" Walcker Mixture.

 

Pierre

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Thank you, Pierre. I did say "comparatively" and having listened to the sound files you linked I have not changed my mind. For example, all the Röver stops sound much of a muchness to me - as do the Walcker stops. Of course you can hear differences between them, but they are not that marked because everything was being made to blend.

 

The point here is simple: the romantic organ wasn't a "break in the tradition": it was completely within the tradition.

The point I made above suggests otherwise. The aesthetic of the Romantic organ was quite different from that of the Baroque organ. I do not believe that they were within the same tradition at all.

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Isn't the thing about the German Romantic organ - the late ones anyway - that the colours are made as smooth as possible in order to facilitate blend and isn't this why they are comparatively monochrome compared to French and English instruments of the time?

 

This seems to me a fair comment. Take the 1905 IVP Sauer monster in the Berliner Dom, for example. Out of 113 stops, no less than 50 are at 8ft pitch, and, to my ears at least there isn't a great deal of difference between many of them, the flutes in particular, fancy stop names notwithstanding. Contemporary registrational practice required them to be used 'by the handful', though there are, of course, some very beautiful solo voices. The reeds are reticent, with none of the éclat of their French counterparts, despite Sauer's known admiration for Cavaillé-Coll. Apart from the 16-8-4 Trompeten on Manual I, they make little impact in the tutti.

 

The ensemble is warm and all-embracing, but with only limited tonal contrast between the manuals, the difference being mainly in dynamic level - i.e. Manual III is a louder version of Manual IV, Manual II is a louder version of Manual II and so on. Operating the Walze gives a pretty clear indication of how the build-up from ppp to fff was meant to happen.

 

Monochrome is perhaps a bit unfair. Eine Geschmacksache - a matter of taste, as the Germans would say. A 20 minute Reger blockbuster may be magnificent, but a Widor or Vierne symphony would soon pall. I'm not sure about a big Bach P&F either.

 

I can't help feeling the late German Romantic organ was a dead-end in the same way as the early 20c. über-romantic English organ (take Arthur Harrison's Caird Hall, Tamworth PC, Crediton PC or St Wilfrid's, Harrogate, for example). Let's treasure the surviving examples, by all means, but I don't think anyone would particularly wish to see their likes again.

 

JS

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Can you substantiate these claims and flesh out this assertion, please?

I think John has just given an excellent description of the German Romantic organ.

 

By contrast, the roots of the Baroque organ in the medieval Blockwerk were still detectable. The tonal make-up was conceived vertically, not horizontally as in the Romantic organ - in other words, in choruses. This was as true of the flutes as of the principals. It is true that by Bach's time organists were mixing 8' colours - and the greater popularity of string stops may be linked to this - but the vertical chorus principle still obtained.

 

The essential difference in the aesthetic is surely that the Romantic organ was designed to be able to reproduce Rossini-type crescendos. Such build-ups are entirely foreign to the Baroque organ. You only have to look at the orchestral music of the time to appreciate that Baroque composers did not think in this way at all. Bach, for example orchestrates in blocks of sound and dynamics (where marked) are similarly blocked.

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Speaking for myself, I wouldn't say so. I think my comments are objective enough.

 

I agree that there is probably a better word to use than "monochrome", but I cannot find it. The first description of these organs that I ever came across was "rather colourless". I'm not entirely happy with that since they are not without colour. Nor do I think "bland" is the right word either. However it is certainly true that the colours are not on the whole sharply differentiated and, to those of us used to listening to Willises and Cavaillé-Colls, the overriding effect is of just one colour.

 

This is a generalisation, admittedly. For instance, some of the Walcker strings on the page you linked are keen enough to provide ample contrast. However, this doesn't affect my general point. As an example of what I mean, I have the first five Naxos CDs of Rübsam playing Rheinberger Sonatas at Fulda Cathedral and, basically, it is five discs of essentially the same sound, irrespective of the dynamics, from beginning to end. I think the organ does actually make a fine sound - but it is only one sound and after a whole CD's-worth it palls. Much the same is true of the Rheinberger discs by Innig that I have, though his use of several different organs helps somewhat. That is what I why I called the effect of these organs monochrome.

 

I will say, however, that both Fulda and Berliner Dom look absolutely magnificent!

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"...a better word to use than "monochrome"

(Quote)

 

In german this word is: "Differenzierung".

An endless palette of subtle color changes,

with all possible shades.

The extreme colors are there, but the true aim

are all the "in between" mixings.

 

Of course if you draw ten stops with a swellbox closed

to begin a Crescendo, all this chemistry is gone...

 

Pierre

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"...a better word to use than "monochrome"

(Quote)

 

In german this word is: "Differenzierung".

An endless palette of subtle color changes,

with all possible shades.

The extreme colors are there, but the true aim

are all the "in between" mixings.

 

Of course if you draw ten stops with a swellbox closed

to begin a Crescendo, all this chemistry is gone...

 

Pierre

 

I am not so sure that the extreme colours are there, Pierre. Not in some instruments of this type. Certainly with regard to the reeds I perceive that there is a lack of attack, volume and éclat (for want of a better word). Even compared to 'Willis' reeds (let alone any by Cavaillé-Coll), the reeds on some Walcker organs which I have heard seem to me to be very poor indeed. I assume that this is the way that German organists wished them to sound at the time - but I cannot help thinking that they were missing out on some wonderful sounds.

 

I would still go as far as to describe the sound of some of these instruments as ponderous, bland - and perhaps a little dull. I would state a preference for well-voiced ranks with more clearly-defined tone-colours , together with a good expression box. I think that I would prefer this, to an instrument with valuable soundboard space taken up with almost literally dozens of similar sounding ranks, with a slight increase in power (and perhaps a slightly 'sharper' timbre) in a particular direction.

 

As Vox states, it is a pleasant sound - but it is just one sound. I find a distinct lack of impact and any real excitement when listening to such instruments for more than a few minutes. Of course, a recording is no real test - but I cannot afford a holiday in Germany at present. :rolleyes:

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Well, rather than starting a new "pit in the living-room" topic,

like two Bulldogs fighting for a bone, maybe I'd better suggest

a CD which illustrates how a german romantic organ can be used

in order to adress 20th century misconceptions:

 

http://www.aeolus-music.com/ae_en/all_disc...and_organ_works

 

With this 35 stops, original round 1900 Walcker (even a german romantic organ does not need to be big!)

the excellent Gerd Zacher shows it all.

 

Pierre

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This is a generalisation, admittedly. For instance, some of the Walcker strings on the page you linked are keen enough to provide ample contrast. However, this doesn't affect my general point. As an example of what I mean, I have the first five Naxos CDs of Rübsam playing Rheinberger Sonatas at Fulda Cathedral and, basically, it is five discs of essentially the same sound, irrespective of the dynamics, from beginning to end. I think the organ does actually make a fine sound - but it is only one sound and after a whole CD's-worth it palls. Much the same is true of the Rheinberger discs by Innig that I have, though his use of several different organs helps somewhat. That is what I why I called the effect of these organs monochrome.

 

I will say, however, that both Fulda and Berliner Dom look absolutely magnificent!

 

Indeed, but I don't think one can bracket the two together in terms of sound. I confess I haven't heard Fulda live, but this is surely very much a Riegerised Sauer with two-thirds of the pipework new in 1994. The Rübsam CDs went a long way to winning me over to Rheinberger, though it's a pity the poor chap never quite managed to write a Sonata with all 3 (or 4) movements of the same level of inspiration. Of all composers, his music needs enlivening with a bit of fire and passion - Rheinberger with balls, if you'll pardon the expression - and Rübsam seems to achieve this most of the time.

 

As for the rebuilt organ, it's about the only German instrument I've heard with a convincing full swell - almost 'auf englischer Art und Weise'.

 

JS

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Well, rather than starting a new "pit in the living-room" topic,

like two Bulldogs fighting for a bone, maybe I'd better suggest

a CD which illustrates how a german romantic organ can be used

in order to adress 20th century misconceptions...

Pierre

 

Ha! :rolleyes:

 

Unfortunately there appear to be no specimen sound-files. I shall examine my current balance in my PayPal account and see if it is worth taking the risk.

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I confess I haven't heard Fulda live, but this is surely very much a Riegerised Sauer with two-thirds of the pipework new in 1994.

Goodness, is it? I never realised! Rieger did a magnificent job then in reproducing the Romantic aesthetic.

 

The Rübsam CDs went a long way to winning me over to Rheinberger, though it's a pity the poor chap never quite managed to write a Sonata with all 3 (or 4) movements of the same level of inspiration. Of all composers, his music needs enlivening with a bit of fire and passion - Rheinberger with balls, if you'll pardon the expression - and Rübsam seems to achieve this most of the time.

Agreed. With repeated listening I have warmed to Rübsam's interpretations - though I still think the excessive rubato makes the rhythms hard to grasp. Although it's technically "inauthentic" I actually think Rheinberger's music sounds best on late nineteenth-century English organs.

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I am not so sure that the extreme colours are there, Pierre. Not in some instruments of this type. Certainly with regard to the reeds I perceive that there is a lack of attack, volume and éclat (for want of a better word). Even compared to 'Willis' reeds (let alone any by Cavaillé-Coll), the reeds on some Walcker organs which I have heard seem to me to be very poor indeed. I assume that this is the way that German organists wished them to sound at the time - but I cannot help thinking that they were missing out on some wonderful sounds.

I assume the thinking behind such reeds was colour rather than éclat. I have encountered the same on some Hele organs here which also share an "orchestral" tonal ideal. One that comes immediately to mind is the interesting instrument at Chagford parish church, which for a smallish organ has quite a lot of potential for pseudo-orchestral colour. But, like you, I'd much rather have éclat any day.

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I have to say, that my experience of German organs is largely restricted to the two remaining BIG Schulze organs, the Walcker at Doesburg, in the Netherlands and one or two small two-manual instruments in the UK which no longer exist.

 

Say what you will about the "classical tradition" being the source of these organs, but I personally find such instruments quite unrewarding on which to play Bach, as compared to other organs which pre-date them.

 

The very idea that Bach relies on the Terzchor is frighteningly off the mark, because it usually sounds better and clearer on those instruments which do not have them. That stated, Bach sounds wonderful at Haarlem with the tierces in full song, so it may be more to do with a question of relative balance.

 

Now if Pierre were to quote the work of Steinmeyer, who brightened the German organ up considerably, then I might start getting interested. As it is, I just find that Bach dies a death on most German romantic instruments, for which the music was never written.

 

This thing about the tiereces is very interesting, because in the Netherlands, there was a distinct move towards strong cornet sounds; even in the choruses. That of course, was also a feature of many 18th and early 19th century English organs. However, the very reedy sound of the 19th century flue chorus with tierces, is quite removed from the more subtle tierces found in earlier (and later) instruments.

 

It seems to me, that if one decides on a particular viewpoint, then you can spend a lifetime getting people to agree with you, and still not find concensus.

 

As for the music of Bach, it stands well apart from any one instrument, and is absolute music in the best meaning of the description.

 

I believe that there is nothing to be gained in arguing whether this or that organ was closer to Bach than others, because the proof is in the hearing. I'm quite happy to use my ears, and decide if a particular instrument is right for the music, and to date, I would favour Schnitger above all others.

 

MM

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"I believe that there is nothing to be gained in arguing whether this or that organ was closer to Bach than others, because the proof is in the hearing. I'm quite happy to use my ears, and decide if a particular instrument is right for the music, and to date, I would favour Schnitger above all others."

(Quote)

 

As I said, you may like Bach at Alkmaar -as I myself do-. But our tastes are one thing,

the facts are another.

 

We all agree Bach's music to be a pamphlet for the european idea, a synthesis

of several european styles -led by a strong personnal musical creativity of course-.

 

Bach was not an introverted genius isolated in his ivory tower; he was a member

of a well-known family of musicians, with both feet firmly laid on the ground, a guy

from his period and area.

Is it an innocent fact that the organs he knew were precisely that: an EC mixing

of precisely the same styles ?

Moreover, within instruments that were rather of limited size ? (not all, but a majority

of them).

 

You can play Bach on a french (baroque) organ; the Pedal compass won't fit, the

"Plein-jeu" is too "horizontal", but you will find support with the Grand-jeu, the Cornets

and the Tierces.

 

On a northern organ you will find basis elements that still exists in a Wagner, a Wender

or a Trost;

 

The italian Ripieno has influenced Bach's organs as well (see Paulinerkirche Leipzig again...)

 

So it is not surprising Bach's music "goes well" on about any organ up to about 1850...

But I am convinced the fact remains, Bach's organ music to be exactly as bounded

to an organ type as any other.

 

Won't it be unfair not to pay Bach's music the attention to detail it deserves ?

 

Pierre

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So it is not surprising Bach's music "goes well" on about any organ up to about 1850...

But I am convinced the fact remains, Bach's organ music to be exactly as bounded

to an organ type as any other.

 

Won't it be unfair not to pay Bach's music the attention to detail it deserves ?

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

This is an absurd statement, sorry.

 

Try playing Bach on a Samuel Green organ, and the equivalent would be watching a lawn-mower Grand Prix and pretending it to be Formula 1.

 

Bach's music may deserve careful attention, but I would suggest that you simply do not understand how the mind of a composer works if you think that the concept is limited to one particular organ or group of organs.

 

This is the point which I have been trying to make, but you seem stuck on the idea that unless Bach is heard on such as a Trost organ, it is not somehow "right," and without Tierces, Bach is somehow lessened in stature.

 

It's a bit like arguing that a baroque string band MUST use Persian cat-gut strings, and not those made from any old feral moggy.

 

Bach's music has architecture, and so too must the organs on which the music is played, but beyond that, it really doesn't matter too much whether the instrument is by Trost, Schnitger, Fisk or Mander, so long as it works and sounds right.

 

On the presumption of your statements, we would never DARE to play Vierne on anything other than a Cavaille-Coll instrument, Reger on an Arthur Harrison or Percy Whitlock on a Wurlitzer.

 

As I said previously, to be "historically informed" is simply to have, within our grasp, a point of musical rather than historic reference; all other things being interpretation and an extention of the creative process.

 

MM

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"would suggest that you simply do not understand how the mind of a composer works if you think that the concept is limited to one particular organ or group of organs."

(Quote)

 

Well,

 

Did you really understand that I believe unsere bestens Johann Sebastian to have sat down,

at his table, thinking something like "What shall I compose today for the XYZ organ of

Niederzauberkuhdorfstadt an der Schweinbach ?"

 

On the other hand, do you really believe Bach, like any other composer, did not have

"an idea of what an organ is, what works with it, and what does not", while composing ?

 

Did this "Idea" not necessarily differ from de Grigny's, Reger's or Howells ?

 

The diversity of the organ is a relatively recent recognition; a composer of today might

well "chose his/her organ style", and decide to write for a neo-baroque, or an ecclectic

modern organ. I even know some who deliberately write for the romantic organ - I agree,

none in Britain to my knowledge-.

 

Not so in the 18th century. Dom Bedos understood his organ to be THE organ, period.

But it wasn't the same as Bach's...

 

Pierre

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"would suggest that you simply do not understand how the mind of a composer works if you think that the concept is limited to one particular organ or group of organs."

(Quote)

 

Well,

 

Did you really understand that I believe unsere bestens Johann Sebastian to have sat down,

at his table, thinking something like "What shall I compose today for the XYZ organ of

Niederzauberkuhdorfstadt an der Schweinbach ?"

 

On the other hand, do you really believe Bach, like any other composer, did not have

"an idea of what an organ is, what works with it, and what does not", while composing ?

 

Did this "Idea" not necessarily differ from de Grigny's, Reger's or Howells ?

 

The diversity of the organ is a relatively recent recognition; a composer of today might

well "chose his/her organ style", and decide to write for a neo-baroque, or an ecclectic

modern organ. I even know some who deliberately write for the romantic organ - I agree,

none in Britain to my knowledge-.

 

Not so in the 18th century. Dom Bedos understood his organ to be THE organ, period.

But it wasn't the same as Bach's...

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

I'm quite sure, if such is possible, that Bach (or anyone else) didn't write with a particular instrument in mind.

 

Even those works written to be performed on new instruments have to be based on certain assumptions, which may or may not be good guesses as to the final sound.

 

I would suggest that all the organs Bach played (with certain differences of compass etc), would be broadly compatible with the musical language he used, and he would have known that, just as other composers did.

 

Did Bach insist that his string writing be played only by specific bands? Of course not!

 

As for English composers writing for romantic organ, I can't think of any works by Francis Jackson which were written for anything else, or at least for organs which are by nature, eclectic.

 

MM

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"would suggest that you simply do not understand how the mind of a composer works if you think that the concept is limited to one particular organ or group of organs."

(Quote)

 

Well,

 

Did you really understand that I believe unsere bestens Johann Sebastian to have sat down,

at his table, thinking something like "What shall I compose today for the XYZ organ of

Niederzauberkuhdorfstadt an der Schweinbach ?"

 

On the other hand, do you really believe Bach, like any other composer, did not have

"an idea of what an organ is, what works with it, and what does not", while composing ?

 

Did this "Idea" not necessarily differ from de Grigny's, Reger's or Howells ?

 

The diversity of the organ is a relatively recent recognition; a composer of today might

well "chose his/her organ style", and decide to write for a neo-baroque, or an ecclectic

modern organ. I even know some who deliberately write for the romantic organ - I agree,

none in Britain to my knowledge-.

 

Not so in the 18th century. Dom Bedos understood his organ to be THE organ, period.

But it wasn't the same as Bach's...

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

I've just had an interesting thought.

 

Can we actually "imagine" how an organ sounds once we have left the console, or do we merely delude ourselves into thinking that we can?

 

Recognising a familiar sound is not quite the same as re-creating it in our heads, which is good, because live-music survives because of that.

 

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

 

MM

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Can we actually "imagine" how an organ sounds once we have left the console, or do we merely delude ourselves into thinking that we can?

Is this evidenced by the fact that if we choose a particular registration on a familiar instrument whilst away from the console, we are not surprised by what we hear when we come to play it?

 

Recognising a familiar sound is not quite the same as re-creating it in our heads, which is good, because live-music survives because of that.

I'm not sure of your cause and effect argument on this one. I think live music surives for a multitude of reasons - the desire for fresh interpretations; the pleasure of listening in a fine acoustic and pleasant surroundings; the "danger" of a live performance; interval gin & tonics etc.

 

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

I don't think I dream in images at all; it's more like a first person narration. Weird - I hadn't really thought about that before.

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The cognitive faculties are very interesting, and to think in colour requires an extraordinary amount of brain-power. I think it is possible to have brief flashes of colour in thought, but an extended full colour virtual video is not, I think, possible.

 

I asked the question about musical recognition because I don't actually know the answer. I can sort of re-create a few organ sounds in my head, but trying to "think" a whole organ-work I find just about impossible unless I have the dots in front of me.

 

It is, I suspect, one thing to recognise a familiar sound, but quite another thing to be absolutely exact in "thinking" a particular sound.

 

I shall have to dig out my psychology books, and see what they say about cognition and recognition.

 

MM

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