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Jonathan Lane

Another Challenge For Those With Too Much Time On Their Hands Or Those Who Like To Do This Despite Being Too Busy

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The small 'orgue de choeur' type instruments always seem to be much more versatile than their soplists might initially indicate. Similarly the smaller Willis I 'village' instruments over here. Here is one now in a residence.

 

AJJ

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Nice that some of you leapt to my defence, it is appreciated. The only source I know of regarding heels in the Bach circle comes from Mr Kittel (whose music I like and play quite often), who studied with Bach very briefly at the end of his (Bach's) life. As far as I am aware he doesn't state specifically that Bach used his heels, but does use the heel a little himself in some excercises from his teaching method. It is interesting to look at the 19th organ methods of, for instance, August Ritter - here the heel is used, but rather late in the story, toe substitution is, seemingly, more important.

 

If you play organs in Bach's time, and in Bach's region (or in Holland, or just about anywhere) you quickly discover that using the heel i) hurts a lot and ii) makes controlling the sound almost impossible. But what too few people realise is that all these questions of technique, whether it be to do with fingering, pedalling etc, didn't happen by accident and are always related to a musical end. Many people of the first generation of the reform movement (and some still I'm afraid to say) learn these things purely as dogmas.

 

Its also important to realise that as organists we are simply part of the larger musical developement of the last half century which has made the link between musical styles, and performing styles/techniques a perfectly normal aspect of making music.

 

The only place in Bach incidentally where I am tempted to use the heel because I can't make it work any other way is in the figura corta passage in the pedal solo of BWV 564.

 

'French amateur', I've played a study organ by Gerard Bancells in Toulouse, also his organ in the Institut Catholique there with the wonderful case. I thought they were both excellent organs.

 

My proposal has the same compasses as St Sulpice by the way. Was Cavaille-Coll also a fetishist?

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin (going to the St Bavo this evening to hear Dick Koomans play the world premiere of the new 17 minute organ piece by Ad Wammes, he of Miroir fame)

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.....and at least with a house organ one can have whatever one wants without fear of upsetting anyone (apart from the noise) whether it be this, this or even this. In the privacy of ones own place short compass, long compass, meantone, 15th Century Thai temperament, toes, heals, thumbing down, baroque finger techniques or even backward flips are permissable!

 

AJJ

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.....and at least with a house organ one can have whatever one wants without fear of upsetting anyone (apart from the noise) whether it be this, this or even this. In the privacy of ones own place short compass, long compass, meantone, 15th Century Thai temperament, toes, heals, thumbing down, baroque finger techniques or even backward flips are permissable!

 

AJJ

:blink: All at the same time?

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:unsure: All at the same time?

 

 

Each to their own!!

 

:blink:

 

AJJ

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If improvements in pedal board design since Bach's time rendered the use of heels acceptable, then why persist with toes only pedalling? There seems to be no practical advantage in continuing to use only toes, and to do so is surely nothing other than intellectual posturing. The correct technique must be that which produces the most satisfying results musically.

 

I agree with Cynic here; I wouldn't call it fetishism, however - I'm not quite sure what I would call it. However, when historical considerations overtake common sense and musicality, then priorities have clearly become disordered.

If I may say so, this is tantamount to saying that the famous Baroque organist/composers didn't play musically. I would humbly suggest that this really rather unlikely to have been the case.

 

The challenge for modern-day organists is to accept historical limitations (though Bach and Buxtehude might be amused to hear us calling them that) and learn to make music with them. There is also a challenge for modern-day listeners in that the results may be at odds with our preconceptions and may demand "new ears". British organists at least have always been very adept at burying their heads in the sand in this regard.

 

When I was at the RCM a familiar anthem ran along the lines that conservatoire-trained musicians were vastly superior to those on university courses because, if those undergraduates were really musical they would be studying performance at a conservatoire, QED. It was arrogant crap of course, but it was actually worse than that because of the underlying assumption that acholarship was irrelevant because it got in the way of making music. They learnt their "authentic" Bach and Couperin (which in those days was limited to registration, articulation and notes inégales) from their teachers and apparently never once stopped to wonder where these ideas came from in the first place. Not unsurprisingly, those proclaiming this anthem always seemed to be rather limited, one-dimensional musicians. Not that it necessarily mattered. Pavarotti was similarly one-dimensional, but it certainly didn't do him any harm - but then he had the sense not to try to be all things to all people.

 

Yet musicians of the calibre of William Christie and Andrew Parrott, to name but two, show how well historical awareness and musicianship can be combined. Why are British organists so behind the times? Is it maybe because we lack anything resembling those nasty, primitive Schnitgers, Müllers and Silbermanns to force us to re-evaluate our approaches?

 

As for my own position on this, my playing is not anywhere near properly HIP. In my student days early playing techniques were not taught and I'm far too old to go back to basics now. But I do admire and enjoy listening to "those who can".

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Don't get me wrong - I do very occasionally use heels in Bach where they help provide a more fluent performance. But I find in pedalling in organ works of all periods and schools that a technique which favours toes works better at giving more accurate control.

Can't argue with that!

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"Is it maybe because we lack anything resembling those nasty, primitive Schnitgers, Müllers and Silbermanns to force us to re-evaluate our approaches?"

(Quote)

 

Greens, Harrises, Englands, Snetzlers (former Müller worker) etc would do a great job in that matter. Have some restored!

 

Pierre

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But I find in pedalling in organ works of all periods and schools that a technique which favours toes works better at giving more accurate control.

 

Now this technique I would like to see used for the Final of Vierne's Sixième Symphonie....

 

:blink:

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58 or 61 - agreed! :unsure:

 

But I can't ever recall needing top F# or G on the pedalboard, so am quite happy with 30! :blink:

 

 

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

 

I used to think this until I ran out notes playing that Noel thingy by Dupre: the one with all the rushing around at the end.

 

:)

 

MM

 

Afterthought: It MAY have been on the manuals, coming to think of it. B) I seem to recall a moment of extreme pain in my little finger, when I met solid wood.

 

The moral of this story, is always to play through everything in practice, rather than selected awkward bits.

 

Anyway, I'm sure Alain must have used lots of top G's, but as I can't play Alain on my instrument, I'm not sure.

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Cynic justified his name by writing:

"I think this is a deliberately high-minded, quasi-Puritan approach by designers and [some] organ-builders.

To deliberately restrict one's compass is to announce to the world, 'my organ is not built to play decadent music!'

I accept that in restoring an organ, the original compass ought to count for something, but in a new instrument......

 

It is another fetish to rank alongside

Historic Fingerings

Archaic Tunings that predispose the instrument to acceptable performance of a restricted range of repertoire (and - I do acknowledge that some temperaments are very kind)

All Toes Bach Playing"

 

I'm sorry but this kind of "ignorance posing as epistle" isn't, in my opinion, worthy of this discussion.

 

 

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

 

 

Perhaps I could referee this one.

 

"Cynic" is your typical English virtuoso, I suspect. They don't DO history.

 

"Bazuin" is your typically Netherlander; intellectually impossible as always.

 

In fairness, I once witnessed at the console, a quite extraordinary performance on a 17th C Netherlands instrument, where the performer was quite able to switch from one finger technique to another. He claimed that it was all to do with proper phrasing and articulation, and judging by the superb musicianship displayed, I wouldn't have dared doubt him for a moment.

 

In the UK, we all grew up with more or less modern instruments, and of course, Bach plus the general mass (morass?) of romantic and modern repertoire. Therefore, history is much less important to the way we make music.

 

This, I think, is one of the reasons why I like to go to the Netheralnds so much, where I hear superb performances delivered with very meticulous attention to fine, historic detail; with the sounds to match.

 

I don't know many places where an organist re-creates the playing techniques associated with early 20th century German organists, using the correct instrument (Walcker, Doesburg) and playing from the scores of the day (Straube etc).

 

It could be argued, that ALL organ-playing in the UK is really a hangover from the expressionist style; but don't knock it, because it can be extremely exciting and musically very spontaneous.

 

Spontaneity is NOT usually a Netherlands trait, and this may go some way towards explaining why Netherlands organ-playing doesn't travel too well outside academic circles.

 

MM

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Now this technique I would like to see used for the Final of Vierne's Sixième Symphonie....

 

:blink:

 

 

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

 

 

LOOK!

 

If Hector Olivera can play the "Blight of the fumble bee" using toes only on the pedals, ANYTHING can be played toes-only.

 

:unsure:

 

MM

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

LOOK!

 

If Hector Olivera can play the "Blight of the fumble bee" using toes only on the pedals, ANYTHING can be played toes-only.

 

:blink:

 

MM

 

How on earth are you going to practice the Thalben-Ball Paganini Pedal Variations on any home organ that doesn't go up to top G???

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How on earth are you going to practice the Thalben-Ball Paganini Pedal Variations on any home organ that doesn't go up to top G???

 

Turn on the auto bass on my digital and play it on the Great!

 

AJJ

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Turn on the auto bass on my digital and play it on the Great!

 

AJJ

Yay! Love it! :blink:

 

Anyway, I'm sure Alain must have used lots of top G's, but as I can't play Alain on my instrument, I'm not sure.

He certainly asks for a top G in the Jannequin variations, but the pedal in merely helping out the left hand on the récit without any stops of its own drawn and that G can easily be played by the hand, it doesn't really matter what your pedal compass is.

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How on earth are you going to practice the Thalben-Ball Paganini Pedal Variations on any home organ that doesn't go up to top G???

 

 

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

 

 

Well, I'll let you know if and when I get there!

 

Thus far, my meteoric rise to pedalling fame only includes the Bach C, D and F majors, the C P E Bach (?) "Pedal Exercitium", the Etudes by Bonnet (both of them), the "Etude Symphonique" by Bossi and half of the "Perpetuem Mobile" by Middelschulte. (I run out of patience with that after a while).

 

I once heard Thalben-Ball play his own pedal variations at Huddersfield Town Hall, and I felt that this was more than enough for one lifetime.

 

Thought for the day: If no-one ever wrote anything above top F on the pedals, which lunatic thought it a good idea to include F# and G?

 

I bet the Americans composed for those top-notes.......what about Leo Sowerby?

 

MM

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"Is it maybe because we lack anything resembling those nasty, primitive Schnitgers, Müllers and Silbermanns to force us to re-evaluate our approaches?"

(Quote)

 

Greens, Harrises, Englands, Snetzlers (former Müller worker) etc would do a great job in that matter. Have some restored!

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

I've played a Green....couldn't hear very much as people shuffled in their seats. I've heard stronger sounds from Irish harps.

 

Harris organs are a bit difficult to track down, but there are or two examples of organs containing his very bold diapasons. I'm not sure that there is much to be learned from them.

 

I came across an old England organ in Norfolk, but with an F-pedal, I wouldn't have known where to start.

 

We have quite a lot of Snetzler organs around, and quite a lot more that follow that tradition. I'm quite fond of them.

 

However, we don't really have an English repertoire to match do we?

 

Walond, Stanley and Wesley; with perhaps the most ambitious music being that by Nares.

 

Very pleasant, but hardly the stuff of seminars and organ-pilgrimages.

 

You forgot "Father" Smith by the way.

 

MM

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

I bet the Americans composed for those top-notes.......what about Leo Sowerby?

 

MM

 

Yep, there are top F#s and Gs all over the place in Pagaent... Makes it unplayable if you don't have a 32 note pedalboard. B) Well, that was my excuse until I moved church and now have a 32 note pedal board and, yes you've guessed it, the Sowerby is still unplayable! :unsure:

 

There are one or two top pedals Gs in Dupré's Cortège et Litanie too, St Sulpice does not have a top pedal G, but we know that dear Marcel spent a lot of time touring the States... :blink:

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I tend to find myself using the extra top pedal notes quite a bit when improvising with a double pedal texture. (I use the word "improvising" very loosely.)

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Yep, there are top F#s and Gs all over the place in Pagaent... Makes it unplayable if you don't have a 32 note pedalboard. B) Well, that was my excuse until I moved church and now have a 32 note pedal board and, yes you've guessed it, the Sowerby is still unplayable! :unsure:

 

There are one or two top pedals Gs in Dupré's Cortège et Litanie too, St Sulpice does not have a top pedal G, but we know that dear Marcel spent a lot of time touring the States... :blink:

 

 

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

 

 

Ha ha! Love it! :)

 

 

Here are the only bits of pedal top-note writing I have come across in researching:-

 

 

The variations from the "Veni Creator" of Durufle' has a top F#

 

Dupre' "Cortege et Litanie" uses the top G (he didn't actually have that note on the organ at St.Sulpice)

 

Jeanne Demessieux's fiendishly difficult "Etudes"

 

Dupre's later works (for example, the "Deux Esquisses" and the "Triptych")

 

Plus the aforementioned "Pageant" by Leo Sowerby.

 

So I guess, with such popular organ-works being heard in village churches throughout the land, it was a GOOD idea to extend the compass to 32 notes!!!!!!

 

I DO use top F# myself, when I come to the end of my rather beautiful (if I say so myself), re-working and re-harmonisation of Gershwin's "Bess you is my woman," where the left hand plays a rapid chromatic scale using an extended theatre-organ Flute at 4ft, 2.2/3ft, 2ft and 1.3/5, as a sort of harmonic, chordal glizzando, while the right hand plays a high-string chord over a gentle bottom pedal D.

 

By dabbing at and bridging top D and then F# on the pedals, I can bring the piece to a very beautiful conclusion, because that's the only way left of doing it; everything else being fully occupied.

 

MM

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

Ha ha! Love it! :lol:

Here are the only bits of pedal top-note writing I have come across in researching:-

 

... Dupre' "Cortege et Litanie" uses the top G (he didn't actually have that note on the organ at St.Sulpice)

...

 

MM

 

Yes he did.

 

I can see all five of them quite clearly on a photograph which I took of the console in October 1998 (which I note that DJB is using on his website - without asking me first!).

 

However, since the piece is written in the key of E major, I suspect that you mean G#57 - which he did not have. This would, of course, have a slightly detrimental effect on the last three chords - although I doubt that anyone downstairs would have been particularly aware of this deficiency through the acoustic soup.

 

Incidentally, since we are supposed to be designing (and discussing) house organs on this thread, here is the one which I would like:

 

 

 

PÉDALE ORGUE

 

Soubasse 16

Flûte (Emp.) 8

Flûte (Emp.) 4

 

GRAND ORGUE

 

Quintatön 16

Violoncelle 8

Bourdon 8

Prestant 4

 

RÉCIT-EXPRESSIF

 

Flûte Traversière 8

Viole de Gambe 8

Voix Célestes (AA) 8

Flûte Harmonique 4

Basson-Hautbois 8

 

PÉDALES DE COMBINAISONS

 

Tirasse G.O.

Tirasse Récit

Récit-G.O.

Machine G.O. (Barker)

Octaves Graves (Récit)

Octaves Aiguës (Récit)

Tremblant (Récit)

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Yes he did.

 

I can see all five of them quite clearly on a photograph which I took of the console in October 1998 (which I note that DJB is using on his website - without asking me first!).

That should be good for a few CDs or a free lesson.

 

However, assuming I am on the right planet (something I'm never entirely sure about) we are speaking of pedal compasses here and St Sulpice definitely has no top pedal G: http://www.flickr.com/photos/61021747@N00/165002479/

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Yes he did.

 

Incidentally, since we are supposed to be designing (and discussing) house organs on this thread, here is the one which I would like:

PÉDALE ORGUE

 

Soubasse 16

Flûte (Emp.) 8

Flûte (Emp.) 4

 

GRAND ORGUE

 

Quintatön 16

Violoncelle 8

Bourdon 8

Prestant 4

 

RÉCIT-EXPRESSIF

 

Flûte Traversière 8

Viole de Gambe 8

Voix Célestes (AA) 8

Flûte Harmonique 4

Basson-Hautbois 8

 

PÉDALES DE COMBINAISONS

 

Tirasse G.O.

Tirasse Récit

Récit-G.O.

Machine G.O. (Barker)

Octaves Graves (Récit)

Octaves Aiguës (Récit)

Tremblant (Récit)

 

Nice one - though I'd maybe have a 3rd coupling manual and no R-G.O.

 

AJJ

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I'd have the Quintatön on the Récit, and the 16' Bourdon

on the Grand-orgue (with Pedal borrowing). The 4' Prestant

should be voiced somewhat "biting".

 

Pierre

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"Yes he did."

 

I think some wires have been crossed here. Cortege et Litanie requires the top G in the pedal, (G32), which St Sulpice does not have. The manual compass does indeed go to G56.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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