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Bach, Heels And Tierce Mixtures


Colin Harvey
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Oh No!

 

Bach, played on an organ with Tierce Mixtures and using heels!

 

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=axwAYFqmO0A

 

On an historic organ in Thuringia build during Bach's lifetime as well, to boot!

 

Thoughts? I guess you'll just have to Trost me.

 

I seem to remember an article about this organ by Stephen Bicknell some time back in Choir and Organ. If it is this one then I seem to remember him commenting on the almost one off nature of all the sub tierces etc. and suggesting that in order to play it effectively one has to abandon all preconceived ideas of almost everything!

 

AJJ

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I think there is nothing controversial about tierce mixtures in baroque music, this is one of the mythical dogmas of the first generation of the reform movement. Mattheson himself states that sesquiateras belong to the plenum stops. And, as you can hear in this example, tierce mixtures in Thuringia were quite normal, as they were in the Rhineland (König!) and elsewhere. So, WHY is it so unusual to find tierce mixtures (or, while I'm about it 16' mixtures, ie with the 5, 1/3 quint) in 'mainstream' modern organ building? I was delighted to see that Willis have started making tierce mixtures (in a different context of course) in some new organs, reflecting the practice of their illustrious founder. Bravo!

 

The use of heels here, I think, reflects the rather one-dimensional way of playing, in which all accents (even of the smallest notes!) are treated in the same heavy way, and the pedal line is played virtually legato. Watch the way in which Stamm's playing of the accents in reflected in the movement of his body, which even mimics semiquaver accents along with his feet. (see 4'00 and around 4'12). What amazes me is that he can play the heel at all on this organ, I can't imagine it would be worth the effort!

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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So, WHY is it so unusual to find tierce mixtures (or, while I'm about it 16' mixtures, ie with the 5, 1/3 quint) in 'mainstream' modern organ building?

 

Who knows! - I find one of the most exciting effects on one of the instruments I play is to add the 2-2/3 & 1-3/5 Sesqui. to the chorus up to IV Mixture - really clangy but perfectly clear for the contrapunctalists amongst us. Unorthodox perhaps but if it sounds ok......

 

AJJ

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I already mentionned that here.....Quint Mixtures are a neo-baroque idea for Bach

(or then there was a Sesquialter which went in the chorus). The Tierce gives Bach music

its "baroque orchestral" colors back.

And those Trost Mixtures at Waltershausen are very similar, already, to the ones Walcker

built round 1840.

 

"I was delighted to see that Willis have started making tierce mixtures (in a different context of course) in some new organs, reflecting the practice of their illustrious founder. Bravo!"

(Quote)

 

Indeed, Bazuin. A very good path it is, no doubt. Halas, as the british tradition also features

Tierce Mixtures, it seems the englishmen of today prefer "correct" that "mistake", in order

to obey 1950 ideas we no longer follow, nor in your country, nor in mine.

Pierre

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I already mentionned that here.....Quint Mixtures are a neo-baroque idea for Bach

(or then there was a Sesquialter which went in the chorus). The Tierce gives Bach music

its "baroque orchestral" colors back.

And those Trost Mixtures at Waltershausen are very similar, already, to the ones Walcker

built round 1840.

 

"I was delighted to see that Willis have started making tierce mixtures (in a different context of course) in some new organs, reflecting the practice of their illustrious founder. Bravo!"

(Quote)

 

Indeed, Bazuin. A very good path it is, no doubt. Halas, as the british tradition also features

Tierce Mixtures, it seems the englishmen of today prefer "correct" that "mistake", in order

to obey 1950 ideas we no longer follow, nor in your country, nor in mine.

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

I think that this is a very romantic view of Bach and his music.

 

Bach would certainly have been aware of quint choruses, by both Silbermann and Schnitger in Hamburg, and we do not know (and never will know) if he preferred a terzchor or a quintchor.

 

He may even have hated the organs he played, which may explain why he wrote relatively little organ music in his later years.

 

I just do not understand this mentality, which suggests that Bach needs this or that, and anything else is wrong.

 

I'm a musician, and I decide what sounds right or wrong.

 

The fact that I happen to like Tierce mixtures is neither here nor there.

 

MM

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"I'm a musician, and I decide what sounds right or wrong."

(Quote)

 

"The fact that I happen to like Tierce mixtures is neither here nor there."

(Quote)

 

Slightly contradictory, isn't it ?

 

Now I could decide Dupré would have preferred an H&H organ to St-Sulpice,

because, as an organ euthousiast, I prefer Dupré on such an organ...

 

But I am an historian, so my only business are the facts; Schnitger organs

were exotic -splendid- things for Bach. And if he composed for the organ

at all, it was for the organ as he encountered them, in a time there were

no Ryanair & Co in order to see easily if the grass was greener abroad.

 

Pierre

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"I'm a musician, and I decide what sounds right or wrong."

(Quote)

 

"The fact that I happen to like Tierce mixtures is neither here nor there."

(Quote)

 

Slightly contradictory, isn't it ?

 

Now I could decide Dupré would have preferred an H&H organ to St-Sulpice,

because, as an organ euthousiast, I prefer Dupré on such an organ...

 

But I am an historian, so my only business are the facts; Schnitger organs

were exotic -splendid- things for Bach. And if he composed for the organ

at all, it was for the organ as he encountered them, in a time there were

no Ryanair & Co in order to see easily if the grass was greener abroad.

 

Pierre

 

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

 

 

There is no contradiction at all. Liking something is not the same thing as being correct, and this is where history falls flat on its face. The history of performance is just as fascinating and just as artistically valid; so if a lady organist in Germany in the 1930's, decided to play the Bach B-minor at half speed, using celestes, and playing on an instrument which sounds suspiciously like a Walcker organ, how can history help?

 

This is what I encountered at Doesburg, in the Netherlands, when that expressionist style of playing was re-created, using late romantic Bach editions played on a heavily romantic Walcker organ. It was both fascinating and very moving, yet everyone there knew the "truth" and the "correct" historical style, which was completely at odds to what was heard that summer evening.

 

Pierre claims that "(Bach wrote)....for the organ as he encountered them."

 

Well I'm sorry to disappoint him, because this is an impossibility unless one is composing at the keyboard. None of us

(including J S Bach), can carry an accurate memory of the sound an organ makes. We have certain cues in our memory which enable us to RE-cognise a sound, but we do not have the power to create a cognitive sound in our heads with any degree of accuracy. This is a subtle but often misunderstood difference between recognition and cognition.

 

ANY composer who works away from the instrument, writes for the best organ never built, which of course, is no organ at all.

 

Composition is actually at one removed from immediate reality, and as anyone who has ever composed will know, there is that exciting moment when paper thoughts and imagination are tried out for real, on an actual instrument.

 

Bach was writing in a well documented and approved manner, which followed certain traditions and precedents. I believe that one of the reasons why his music translates so well to a huge cross-section of instruments, is the fact that Bach's music tends to be "head music".....as much for the eye as for the ear. One can enjoy Bach without hearing a real note; simply by reading the scores, and marvelling at his ingenuity and inventiveness.

 

That's why, in musical terms, history is complete bunk, and it is also why the positive acts of musicianship and interpretation are essential components in artistic endeavour.

 

So when I say that I like tierce mixtures, but then also state that "I will decide what sounds right," then I am speaking as a part of the creative musical process, on which all musical experience relies.

 

Thus, in a way, "Cynic" was quite right to eschew historic niceties on another thread, and yet "Bazuin" was equally right to draw attention to "informed" performance. They could both say and get away with it, because they are MUSICIANS!

 

MM

 

 

PS: Dupre wrote for the Walker organ of Blackburn Cathedral, though he never heard it, and was not even aware it. I KNOW THIS because I am a fusision.

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"....in a time there were

no Ryanair & Co in order to see easily if the grass was greener abroad.

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

Funny that Pierre mentions this, because I recall flying in one of Bernie Ecclestone's private jets from Germany, across France and back to Biggin Hill.

 

They have very neat, cultivated fields in Germany, with the tractors and things neatly parked in rows. Very disciplined.....very German.

 

You fly over France, and it is a riot of vineyards, sloppy farms, the occasional Chateaux with a formal garden, lots of disorganised woodlands and roads which weave all over the place. It's a dreadfully disorganised mess really.

 

I'm not sure about the colour of the grass, but Germany gave us wonderful machines, and France gave us the best bread and wine. Each to their own, I suppose.

 

Thank God for the Netherlands.......organised "enough" but with a hint of "couldn't care less," so long as the water stays the other side of the dykes. The food is awful!

 

 

MM

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"history is complete bunk"

(Quote)

 

So far, so good; then let we have all those historians in the Falklands,

Alaska or Magadan, and let the musicians decide what to do with the

organs.

At least discussing with the whales & Co we won't have to endure

the forthcoming absolute disasters. :D:lol: :lol:

 

Pierre

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Guest Patrick Coleman
then let we have all those historians in the Falklands,

Alaska or Magadan, and let the musicians decide what to do with the

organs.

 

Speaking (typing) as an semi-professional historian, an amateur organist and a vicar, and from my own experience of people from those three categories, the ones that need exiling are the ones that take themselves seriously! :D

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Or, more simply, what kills music is the unthinking musician wedded to a blind dogma.

 

If those who "over-intellectualize" and those who are "overly self-indulgent" are at two ends of a sliding scale, then I suspect there are few players at the extremes. Most are going to fall at various points along that scale. For me the most satisfying performances are those that strike a balance somewhere in the middle.

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If those who "over-intellectualize" and those who are "overly self-indulgent" are at two ends of a sliding scale, then I suspect there are few players at the extremes. Most are going to fall at various points along that scale. For me the most satisfying performances are those that strike a balance somewhere in the middle.

 

 

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

 

 

I think I actually disagree with this, but I'm not quite sure why I do.

 

I have heard performances which have been extreme, (not to say startling), yet some have been very musical and/or very, very interesting.

 

Ton Koopman is a case in point, but so too have been those where licence has taken the music far beyond the initial remit.

 

I've already mentioned the B-minor played slowly on Celestes, but in many ways, the expressionist style (of which the former is a good example), often strayed into quite eccentric territory; sometimes to good effect. I wish the member of the board could all have shared the experience I had at Doesburg, which wasn't just "romantic" Bach, but actually very stylised Bach, where even counter-subjects were highlighted to a considerable degree, or epsiodic sections transferred to quiet flute registers. Even the rollschweller played a significant part throughout.

 

I don't know where I heard it, but I recall a very vivid use of contrasting registration used for the start of the A-minor Prelude & Fugue (the one we always think of....don't have the BWV number to hand). The initial right-hand opening was relegated to gentle 8ft and 2ft flutes, with considerable use of rubato. When the pedal entered with an absolutely thunderous roar, and the full pleno of the manuals followed, the effect was absolutely electrifying.

 

I don't think that this sort of expressionist performance had much historic weight of evidence to support it, but my words, what musical drama!

 

I have the odd memory that the performer may have been E Power-Biggs, who was no mean Bach player by any means.

 

There are people who laugh at or even scorn Virgil Fox for his Bach performances, but in many ways, he was only doing what others did; albeit with a certain technicolor approach. I have a recording where, in the "Giant" Fugue, he solos the counter-subject on what sounds to be a Fanfare Trumpet, which sounds very odd to-day, but would have been common fayre in the 1950's in America.

 

My question would be, what do we mean by balance?

 

Does it simply mean that we must weigh-up the evidence, and arrive at some personal sense of eqilibrium, or does it mean that there is an acceptable musical fulcrum; beyond which there can only be bad-taste and self-indulgence?

 

MM

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Speaking (typing) as an semi-professional historian, an amateur organist and a vicar, and from my own experience of people from those three categories, the ones that need exiling are the ones that take themselves seriously! :P

 

 

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

 

 

"History is bunk" - A J P Taylor!

 

 

:blink:;)

 

MM

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Well we all listen to music in our own ways and that is just as well - it would be a barren world if we were all alike. I accept that extreme performances can be interesting, even riveting sometimes. However, ultimately I find that music without context is much more shallow than music with context and - for me - that context needs to be historical. In other words, to be able to feel that one is stretching back through time and making a point of contact with the composer's own era adds an extra dimension. It is entirely possible, in fact quite likely, that a lot of the time this context is largely bogus, being based on impressions of the past that are incomplete, or spurious - but I am not at all sure that this actually matters that much. We can none of us know exactly how it felt to live in bygone eras. So long as I have an image, if the music makes contact with it then I am going to feel that the extra depth is there. So it boils down to the degree to which the performance seems true to my (possibly flawed) sense of context. That is what "balance" means to me. I accept that this may well be a very personal viewpoint.

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Actually I believe it was Henry Ford who said that. And history says Ford is bunk. :P

 

 

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

 

 

Mmmmmmm! ;)

 

He who learns everything forgets nothing.

 

He who learns nothing also forgets nothing.

 

So only by learning and then forgetting is normal human existence possible.

 

Therefore, logically speaking, history is eminently forgettable, and learning history even more so.

 

For a fuller explanation, please read my tome, "How I learned to love my cat and hate my university"

 

:blink:

 

MM

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Actually I believe it was Henry Ford who said that. And history says Ford is bunk. ;)

 

Quite right Vox.

 

And MM, I should have added smart-arses to people who take themselves seriously.

 

If I'm not careful I'll have a little list, like the Lord High Executioner, or some of the 20th century figures who were a touch more sinister than Henry Ford.

 

Incidentally, AJP Taylor likened writing history to WC Fields juggling.

 

:blink:

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Stephen Tharp apparently wrote about the extremes of performance style:

 

"One is to over-intellectualize the background and specifics of any style and make it elitist and devoid of any musical merit"

 

and since Tuesday I was trying to think of an example of somebody (or a recording or...) who falls into this category. Can someone help me? His point is, in my opinion, true to the extent that bad musicians are bad musicians, but their historical awareness or lack of it doesn't contribute to their badness.

 

MM's comments about his experience in Doesburg are not so remarkable as he perhaps suspects. The study of late 19th and early 20th century performance practices of 17th and 18th century music is a fairly common phenomenon in the Netherlands, Germany, and even to an extent in France. I think you could hear some Bach/Straube like MM heard almost every year in a concert in Doesburg. In Britain, because the 'clean break' of the post-war modernist (neo-baroque if you prefer) movement was never fully embraced, (how many people still play from Novello editions of Bach?) the return to playing Bach in the ways which sound well on the British 19th and early 20th century organs still seems strange. Is this because (as I suspect) some dogmas of the first wave of the reform movement play a subconscious role (at least without any conscience sense of context) in the performance choices made?

Hasn't aesthetic context (objective) been confused with 'taste' (subjective)?

 

The other role played by the study of Straube/Schweitzer (etc) performance practices of Bach etc is to inform the player about the performance practices (and especially use of the organ) in the music of, for example, Reger, in the case of Straube at least.

 

I think it is important to distinguish between the first generation of the reform movement, (both in terms of playing and instrument making) which was resulted primarily in dogmas ("the 20th century as the era of theories") such as open toes, low wind pressures, 'detached articulation' (huh?) etc, and the subsequent generations which set out far more to find answers from historical evidence. We no longer (thankfully) talk about "authentic" performances, but rather "historically informed" performances which always leaves some space for what we, the human element in the performance, can bring to the table. But if one doesn't have the thirst to find the answers, be aware of the sources, the techniques, the tuning systems etc etc, what is left? Bradley Lehmann (who contributes here) has suggested some titles for the resulting style:

 

"Historically Clueless Performance? Wild Guesswork Performance? Whatever Feels Right Performance? Whatever My Personal Hero Did Must Be Right Performance? Didn't Do My Homework So I'll Wing It Performance? Anything Goes Performance? History Is Irrelevant Performance? Whatever They Did On My Favourite Recording That's What I Must Imitate Performance? Just The Facts Ma'am Performance? What My Teacher's Teacher's Teacher's Teacher's Teacher Did Because He Was Beethoven Performance? OK I'm getting carried away here, but all those types of performance do exist, even if there aren't convenient labels for them"

(quoted in Bruce Haynes's 'The End of Early Music', OUP 2007)

 

I accept that a certain playing style (described, again by MM, as 'expressionist') has survived in the UK. However, listening to the wonderful Brian Culverhouse EMI LPs of the 1960s reveals, I think, that this has become rather diluted in the interim. Didn't the tradition of playing became affected by a rather haphazard sense of reformist (actually modernist) influence? British 'expressionist' organists might not 'do' history but neither is their way of playing in the line of the traditions of previous generations, (with the exception perhaps of late romantic English literature and choral accompaniment).

 

The most significant consequence of this haphazard cross-fertilisation is reflected in the organ building and restoration culture in the UK since the war. Many fine romantic organs were rebuilt beyond recognition (even now electrifying the action of a 100 year old pneumatic organ is seen as acceptable), historic instruments still have (uniquely in Europe) no state protection, and the vast majority of instruments built in the UK today, both by UK firms and by mainstreams firms (mostly) from the German speaking world fit neatly in Stephen Bicknell's summary, (and nothing has changed in the 10 years since he wrote it):

 

"There will still be attempts to re-state the now outdated modernist position (the British Isles are sadly peppered with several expensive recent attempts at under-researched and amateurishly eclectic organ schemes. These make little positive contribution to our stock of really good instruments)."

 

Whatever, the discussion and application of aesthetic and historical knowledge, and its practical application, deserves more than lip service and shouldn't be underestimated.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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"One is to over-intellectualize the background and specifics of any style and make it elitist and devoid of any musical merit"

 

and since Tuesday I was trying to think of an example of somebody (or a recording or...) who falls into this category. Can someone help me?

I can't think of any examples from the organ world, but, whilst the following example is not in any sense "devoid of any musical merit", elitism certainly does exist. Compare these two editions of the same piece published several years apart in the same scholarly series, the first in 1964, the second in 2005. The editorial policy has changed obviously and radically. The later edition is regarded as representing the music more faithfully because it imposes fewer editorial interventions on the reader. I have no idea whether the editorial board would contest vigorously the notion that they are being elitist, or whether they would take the attitude that whether it's elitist is not a consideration for them at all, but either way the attitude is that the ordinary musician must either learn to cope with what he or she would call obsolete notation or go to hell. I call that elitist. It certainly doesn't communicate the music readily.

 

In Britain, because the 'clean break' of the post-war modernist (neo-baroque if you prefer) movement was never fully embraced, (how many people still play from Novello editions of Bach?) the return to playing Bach in the ways which sound well on the British 19th and early 20th century organs still seems strange. Is this because (as I suspect) some dogmas of the first wave of the reform movement play a subconscious role (at least without any conscience sense of context) in the performance choices made?

I was listening in the car today to an old performance (1960s?) of the Parry "Wanderer" Fantasia and Fugue on one of our more noble, Romantic cathedral instruments in which the registration sounded very much as if it had been influenced by neo-Baroque tendencies - all diapason choruses, no reeds (no reeds yet either, but perhaps they'll kick in when I get near the end of the piece). A very nice, bright, crystal clear, sound, but surely not really what Parry had in mind.

 

Slightly off the point, but I wonder how many people today would play Howells on just 16', 8' and 4' stops, eschewing anything higher (especially mixturework)? I have no idea what Howells's own registrational practices were, but many of his contemporaries would certainly have played his music and everything else this way.

 

"Historically Clueless Performance? Wild Guesswork Performance? Whatever Feels Right Performance? Whatever My Personal Hero Did Must Be Right Performance? Didn't Do My Homework So I'll Wing It Performance? Anything Goes Performance? History Is Irrelevant Performance? Whatever They Did On My Favourite Recording That's What I Must Imitate Performance? Just The Facts Ma'am Performance? What My Teacher's Teacher's Teacher's Teacher's Teacher Did Because He Was Beethoven Performance? OK I'm getting carried away here, but all those types of performance do exist, even if there aren't convenient labels for them"

(quoted in Bruce Haynes's 'The End of Early Music', OUP 2007)

:blink:;):P

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