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Ortgies' Dissertation On North German Organ Tuning


Fiffaro
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Ibo Ortgies' PhD dissertation (The practice of organ tuning in North Germany in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and its relationship to contemporary musical practice), complete with English summary, is available for free download.

 

http://ibo.ortgies.googlepages.com/englishsummaryphd-thesis

 

Ortgies challenges some of my understanding of the history of temperament, and I'm looking forward to wading through the German.

 

To whet the appetite of fellow Mander Organ forum readers and contributors:-

 

Ortgies takes a chapter to discuss tuning procedure and techniques, and uses documentation of payments made to bellows treaders to examine the length of time taken for tuning sessions. This is used to give insight into whether an instrument was retuned, or retempered and retuned. Called into question, for example, is Snyder's claim that the organ in the Marienkirche was retempered. (And I've used Snyder to support Werckmeister's tuning systems in this forum. Oh, dear!)

 

Ortgies argues that ensemble playing drove the temperament issue more than solo organ playing, and that we might need to reexamine our assumption that the extant organ literature is able to give insight into either compass or tuning issues.

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Ortgies takes a chapter to discuss tuning procedure and techniques, and uses documentation of payments made to bellows treaders to examine the length of time taken for tuning sessions. This is used to give insight into whether an instrument was retuned, or retempered and retuned. Called into question, for example, is Snyder's claim that the organ in the Marienkirche was retempered. (And I've used Snyder to support Werckmeister's tuning systems in this forum. Oh, dear!)

Presumable that was from the 1987 edition of Snyder; the 2007 edition comes to a different conclusion.

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Presumable that was from the 1987 edition of Snyder; the 2007 edition comes to a different conclusion.

I've loaned my 2007 edition to a friend - who is now on long service leave. <_<

 

My memory is that Snyder is not so sure about the organ being retempered, but still thought this might have been the case. I would be grateful if you let me know if this does not accurately reflect what is in the book, as I will not regain access to my book for a couple of months.

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I've loaned my 2007 edition to a friend - who is now on long service leave. <_<

 

My memory is that Snyder is not so sure about the organ being retempered, but still thought this might have been the case. I would be grateful if you let me know if this does not accurately reflect what is in the book, as I will not regain access to my book for a couple of months.

"Concerning the temperament of the St Mary's organs, we know from documented evidence only that the large organ was tuned to equal temperament in 1782 and the small organ not until 1805."

Comments on 1/4 meantone as the most common system in North Germany in the 17th century, but fewer than half of B's organ pieces work well and several are impossible in this system. Discussion of friendship with Werckmeister.

"In a 1985 article and the first edition of this book I proposed a hypothesis on information in the accounts that the bellows treader had received pay to 30 and a half days extra work while the organ builder Michel Briegel had "thoroughly tuned" both organs without their reeds, which B had presumably already retuned himself. This theory was widely accepted, but it rested on incomplete evidence. ... the account books extended only through 1685. ... The return of later books from the Soviet Union in 1988 made new evidence available which Ibo Ortgies mined ... He found payments to bellows treaders for extra work of 27 and a half days ...

 

"In 1683 the account suggests that the 30 1/2 days were entirely due to tuning; still, in view of the great discrepancy with 83 1/2 days in 1782 it appears that my hypothesis that the temperament was changed to Werckmeister III in 1683 can no longer stand."

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There is another sentence expressed by Ortgies, which made much more impression to me (but I can't remember if it is part of that thesis or another paper):

 

"Up to the year XXXX (something mid 18th century, can't remember), we have no evidence that ANY certain organ piece has been played at ANY place at ANY time" - I translated it myself, perhaps misleading, but it should say:

 

There's no record that Organist X played his Y piece during his concert/service/audition in Z on date NN.

 

Ortgies wants to make a strong appeal to a higher estimation of the role of improvisation, leaving written music primarily as didactic material. And therefore, it is not really possible - for our views of today - to thouroughly judge the meaning of the keys appearing in the written pieces. His thesis shows more possible reasons for music in remote keys, when I remember it correctly.

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There is another sentence expressed by Ortgies, which made much more impression to me (but I can't remember if it is part of that thesis or another paper):

 

"Up to the year XXXX (something mid 18th century, can't remember), we have no evidence that ANY certain organ piece has been played at ANY place at ANY time" - I translated it myself, perhaps misleading, but it should say:

 

There's no record that Organist X played his Y piece during his concert/service/audition in Z on date NN.

 

Ortgies wants to make a strong appeal to a higher estimation of the role of improvisation, leaving written music primarily as didactic material. And therefore, it is not really possible - for our views of today - to thouroughly judge the meaning of the keys appearing in the written pieces. His thesis shows more possible reasons for music in remote keys, when I remember it correctly.

Indeed, this is in the thesis. It corresponds to Peter William's view, as I understand it, that so much of Bach's music serves a didactic purpose. This further weakens the arguments for proposed tuning methods in which analysis of pieces are used to support a system.

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