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David Thornton

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One of my favourites was an LP of Jane Parker-Smith playing some music on an organ in some church or other. I am totally unable to recall exactly what she played, or where she played it - but the cover picture was awesome....

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Guest Patrick Coleman
One of my favourites was an LP of Jane Parker-Smith playing some music on an organ in some church or other. I am totally unable to recall exactly what she played, or where she played it - but the cover picture was awesome....

 

This would be 'Favourite Organ Masterpieces' played in Westminster Cathedral. It was my first organ LP (I think the first organ recording to come out in the Music for Pleasure series). I bought mine in September 1973, and actually played it again last week just to see if it was any good. Not bad, but I think my taste in recordings has moved on to things I can't play myself!

 

It contains: BWV565; Bach-Gounod Ave Maria; Mendelssohn Wedding March; Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring; 'The' Widor; the Priere a Notre Dame from Boellmann' Suite Gothique; Reger's Benedictus fron Op59; Finale from Widor's Eighth Symphony. Potboilers all, but still something for a fourteen-year-old to aspire to. And the picture is most suitable for a fourteen-year-old's wall! :rolleyes:

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Guest Patrick Coleman

By the way, I'm sure I'm not the only 'junior' member of this Board to welcome pcnd's renewed signs of life.

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By the way, I'm sure I'm not the only 'junior' member of this Board to welcome pcnd's renewed signs of life.

 

Has he been dead? - it's nowhere near Easter so maybe with Davros back on Saturday evening and the current Dr Who regenerating - maybe he's turning into pcnd - or Pierre Cochereau perhaps. (I daren't start a new thread on this - my wife is already suspicious of the 'Organ Chatline' as she calls it - she'd flip if I started on a Dr Who one too.)

 

AJJ

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One of my favourites was an LP of Jane Parker-Smith playing some music on an organ in some church or other. I am totally unable to recall exactly what she played, or where she played it - but the cover picture was awesome....

 

 

And the picture is most suitable for a fourteen-year-old's wall! :unsure:

 

Behave! :rolleyes:B)

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JPS - in the good old days when there were decent programmes on TV, we occasionally saw some organ music being played. I recently found an old video, must be the late 70s, early 80s, of one such in which JPS was playing an electronic. I leave it to your imagination as to what the cameraman was more interested in, but teenage boys would revel in it. DVD copies available "at a price"!

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Guest Roffensis

something for a fourteen-year-old to aspire to. And the picture is most suitable for a fourteen-year-old's wall! :unsure:

 

Simon Preston was far more interesting. :rolleyes:

 

R

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By the way, I'm sure I'm not the only 'junior' member of this Board to welcome pcnd's renewed signs of life.

 

Thank you, Patrick!

 

It is good to be back again - it has been a very busy three months or so....

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Has he been dead? - it's nowhere near Easter so maybe with Davros back on Saturday evening and the current Dr Who regenerating - maybe he's turning into pcnd - or Pierre Cochereau perhaps. (I daren't start a new thread on this - my wife is already suspicious of the 'Organ Chatline' as she calls it - she'd flip if I started on a Dr Who one too.)

 

AJJ

 

Seriously - it is good to have pcnd back - certain areas of discussion were just not getting covered!

 

AJJ

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Seriously - it is good to have pcnd back - certain areas of discussion were just not getting covered!

 

AJJ

 

I cannot begin to imagine what these might be. :rolleyes:

 

Having written that, I do like to keep abreast of developments in the organ world....

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A few posts got me looking through my old LPs to see if I still had records, and I came across a Bach recording by E. Power Biggs which I had completely forgotten about.

It's played on the 1958 Flentrop at the Busch-Reisenger Museum at Harvard, on the CBS label.

In particular I liked the performance of the 'little' G minor Fugue. The organ and the performances sounded so clean and well controlled in comparison to so many turgid Bach recordings played on UK instruments during the '60s.

 

DT

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One of my favourites was an LP of Jane Parker-Smith playing some music on an organ in some church or other. I am totally unable to recall exactly what she played, or where she played it - but the cover picture was awesome....

 

 

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

 

 

I was strangely drawn to an LP by the then newly arrived Polish pianist, Ivo Pogorelich, and I'm jolly glad I bought it for entirely the wrong reasons.

 

The music included the fiendishly difficult Ravel work, "Gaspard de la Nuit," which had me completely hooked, and to which I still listen quite regularly since transferring it to CD.

 

Some things are just magnets for the weak of knee!

 

:lol:

 

MM

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A few posts got me looking through my old LPs to see if I still had records, and I came across a Bach recording by E. Power Biggs which I had completely forgotten about.

It's played on the 1958 Flentrop at the Busch-Reisenger Museum at Harvard, on the CBS label.

In particular I liked the performance of the 'little' G minor Fugue. The organ and the performances sounded so clean and well controlled in comparison to so many turgid Bach recordings played on UK instruments during the '60s.

 

DT

 

 

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

 

 

He he!

 

NOW........if I can find the link, we can all listen to this....but if do, promise not to tell?

 

Gorgeous organ (played it!) and one very fine Bach player.

 

I wonder if DT realises that the organ was actually THE PROPERTY of E Power Biggs, and then passed to his wife after his death.

 

MM

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

 

I wonder if DT realises that the organ was actually THE PROPERTY of E Power Biggs, and then passed to his wife after his death.

 

MM

No, I didn't.

 

I must confess that I don't really know much about Power Biggs, I'll have to 'google' him!

 

DT

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"I must confess that I don't really know much about Power Biggs, I'll have to 'google' him!"

 

Or, better still, read Barbara Owen's biography of him, its excellent. I'm a long-time admirer of Biggs, he was recording historic organs in Europe at a time when even the best European organists were still recording their Bach on Marcussens... Of all his recordings his Mozart LP recorded in the Bavo in Haarlem right after the organ was 'changed' remains my favourite. His recordings of the Poulenc Concerto (Ormandy/Philadelphia Orch) and the Copland Symphony (NY Phil under Bernstein I think) come in a close second.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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No, I didn't.

 

I must confess that I don't really know much about Power Biggs, I'll have to 'google' him!

 

DT

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

As promised, I think this link will do the trick, but as to whether this is E Power Biggs performing the Bach "Little" G minor on the Flentrop at Harvard, I couldn't possibly comment! :lol:

 

http://www.kfki.hu/~zlehel/zene/

 

Some time back, we had quite lengthy discussion about the connection between American academics and the old organs of Europe and Germany in particular, and this also included quite a lot about the relationshp between E Power Biggs, G Donald Harrison (of Aeolian Skinner) and the whole organ-reform movement in America, which Biggs pioneered when others fell by the wayside (including Ralph Downes).

 

It's a fascinating story, and of course, in America, there was a tremendous "slanging" match between the supporters of the arch rivals of the day; namely Virgil Fox and E Power Biggs.

 

It was largely thanks to American based scholarship and research that the organ-reform movement gained a firm foothold in the UK, and also brought greater appreciation of old European organs across the wider musical world.

 

MM

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Guest Cynic
===============================

As promised, I think this link will do the trick, but as to whether this is E Power Biggs performing the Bach "Little" G minor on the Flentrop at Harvard, I couldn't possibly comment! :lol:

 

http://www.kfki.hu/~zlehel/zene/

 

Some time back, we had quite lengthy discussion about the connection between American academics and the old organs of Europe and Germany in particular, and this also included quite a lot about the relationshp between E Power Biggs, G Donald Harrison (of Aeolian Skinner) and the whole organ-reform movement in America, which Biggs pioneered when others fell by the wayside (including Ralph Downes).

 

It's a fascinating story, and of course, in America, there was a tremendous "slanging" match between the supporters of the arch rivals of the day; namely Virgil Fox and E Power Biggs.

 

It was largely thanks to American based scholarship and research that the organ-reform movement gained a firm foothold in the UK, and also brought greater appreciation of old European organs across the wider musical world.

 

MM

 

 

This is a fascinating subject and the same conflict between purist vs/showman (to boil it down to the essentials) is still going on over here! I can strongly recommend a book on all this:

All the stops - Craig R.Whitney (Public Affairs, New York) ISBN 1-58648-262-9

which is a most readable and comprehensive account.

 

Actually, E. Power Biggs was less of a purist and more of a musician, and (from time to time) Virgil Fox gave evidence of consummate musicianship, so the two of them (aside from their markedly different characters) had quite a bit in common. They both flew the flag for great music and the pipe organ.

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Guest Roffensis
This is a fascinating subject and the same conflict between purist vs/showman (to boil it down to the essentials) is still going on over here! I can strongly recommend a book on all this:

All the stops - Craig R.Whitney (Public Affairs, New York) ISBN 1-58648-262-9

which is a most readable and comprehensive account.

 

Actually, E. Power Biggs was less of a purist and more of a musician, and (from time to time) Virgil Fox gave evidence of consummate musicianship, so the two of them (aside from their markedly different characters) had quite a bit in common. They both flew the flag for great music and the pipe organ.

 

EPB and VF......hmmm.

 

R

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less of a purist and more of a musician

Yet again this blinkered assumption that the two are mutually exclusive. :lol: Why?

 

To cite a non-organ example, musicians hardly came more purist than David Wulstan who famously put his views on the choral tone and pitch of Tudor Church Music into practice with his choir The Clerkes of Oxenford. The Clerkes were not a professional choir - they were mainly just choral scholars and other talented singers with Oxford University connections - but they consistently turned out more committed, moving and sheerly musical performances than any of the choirs who subsequently copied them, even though the directors of those choirs have been far more ready to put musical needs above scholarship. There are choirs of that ilk that are more technically perfect - jaw-droppingly so at times - but for musical enjoyment it's the Clerkes' recordings that I keep returning to time and time again. (Just avoid their woefully under par CD of Sheppard and Tye that is currently being remaindered on eBay.) Wulstan's views may have subsequently turned out to be wrong in most significant respects, but that's not the point.

 

I could say much the same about Andrew Parrott's CD of Tallis responds - driven by scholarship from beginning to end and still one of the most riveting CDs of Tallis ever made. And it's at the right pitch, too, with Crump-tenors rather than falsettists. (Parrott actually made two CDs of Tallis. The other is very good too, but not quite of the same desert-island quality as the responds.)

 

Of course it's perfectly possible for music to be enjoyable without being scholarly, but for my money a real musician is one who knows how to make music out of scholarship. Orchestral musicians don't seem to have much problem with this as a rule, but then they make music communally and are expected to adapt themselves to any interpretation that is required.

 

I suppose the corollary of this is to assume that, if a performance is deeply musical, it can't possibly be scholarly. Funnily enough, I've not come across that view nearly so much.

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Guest Cynic
Yet again this blinkered assumption that the two are mutually exclusive. :lol: Why?

 

To cite a non-organ example, musicians hardly came more purist than David Wulstan who famously put his views on the choral tone and pitch of Tudor Church Music into practice with his choir The Clerkes of Oxenford. The Clerkes were not a professional choir - they were mainly just choral scholars and other talented singers with Oxford University connections - but they consistently turned out more committed, moving and sheerly musical performances than any of the choirs who subsequently copied them, even though the directors of those choirs have been far more ready to put musical needs above scholarship. There are choirs of that ilk that are more technically perfect - jaw-droppingly so at times - but for musical enjoyment it's the Clerkes' recordings that I keep returning to time and time again. (Just avoid their woefully under par CD of Sheppard and Tye that is currently being remaindered on eBay.) Wulstan's views may have subsequently turned out to be wrong in most significant respects, but that's not the point.

 

I could say much the same about Andrew Parrott's CD of Tallis responds - driven by scholarship from beginning to end and still one of the most riveting CDs of Tallis ever made. And it's at the right pitch, too, with Crump-tenors rather than falsettists. (Parrott actually made two CDs of Tallis. The other is very good too, but not quite of the same desert-island quality as the responds.)

 

Of course it's perfectly possible for music to be enjoyable without being scholarly, but for my money a real musician is one who knows how to make music out of scholarship. Orchestral musicians don't seem to have much problem with this as a rule, but then they make music communally and are expected to adapt themselves to any interpretation that is required.

 

I suppose the corollary of this is to assume that, if a performance is deeply musical, it can't possibly be scholarly. Funnily enough, I've not come across that view nearly so much.

 

 

I seem to have touched a raw nerve once again.

 

EPB and VF were characterised in their own day very commonly as these two opposing positions vis a vis organ performance. Whether you think this is fair is beside the point; if not deliberate on Biggs' part, it was certainly part of Virgil's sales pitch that his performances would never be either bound by scholarship or restricted by 'the correct way to do things'.

 

I'm talking in caricatures to make a point, maybe. In case you are sure we are not cursed by 'the purist' viewpoint, I have attended quite a few recitals which from a general audience's viewpoint most definitely do still suffer from players feeling that only one type of performance is 'correct' and the result being hard for everyone. I give as an example the (not uncommon) practice of playing both Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor of Bach on organo pleno throughout. Don't tell me you haven't had to sit through one of these! If it was a question of scholarship alone, it is worth noting that the whole work might well have been written for two-manual pedal harpsichord and not the organ at all!

 

In fairly recent times, I understand that some RCO candidates were penalised for the use of the heel in Bach playing. However, more recent research has shown convincingly that Bach's pupils definitely did use the heel and therefore it is highly likely that the great man did so too. The result of the no-heels dictum has been several recordings 'informed by scholarship' in which the pedal parts seem not to be phrased at all. I would contrast this with what Forkel said about JSB's own playing, which was that his feet were able to copy every ornament, every turn of phrase that his fingers could produce.

 

Is it fair to say that some players have fallen victim to dictatorial teaching, founded (sometimes) on misconceptions? I still maintain, it is the musical result which matters. The most critical bit of kit is the individual player's own ear and the response to what they hear back from their instrument.

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That's fair enough and I wouldn't necessarily disagree with any of it. If it's true that RCO candidates were slammed for using their heels I hope the examiners also had the consistency to slam them for not using contemporary fingering too. If not, why not? It's no less relevant to the end result! But of course this is all rather anal. If one wants to be that "authentic" I'm sure one can produce the effect of contemporary pedalling and fingering techniques while still playing the modern way.

 

As for organo pleno performances of the Bach Passacaglia, yes, I have sat through some very dull ones. But I have also heard some very satisfatory ones too. I could say the same about more "variegated" interpretations. It is not a question of mantras, but of the player's musicianship - and surely you will agree with that. :lol:

 

Some people genuinely prefer their Bach un-chopped-up by manual or registration changes. I happen to be one of them; I just prefer the flow of the music not to be disrupted by abrupt changes of direction. At least on our Romantic instruments. A recent performance of the "Wedge" fugue was ruined for me by the player switching from Gt diapasons + mixtures to a subsidiary flute chorus for the episodes. The continuity and musical argument went straight out of the window. I would probably have objected far less if he had been playing a German Baroque instrument where the changes can be handled less violently.

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Both Cynic and Vox make some good points. They also both present fascinating arguments.

 

I, too, have heard some tedious performances of the Passacaglia, in C minor by JSB. There was also the rendition by the late Graham Steed at a summer evening recital in Exeter Cathedral, a good few years ago, in which he began playing the pedal theme on the Pedal Bourdon and the fearsome Octave (wood; H&H). Not a pretty sound. The following day I had a lesson on the instrument and his piston settings were still in place. Some were very weird (e.g. Swell 8 = Hautboy and Clarion....) :lol: - even allowing for the (generally) North American* habit of setting any convenient piston for whatever is most useful at the time, with no attempt at a rational crescendo anywhere.

 

I was surprised to learn of the (daft) censuring of the use of heels when playing Bach, by RCO examiners. I have a similar problem when criticised for not unscrewing the pedalboard light at the Minster when teaching (or even playing myself). Since one does not play with a cloth suspended over the hands, in order that the fingers should have to find their own way around the claviers, I can see no logical point in making students guess at gaps which they are unable to see. A good visual check is necessary at first. In any case, if it is a choice between playing a wrong note or looking, I have observed a number of cathedral organists (all FRCOs, to boot) who have, without compunction, looked. Big deal.

 

I take the point Vox makes regarding clavier or registration changes in Bach; however, I must confess that I find the 'Wedge' Fugue so tedious, that it is a blessed relief to have at least some change of timbre. Taken to extremes, this argument can lead to arguably insensitive performances, in which either a fugue is played quietly throughout, therby possibly rendering an otherwise grand ending somewhat impotent; or, that it is played entirely on the plenum. I would suggest that in certain fugues there is an argument for some compromise. For example, the C minor (BWV 546). I prefer to commence this on all the 8ft. foundation stops (with the quieter Pedal 16ft. flues), together with all unison couplers, except Great to Pedal. I gradually add stops at (I hope) discreet junctures - without disrupting the flow of the music, until I reach full organ (minus the chamades) by the last five or six bars. I do not expect Vox to like this method - I just happen to prefer it.

 

As someone once wrote here to the effect that, the music of Bach is sufficiently inspired to withstand all manner of interpretation and types of instrument.

 

 

* I have not forgotten that Graham Steed was of British nationality, nor that he moved to Canada.

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I, too, have heard some tedious performances of the Passacaglia, in C minor by JSB.

It has to be said that the Passacaglia is a difficult case because it is quite unique in Bach's output. Or maybe that actually makes it easier because any normal conventions may very well not apply. I feel sure there is a satisfactory solution to be found that uses three manuals and no registration changes (one that saves the Hauptwerk for the latter part of the piece) but I since I have never had the sort of organ that has well matched and balanced divisions I have never had to work out a scheme. (And I've never really learnt the piece properly anyway, but that's a different story.)

 

I must confess that I find the 'Wedge' Fugue so tedious, that it is a blessed relief to have at least some change of timbre. Taken to extremes, this argument can lead to arguably insensitive performances, in which either a fugue is played quietly throughout, therby possibly rendering an otherwise grand ending somewhat impotent; or, that it is played entirely on the plenum. I would suggest that in certain fugues there is an argument for some compromise. For example, the C minor (BWV 546). I prefer to commence this on all the 8ft. foundation stops (with the quieter Pedal 16ft. flues), together with all unison couplers, except Great to Pedal. I gradually add stops at (I hope) discreet junctures - without disrupting the flow of the music, until I reach full organ (minus the chamades) by the last five or six bars. I do not expect Vox to like this method - I just happen to prefer it.

Well, there you go. I think the "Wedge" fugue is a tremendous piece - but those virtuosic episodes with their rushing semiquavers really do need to scintillate.

 

As for tonal variety, what about Bach's harpsichord music? No great tonal contrasts there, even with changes of manuals and stops (unless you use a "lute" stop). Perhaps my acceptance of the harpsichord has made it easier for me to accept single registrations on the organ. But then, I've always been a bit suspicious of the kaleidoscope approach to registration - I've heard too many players use it as a substitute for musicianship! Not that such an approach can't be uplifting in the right hands, of course.

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As for tonal variety, what about Bach's harpsichord music? No great tonal contrasts there, even with changes of manuals and stops (unless you use a "lute" stop). Perhaps my acceptance of the harpsichord has made it easier for me to accept single registrations on the organ. But then, I've always been a bit suspicious of the kaleidoscope approach to registration - I've heard too many players use it as a substitute for musicianship! Not that such an approach can't be uplifting in the right hands, of course.

 

The harpsichord? You may be horrified, Vox - but I can only stand the sound of this instrument for about three seconds, after which I am overtaken with an almost overwhelming urge to kill the performer. Sorry....

 

If it helps, I am aware that there are many who dislike greatly the sound of the organ at Nôtre-Dame de Paris, as it was in the time of Pierre Cochereau.

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The harpsichord? You may be horrified, Vox - but I can only stand the sound of this instrument for about three seconds, after which I am overtaken with an almost overwhelming urge to kill the performer. Sorry....

I would have been perplexed if you had admitted you liked it! :o

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