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Here are three questions for the many experienced organists on this forum. All of them have to do with Franck's Choral in A Minor.

 

1) Do you use any 16' foundation stops in the bars marked Largamente? Franck does not provide such an indication, but I have heard some people do it and liked it.

 

2) Would you modify any of given registration, even if you are playing the piece on any organ that has all the required stops?

 

3) What did the octaves graves pedals do on the organ at St. Clotilde? I am looking at its stop list as printed in a fairly popular method book. The author shows "Octaves graves (16' couplers): G.O./G.O., Pos./Pos., Rec./Pos.". Are these really subcouplers or do they simply turn the 16' stops on or off?

 

For some reason, I find it very difficult to register this piece properly. The notes are not that hard, but the sounds that I make in the latter half of the piece are simply unsatisfactory.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Here are three questions for the many experienced organists on this forum. All of them have to do with Franck's Choral in A Minor.

 

1) Do you use any 16' foundation stops in the bars marked Largamente? Franck does not provide such an indication, but I have heard some people do it and liked it.

 

2) Would you modify any of given registration, even if you are playing the piece on any organ that has all the required stops?

 

3) What did the octaves graves pedals do on the organ at St. Clotilde? I am looking at its stop list as printed in a fairly popular method book. The author shows "Octaves graves (16' couplers): G.O./G.O., Pos./Pos., Rec./Pos.". Are these really subcouplers or do they simply turn the 16' stops on or off?

 

For some reason, I find it very difficult to register this piece properly. The notes are not that hard, but the sounds that I make in the latter half of the piece are simply unsatisfactory.

 

1. May I suggest that ears and integrity come to the fore when 'orchestrating/registering' these works? Make the organ fit the music - and certainly a more British one stretches the imagination quite a lot. Modify to achieve optimum results - and sometimes you will surprised when in the building, by using a friend to play while you experiment. How can one not be Largamente without gravitas? If 16ft's fit the tonal scheme, then use them. You are the player!

 

2. If you are playing on a Cav-Coll I would suggest that a goodly number of things will work. But remember, every organ is different, so again, use your ears to achieve the desired result suggested by Franck.

 

3. Indeed - they are Sub-Octave couplers only. The end of the A minor choral seems to want them (or some) adding as the writing is high and can sound rather undernourished in the tenor register - the place where the sound on a French-style instrument begins to give immense power. The richness that is suggested in the writing needs to be complemented by the sound, surely. In this work there are excellent places for the addition of such stops. Be bold! Be convincing!

 

All best wishes,

Nigel

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I recall - possibly at a London Organ Day - a few years ago hearing Gerrard Brooks (who, I think, has studied in Paris) give a talk or masterclass which included virtually the same excellent advice that Nigel has given above.

 

Malcolm Kemp

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So if you wish to add 16' stops to the Largamente sections, by all means, do it! Besides, you're going to be in excellent company: Tournemire's annotated score of the Chorales show he did so too, as did Bonnet, Dupré, and Duruflé in their editions.

 

May I ask: Are the editions by Bonnet and Durufle still in print? I think I've seen Dupre's edition at the local bookstore.

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3. Indeed - they are Sub-Octave couplers only. The end of the A minor choral seems to want them (or some) adding as the writing is high and can sound rather undernourished in the tenor register - the place where the sound on a French-style instrument begins to give immense power. The richness that is suggested in the writing needs to be complemented by the sound, surely. In this work there are excellent places for the addition of such stops. Be bold! Be convincing!

 

I always wondered why the 16' foundation stops were not called for in the last section, and always wanted to add them to increase the depth.

 

Another question that I had: What do you think about using 2' and mixture stops in the more powerful sections? On the organ at St. Clothilde, the higher-pitch stops could be on or remain off while the reeds were on. Is this also an interpretive issue for the player?

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
I always wondered why the 16' foundation stops were not called for in the last section, and always wanted to add them to increase the depth.

 

Another question that I had: What do you think about using 2' and mixture stops in the more powerful sections? On the organ at St. Clothilde, the higher-pitch stops could be on or remain off while the reeds were on. Is this also an interpretive issue for the player?

 

As said before - there is no prescription that covers for all. Use your ears, accumulated knowledge - the distillation of the knowlege gleaned from your teachers and Master Classes that you have attended - and the memories of hearing and one hopes of playing such organs. Just with playing earlier French music it is well-nigh impossible to fully get the effect until you put music and your fingers and feet on the 'real thing'. There are numerous opportunities provided by people who run courses in the summer for the very things that you write about here. Grasp the anche.

 

All best wishes,

Nigel

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"What do you think about using 2' and mixture stops in the more powerful sections? "

(Quote)

 

Franck never mentioned them. But this does not mean he did not use them;

those stops were not intended to be "heard" in the modern sense, that is,

standing out or used for "bottleneck" effects.

Modern upperwork should be handled with much care in Franck, as with the others

romantic composers.

It is often preferable to add a Cornet than a modern, too sharp Mixture.

 

Pierre

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"What do you think about using 2' and mixture stops in the more powerful sections? "

(Quote)

 

Franck never mentioned them. But this does not mean he did not use them;

those stops were not intended to be "heard" in the modern sense, that is,

standing out or used for "bottleneck" effects.

Modern upperwork should be handled with much care in Franck, as with the others

romantic composers.

It is often preferable to add a Cornet than a modern, too sharp Mixture.

 

Pierre

 

Remember that he would not have felt that he needed to mention them - they stood (as in virtually all instruments by Cavaillé-Coll) on the same soundboard as the reeds and some of the other upperwork* . As such, if the compound stops were drawn, they would sound with the reeds once the 'Anches G.O.', or 'Anches Positif' pedals were depressed. The cornet was also useful in filling-out the timbre of the reed trebles; although Cavaillé-Coll used higher pressures for this range, in order to obviate the need for this subterfuge.

 

When I recorded the Troisième Choral at my own church, I did not use either the Swell Mixture (22-26-29) or the Positive Cymbal (29-33-36) at all. However, I did use the Positive upperwork up to 1ft. (including the three mutations), in order to bolster the tutti and impart at least a vaguely French sound. At the end, since the Swell Sub Octave gave a somewhat heavy and gritty effect, instead I altered the inversion and the position of the final chord (which no one has noticed, apparently). I am quite happy with the result - although it remains pure conjecture whether Franck would have agreed with my deployment of the powerful chamade register for the final chord.

 

 

 

* Generally that above 4ft. in pitch, although some instruments also had a larger 4ft. Octave available on this soundboard.

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"What do you think about using 2' and mixture stops in the more powerful sections? "

(Quote)

 

Franck never mentioned them.

Not in his published organ music, perhaps, but there exists a notebook of his containing improvisation themes and registrations and the latter (clearly intended for the St Clotilde organ) are often much more adventurous than the directions in his published music. They contain three mentions of Hautbois + Octavin. The direction "Plein Jeu" is also found a couple of times.

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Modern upperwork should be handled with much care in Franck, as with the others

romantic composers.

It is often preferable to add a Cornet than a modern, too sharp Mixture.

 

Pierre

 

Hear, hear - I find that, whilst the piece seems to stand up to being coloured by English or German organs, the one thing I can't stand is hearing sharp mixtures screaming away in the opening section.

 

Interestingly, on my Willis/Walker in Kendal the Great Fifteenth, when used with 16'8'4' chorus, has been known to deceive listeners into thinking there's a mixture on. The fiery Swell Reeds have a similar effect; the best crescendo effect is achieved by saving the Mixture until all three reeds are on. (I believe this a Willis phenomenon, as I've found similar traits on Willis organs all over the country.)

 

I'm not sure how far Willis was influenced by Cavaille-Coll, but it seems to me that he got closest to replicating the French "sound-world" on his organs and I find it's usually possible to play the Franck Chorals with relative ease on just about any Willis.

 

It's a similar story on the Hill at Bradford Cathedral, incidentally; the Swell Mixture there is so shrill that it's best left alone, and the Reeds are so bright that it sounds like there's a Mixture among them anyway. Andrew Teague reckons it's an excellent instrument for Franck; I would most definitely concur!

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msw's post opens a wide question; what do Cavaillé-Coll and Father Willis actually share ?

We know they knew each other; both commenced their apprenticeship with

free reeds voicing.

The harmonic chorus reeds Willis certainly received from Cavaillé-Coll, and this form

had an huge importance in the History of the british organ since without it, there would

have been no high-pressure-smoothly voiced reeds.

 

But then ? Willis himself never resorted to smooth reed voicing, his chorus reeds were

still bright, something which may lend to think they have "something french" in them.

 

But is it really so ? To my ears, not at all, while the voicing techniques differed much.

Among others, Cavaillé-Coll never loaded the tongues, and his Trompettes always display

a dedicate rattle level, not a drawback, but rather a typical trait of all reeds in french-speaking

areas. A Willis Trumpet never rattles, and this is a sheer difference.

The baroque british Trumpet was of course also something rather bright, close

to the french and flemish contemporary Trompettes, maybe a bit less powerfull.

 

It seems Willis Diapason choruses, up to Mixtures (with 17th!), were intended to work

with the reed choruses.

Cavaillé-Coll's Mixtures were the result of a typical french idiosyncrasy: the french players

refused Tierce Mixtures, while the romantic organ design, at its roots, implied Mixtures and Cornets

to be fused, or at least useable togheter.

Cavaillé-Coll tried to introduce chorus Tierces and Septièmes, notably at Notre Dame Paris, but

had to resign because of the players sheer opposition.

So he had to circle the problem somewhat, often building classic french quint Mixtures that were

not really "structural", but rather meant for church service accompaniment, the real structure binder

being the Cornets.

 

Now what was the situation in Britain ? Widely different since the Tierce wal already in the Choruses

since the beginning of the 18th century at least (Sesquialtera), while it was usual to draw the Trumpet

with it.

More: the typical Willis 3 ranks Mixture displays, at C, exactly the same specification as many a british

baroque Sesquialtera (17-19-22).

 

So my two cents: Father Willis was essentially an inheritor of the british baroque tradition, exactly

like Cavaillé-Coll built his own style upon the rich heritage of the southern french baroque AND the

spanish baroque period (Jordi Bosch!!!). The others british romantic styles were issued from the opposition

between this british Heritage with the influencies from abroad (mainly Germany).

 

A contribution from David Wyld in order to correct or complete this would be interesting.

 

 

Pierre

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Cavaillé-Coll's Mixtures were the result of a typical french idiosyncrasy: the french players

refused Tierce Mixtures, while the romantic organ design, at its roots, implied Mixtures and Cornets

to be fused, or at least useable togheter.

Cavaillé-Coll tried to introduce chorus Tierces and Septièmes, notably at Notre Dame Paris, but

had to resign because of the players sheer opposition.

 

Pierre

 

There was at least one other instrument in which Cavaillé-Coll introduced chorus. At S. Sulpice the Positif and Solo each contain mutations at several pitches (including both tierces and septièmes). Certainly there are very few examples. However, is this still due to the opposition of players by the time Cavaillé-Coll was established?

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Widor, Vierne, and later, Dupré, all strived to remove those "incongruities"

as soon as possible.

To them, a Mixture was the Dom Bédos thing -even if they did not present it as such-.

The ancient traditions always prevail, deeply rooted behind the fashions. You will rarely

find tierce Mixtures in french-speaking areas.

This is one of the stylistic traits that seems to be bounded with the language; in dutch

or flemish areas, for example (northern Belgium, The Netherlands and northern Germany,

whose dialects any "brusseleer understands!) you always find Quint Mixture+ Sesquialtera

(principal scales); in central Germany Tierce Mixtures; in alemanic areas (southern Germany,

Switzerland, Austria) you'll find again Mixture+ "Hörli" (CH), "Hörlein", etc, a Tierce Mixture

you can add to the Plenum.

In Spain, where there are several different languages, we have areas "with", and others "without"

the "chorus Tierce".

And in all areas "without", the romantic builders had problems.

Pierre

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Widor, Vierne, and later, Dupré, all strived to remove those "incongruities"

as soon as possible.

 

Pierre

 

Interesting - I had no idea. However, are you sure about Vierne? The excellent book by Rollin Smith (which includes a translation of Vierne's own Mémoires) makes no mention of this. However, Vierne did cause several alterations to be made to the instrument, either in new stops, substitute ranks or revoicings - yet the mutation series were never mentioned, save for the well-known description (by Vierne) of the Pédale mutations sounding like 'a muster of doulbe-basses.'

 

Interestingly, he did have a classical Fourniture added to the Récit-Expressif; he further desired a correlating Cymbale, but was denied this, due to lack of funds.

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Vierne left the seperate mutation ranks untouched.

But when he replaced Sergent at Notre-Dame, not 6 months elapsed

before he had the Tierces removed from the Mixture (Fourniture

and Cymbale harmoniques, also a kind of inverted progressiv harmonica

Cavaillé-Coll built in.

 

Quite interestingly, we have letters from Dupré, adressed to americans, where he stated

"the old masters did always so", that is, Quint Mixtures, and he even dictated the places

where the breaks had to occur, pretending "the ancient masters took for granted it was

so and nothing else"..Bach included!

 

Here are the original Cavaillé's Mixtures at Notre-Dame:

 

Here are the original Mixture designs in Notre-Dame de Paris, 1867 (soon modified because the organists in France did not accept them):

 

GRAND ORGUE

 

Fourniture harmonique, 2-5r:

 

C 4', 2 2/3'

 

c 5 1/3', 4', 2 2/3'

 

c1 8', 5 1/3', 4', 2 2/3'

 

c2 10 2/3', 8', 5 1/3', 4', 2 2/3'

 

Cymbale harmonique 2-5r (and here it is quite special!)

 

C 2 2/3', 2'

 

c 2 2/3', 2', 1 3/5'

 

c1 2 2/3', 2', 1 3/5', 1 1/3'

 

c2 2 2/3', 2', 1 3/5', 1 1/3', 1'

 

And so we have.....A inverted progression !

 

POSITIF

 

Plein-jeu harmonique 3-6r

 

C 4', 3 1/5', 2 2/3'

 

c 5 1/3', 4', 3 1/5', 2 2/3'

 

La 2 8', 5 1/3', 4', 3 1/5', 2 2/3'

 

Fa 2 16', 8', 5 1/3', 4', 3 1/5', 2 2/3'

 

And so we have the first and last trials by ACC to design romantic

experimental Mixtures.

 

It is interesting to note that, exactly like the british do hesitate to re-assess

some parts of their organ history, the french do not seem to be ready to explore

that one; Tierces have been re-installed at Notre-Dame, but on seperate knobs!

So strong are the traditions.....Now the people want Cavaillé fonds but with

Dom Bédos Mixtures, something which cannot work, it would be like mixing

a Sauternes with a premium Scotch.

 

Pierre

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Tierces have been re-installed at Notre-Dame, but on seperate knobs!

Pierre

 

Well, the same stop-head (G.O. Fourniture), but the tierce rank can be silenced by pressing a small switch.

 

Perhaps the mixtures were abandoned simply because they were impractical - or added little to the ensemble. Certainly as it stands now, I miss greatly the mixture scheme as altered during the time of Cochereau. The one thing this heroic instrument lacks as far as I am concerned, are decent, bright mixtures; the tutti is now totally reed-dominated.

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"the tutti is now totally reed-dominated"

(Quote)

 

It was precisely to avoid that that Cavaillé designed his Mixtures

like they were under Sergent's tenure (but yes, he did not use them!).

In order to bind reeds and flues togheter, you need the Tierce -this

is the Grand jeu principle, and with deep mutation ranks.

 

So in later Cavaillés, it was the Cornet which overtook that role.

 

If you build high-pitched Mixtures upon 56 or 61 notes manuals, with, moreover,

much foundation stops they have to cope with, also with many ranks, you end

up reducing "the organ to one octave" (Jean Guillou), because you must have

much breaks and duplicated ranks.

The listener only gets a kind of continuous treble, two or three notes, cloying the

rest. Clarity does not equals high pitch ! clarity begins with properly made, scaled

and voiced flue stops at all pitches.

 

I do not think the main Mixture on the Manual I should go above 1' at C, only the

second (A Scharff, for example), could go higher. This avoids too many breaks

so the voices remain seperate.

Arthur Harrison and E-M Skinner did that way.

For Notre-Dame Paris I am not clever enough to imagine another scheme as

the original one as "the best solution". The organ was experimental, and or we

want to keep it, then back to the original scheme, or we want something else,

but then we talk about something else than a Cavaillé-Coll organ, oder ?

 

Pierre

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"the tutti is now totally reed-dominated"

(Quote)

 

It was precisely to avoid that that Cavaillé designed his Mixtures

like they were under Sergent's tenure (but yes, he did not use them!).

In order to bind reeds and flues togheter, you need the Tierce -this

is the Grand jeu principle, and with deep mutation ranks.

 

So in later Cavaillés, it was the Cornet which overtook that role.

 

But Cavaillé-Coll also overcame the problem of weak trebles by the use of both harmonic pipes and higher pressures - thus the Cornets were not so vital. Sergent went further, using nothing above 4ft. pitch - which drove Cavaillé-Coll to distraction.

 

If you build high-pitched Mixtures upon 56 or 61 notes manuals, with, moreover,

much foundation stops they have to cope with, also with many ranks, you end

up reducing "the organ to one octave" (Jean Guillou), because you must have

much breaks and duplicated ranks.

The listener only gets a kind of continuous treble, two or three notes, cloying the

rest. Clarity does not equals high pitch ! clarity begins with properly made, scaled

and voiced flue stops at all pitches.

 

I do not think the main Mixture on the Manual I should go above 1' at C, only the

second (A Scharff, for example), could go higher. This avoids too many breaks

so the voices remain seperate.

 

I disagree. On my own church instrument, the G.O. chorus is capped by a superb Mixture IV which commences 19-22-26-29. There are few breaks; it does not scream by any standards. It binds and tops the chorus in a way that something an octave lower simply would not do. There are many such mixtures on English organs - and many of these do not 'shriek', 'scream' or sound unpleasant in any other way.

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The Cornet was no longer needed to reinforce the treble since.....Its arrival

in Germany with Silbermann.

There, it soon more or less fusionned within the Chorus, a chorus which did

not rely on the reed stops.

In a romantic organ, its role is to bind the whole, not to reinforce the treble;

of course it is also true in the "Grand jeu", besides the reinforcing of the treble.

 

It is also for this reason romantic Cornets, or Cornet-like stops, are complete

through the compass; how strange, this also was commenced in Germany

during the 18th century, among others with Gabler. At the same times, breaks

were made within those long-compasses Cornets. And the transformation

of the organ began.

 

Pierre

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msw's post opens a wide question; what do Cavaillé-Coll and Father Willis actually share ?

We know they knew each other; both commenced their apprenticeship with

free reeds voicing.

The harmonic chorus reeds Willis certainly received from Cavaillé-Coll, and this form

had an huge importance in the History of the british organ since without it, there would

have been no high-pressure-smoothly voiced reeds.

 

We do know that there was correspondence regarding 'eshallots' - we have quite a stock of old, Bertenouche-style, domed examples and then the later (HW3) 'Trompette' shallots, completely open-faced: we have used a set of these in the Bombarde 8ft on the great for Florence.

 

But then ? Willis himself never resorted to smooth reed voicing, his chorus reeds were

still bright, something which may lend to think they have "something french" in them.

 

We never see them as being 'French' in any way, just less smooth (and in my opinion less boring!) than the usual fare.

 

It seems Willis Diapason choruses, up to Mixtures (with 17th!), were intended to work

with the reed choruses.

 

It's all a matter of personal taste I suppose, but I have been of the opinion for years that the Mixtures should really come on after the reeds in the 'build-up' - this is not, of course, to say that a Mixture can not be used with the flues chorus and without the reeds.

 

Cavaillé-Coll tried to introduce chorus Tierces and Septièmes, notably at Notre Dame Paris, but

had to resign because of the players sheer opposition.

 

He wasn't alone: in the original specification for the Cathedral organ at Liverpool, every division had a mixture which included a Septième but these were all deleted prior to the construction, by request. Pity.

 

 

A contribution from David Wyld in order to correct or complete this would be interesting.

 

I don't think I would be able to correct or complete anything Pierre, but I think that the French side of the organ world was certainly of more interest to the firm than any other potential influences: For my own part, we maintain the firm's links with Paris and we are still privileged to count among our friends the present occupants of several of the Paris tribunes, on whom we also occasionally rely for advice!

 

DW

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I disagree. On my own church instrument, the G.O. chorus is capped by a superb Mixture IV which commences 19-22-26-29. There are few breaks; it does not scream by any standards. It binds and tops the chorus in a way that something an octave lower simply would not do. There are many such mixtures on English organs - and many of these do not 'shriek', 'scream' or sound unpleasant in any other way.

Pcnd, it would be most interesting to know the exact composition of the Wimborne GO mixture, with its break points, if you happen to get a chance to look inside?

 

JC

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