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I'm not sure that this is true, actually. A look at a number of Romantic organs with "original" combination pedals will show that it was quite the norm to include flutes with diapasons.

Quite. Also, earlier Romantic organs did not have the various playing aids (not least pneumatic stop action) that made the player's life easier. With maybe no more than half a dozen iron combination pedals on a large instrument and long-draw, mechanical stop action, fussy registration changes were simply not possible. Talk to any old organists who were brought up in the Romantic style of registration (if you can still find any these days) and they will tell you that crescendos were simply a matter of adding stops; you never thought of subtracting them - especially since you might need them again during a subsequent decrescendo.

 

During the twentieth century a reaction against this style of registration set in. The resulting tone colours were seen as unecessarily thick and cloying, so organists started to recommend the greater clarity of pure choruses and of single stops on their own. By the mid century it was quite common for players to register diapason choruses without flutes and I would suggest that this explains what happened to the original PCND at the RAH. This clearer style of registration is recommended in Whitworth's Organ Stops and their Use (1951 - worth reading if you can find a copy; it has useful explanations of the German Freie Kombination and French ventil systems too).

 

However this "new" style of registration had been known for much longer than that - probably since the nineteenth century. The use of pure choruses and of single solo stops (e.g. the Clarinet without the 8' flute that hitherto had been added almost as standard) was recommended in at least one early edition of Grove by Walter Parratt - rather strangely, considering he was something of a Hope-Jones fan and had a battle with Willis over the specification of the organ for the private chapel at Windsor Castle.

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Quite. Talk to any old organists who were brought up in the Romantic style of registration (if you can still find any these days) and they will tell you that crescendos were simply a matter of adding stops; you never thought of subtracting them - especially since you might need them again during a subsequent decrescendo.

Absolutely! Besides, flutes and clarinets don't stop playing when brass and timps join in (and yes, I know the arguments about good composers using them at effective pitches but that isn't always the case in practice).

 

I remember Malcolm Archer, at the height of his new-kid-on-the-block powers, demonstrating the Bristol Cathedral organ to me without using a single piston. I was astonished and delighted the old skills of hand registration were still alive and well :)

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....But none of which is getting us any closer to a collectively acceptable definition of an English romantic organ - with dates to match.

But why is one seeking to do this? These 'O'-level definitions serve little useful purpose in fine art or literature (where, incidentally, in both arenas 'Romanticism' started in the 18th century). Rachmaninov has already been mentioned. Do we consider Beethoven Classical or Romantic? Is Scriabin Romantic, Impressionist or Expressionist? What about Goethe? Ultimately these labels are unhelpful. A Trost organ is as 'orchestral' in its own way as a Norman & Beard.

 

However, (and apologies if I have misunderstood) I really don't understand Pierre's assertion that genuine Romantic organs were not 'experimental'. The whole point of Romanticism was experiment: opium, out-of-body experiences; loosening of structure, form and tonality; the advent of new instruments made possible by new technologies.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
I remember Malcolm Archer, at the height of his new-kid-on-the-block powers, demonstrating the Bristol Cathedral organ to me without using a single piston. I was astonished and delighted the old skills of hand registration were still alive and well :)

 

I go to bed completely happy to read this; but feel sure that it is a slip of the finger when you suggest it is an 'old skill'. Isn't it surely a necessary, constant and ever-present organ skill?

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But why is one seeking to do this? These 'O'-level definitions serve little useful purpose in fine art or literature (where, incidentally, in both arenas 'Romanticism' started in the 18th century). Rachmaninov has already been mentioned. Do we consider Beethoven Classical or Romantic? Is Scriabin Romantic, Impressionist or Expressionist? What about Goethe? Ultimately these labels are unhelpful. A Trost organ is as 'orchestral' in its own way as a Norman & Beard.

 

However, (and apologies if I have misunderstood) I really don't understand Pierre's assertion that genuine Romantic organs were not 'experimental'. The whole point of Romanticism was experiment: opium, out-of-body experiences; loosening of structure, form and tonality; the advent of new instruments made possible by new technologies.

 

For the simple reason that I (and Vox) questioned Pierre's statement that the period of the English romantic organ stretched from 1832 to about 1895. Therefore, I wished him to try to define the term - or at least what he intended it to mean, in order that we were not talking at cross-purposes.

 

It is not about O' level definitions per se. Quite simply, I countered that the English romantic organ was alive and well in the 1950s - as Vox affirmed. For the purposes of this particular facet of this thread, I definitely do require Pierre to return with a fairly concise description, since I think that we are otherwise going around in circles.

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"I definitely do require Pierre to return with a fairly concise description, since I think that we are otherwise going around in circles."

(Quote)

 

At least the debate begins!!!! :)

 

As always, a (stupid) question: 1950. Was it still in a "romantic" period ?

Or had something else happened within the arts since 1890 ?

 

(By the way: not 1895)

 

Pierre

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As always, a (stupid) question: 1950. Was it still in a "romantic" period ?

Whilst I do not agree that period labels serve little useful purpose (I find the general concepts very useful), they can certainly be obfuscatory. As Ian has already strongly hinted, and as any sensible person already knows, there is no "Chinese wall" on the one side of which is Romanticism and on the other something else. In the same way, composers did not suddenly start writing in a totally different style on 1 January 1751, even though the Baroque period is deemed for convenience to have ended in 1750. Romanticism was still possible in 1950. It is still possible today. In practice you cannot simply compartmentalise everything neatly - and that goes for organs too.

 

If you want to draw a distinction between the organs of c.1850 and c.1930 that is fair enough. We would all agree that there had been developments. Where I think you are wrong is that you imply that the later organs are in some way not Romantic (for that is what the label "post-Romantic" implies). If you could find a more appropriate term to describe the later organs (I have suggested "symphonic") I think there might be less of an argument.

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An easy to grasp difference is the tonal structure.

The romantic organ has a strong structure, each stop has a dedicate

role in the whole, while a post-romantic organ has a looser one, with

smaller ensembles and more solo stops/ combinations.

 

As already said, a Cornet de Viols is intended to be used alone, while

a Walcker Kornett -though usable sometimes in lighter registrations-

is meant to full combinations.

 

"If you want to draw a distinction between the organs of c.1850 and c.1930 that is fair enough. We would all agree that there had been developments. Where I think you are wrong is that you imply that the later organs are in some way not Romantic (for that is what the label "post-Romantic" implies). If you could find a more appropriate term to describe the later organs (I have suggested "symphonic") I think there might be less of an argument."

(Quote)

 

To gather all styles from 1850 to 1930 into the same "block" was rather a means to isolate what was deemed "wrong"

during the neo-baroque period, like toxic finance papers nowadays.

While I agree we should not file all in tight little cases, and that there are much overlaps, the fact remains Mr Jones organist did not play the same "Repertoire" in 1850 than in 1930, and not the same way.

 

In France the term "symphonique" apply to Cavaillé-Coll organs with a 16-8-4 reed chorus in the Swell, something

comparable with the "Full Swell" also.

In Germany, no organ can be called "symphonique" before.....1919, when Oscar Walcker began to build

enclosed reed choruses under the consultance of Emil Rupp (Reinoldikirche Dortmund).

 

If we need something else than "Post-romantic", a somewhat disturbing denomination (intentionally so maybe?),

why not "impressionist"?

After all, on which kind of organ would Debussy's transcriptions sound better ?

(A CD has been recorded at St-Vaast, Bailleul, one of the first, and still post-romantic,

Victor Gonzalez organ).

 

http://www.musicweb-international.com/clas...x_hortus032.htm

 

Pierre

 

Pierre

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Whilst I do not agree that period labels serve little useful purpose (I find the general concepts very useful), they can certainly be obfuscatory. As Ian has already strongly hinted, and as any sensible person already knows, there is no "Chinese wall" on the one side of which is Romanticism and on the other something else. In the same way, composers did not suddenly start writing in a totally different style on 1 January 1751, even though the Baroque period is deemed for convenience to have ended in 1750. Romanticism was still possible in 1950. It is still possible today. In practice you cannot simply compartmentalise everything neatly - and that goes for organs too.

 

If you want to draw a distinction between the organs of c.1850 and c.1930 that is fair enough. We would all agree that there had been developments. Where I think you are wrong is that you imply that the later organs are in some way not Romantic (for that is what the label "post-Romantic" implies). If you could find a more appropriate term to describe the later organs (I have suggested "symphonic") I think there might be less of an argument.

This makes much sense, Vox.

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"I definitely do require Pierre to return with a fairly concise description, since I think that we are otherwise going around in circles."

(Quote)

 

At least the debate begins!!!! :)

 

As always, a (stupid) question: 1950. Was it still in a "romantic" period ?

Or had something else happened within the arts since 1890 ?

 

(By the way: not 1895)

 

Pierre

 

Of course - no question here. My point was that I thought that 1832 and 1890 (even as suggested dates) were both too early. The organ has always developed, in the same way that the arts (in a wide sense) have developed - without regard to mere calendar dates. However, sometimes a broad period can be useful, as Vox has said, if only for the sake of clarity.

 

Strictly speaking, a Cornet des Violes was intended to be used with the Viole d'Orchestre and the Viole Octaviante - possibly even with a Contra Viole and a Viole Céleste, if present. But I agree that these stops would not form part of the tutti. However, I am not sure where this statement achieves, in terms of attempting to define the characteristics of an English romantic organ.

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I go to bed completely happy to read this; but feel sure that it is a slip of the finger when you suggest it is an 'old skill'. Isn't it surely a necessary, constant and ever-present organ skill?

Yes indeed. I did dither about whether to put inverted commas around 'old' but decided against. It is an old skill but, as you say Nigel, that doesn't mean it is less necessary today.

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In France the term "symphonique" apply to Cavaillé-Coll organs with a 16-8-4 reed chorus in the Swell, something comparable with the "Full Swell" also. In Germany, no organ can be called "symphonique" before.....1919, when Oscar Walcker began to build enclosed reed choruses under the consultance of Emil Rupp (Reinoldikirche Dortmund).

No problem. Different countries may arrive at the same point at different times. Also it is perfectly natural for a term to have slightly different connotations in different countries.

 

If we need something else than "Post-romantic", a somewhat disturbing denomination (intentionally so maybe?), why not "impressionist"? After all, on which kind of organ would Debussy's transcriptions sound better ?

Personally I think "impressionist" would be a most unfortunate term since I consider the organ singularly unsuited to the subtle play of colours (whether pianistic or orchestral) that one associates with impressionism. Surely it is no accident that Debussy totally ignored our instrument.*

 

* I am aware that there is one early essay - a prelude or something. I've not seen it, but I read somewhere that it doesn't sound like the familiar, mature Debussy, so wouldn't mind betting that it was a student exercise he was required to write. Does anyone know it?

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Yes indeed. I did dither about whether to put inverted commas around 'old' but decided against. It is an old skill but, as you say Nigel, that doesn't mean it is less necessary today.

 

Although many recitalists these days seem to do virtually all their registering with their right foot on the sequencer/stepper pedal. Takes all the fun out of watching!

 

Stephen Barber

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Although many recitalists these days seem to do virtually all their registering with their right foot on the sequencer/stepper pedal. Takes all the fun out of watching!

 

Stephen Barber

I'm not sure Nigel's new Aubertin has one of those... :rolleyes:

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"I consider the organ singularly unsuited to the subtle play of colours (whether pianistic or orchestral) that one associates with impressionism"

(Quote)

 

Do you really think that ? I'd say the reverse, and this subtility of colors was the aim of the post-romantic

builders and thinkers.

In his pamphlets, Audsley had no other goals ("dissolving views" etc), and the Wanamaker organ may have hit it.

I have a CD from Jackson, Missouri, a rebuilt Skinner, with transcriptions you need to be screwed

on your chair to avoid falling off it. Not because of noise, but for an incredible refinment.

Skinner reffered always to the Orchestra when asked about his new stops, of which none was

structural -in opposition to Cavaillé, Walcker etc whose innovations were mainly structural-,

all were sophisticated solo stops.

So they may have not served Debussy, but they indeed could have, lived in the same Epoch,

and shared a stylistic trend.

 

Pierre

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Do you really think that ? I'd say the reverse, and this subtility of colors was the aim of the post-romantic builders and thinkers.

Pierre, you cannot be serious! I don't see how anyone could imagine that the organ can even remotely approach the orchestra for its ever-shifting, kaleidoscopic pallette of colours. How many different colours can an organist produce at any one time? And how many can an orchestra? Moreoever, dynamic manipulation on an organ is crude in the extreme compared to the subtlety and finesse of which an orchestra is capable. There is, quite simply, no comparison.

 

The nearest the organ world has to an impressionist composer is Duruflé, and this is what he had to say on the subject:

 

"One must not be mistaken about [the organ’s] true aesthetic. It is compared too often to the orchestra, with which it has only a very distant relationship, simply that of the diversity of timbres. One cannot ask of it a form of sensitivity that it does not have because of the very nature of its sonority. One cannot ask of it too great a quickness of shading, a strengthening of sound on a rhythmic accent or on an expressive note, its expression box being able to give only progressive effects of distance or of connection to a sound that always maintains at its source the same pressure and the same intensity."

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Although many recitalists these days seem to do virtually all their registering with their right foot on the sequencer/stepper pedal. Takes all the fun out of watching!

 

Stephen Barber

 

I have actually had students (before lessons!) and attended concerts (where a beautiful console and stops were in evidence) and saw no use other than pistons and sequencer and general crescendo. The music in my estimation suffered and the stops were only there to create the often bizarre i.e. illogical registrations. But that's just me and my dreary damp-rag view. Sorry.

Best wishes,

Nigel

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I have actually had students (before lessons!) and attended concerts (where a beautiful console and stops were in evidence) and saw no use other than pistons and sequencer and general crescendo. The music in my estimation suffered and the stops were only there to create the often bizarre i.e. illogical registrations. But that's just me and my dreary damp-rag view. Sorry.

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

For my part I've just done a bit of an unusual concert - the 1858 opening programme in the first half (programme here) and Peter and the Wolf transcribed for organ (by me) in the 2nd. The first half was entirely hand registered (using 1858 stops only - it's the Romsey organ's 150th birthday today) which allowed for logical changes in the type of what you might call 'organ tone'. There was nothing which couldn't be done by someone who knows the instrument thoroughly. The second half I did almost entirely on pistons because the aim was to create imitative sound effects and have instant variations in volume. (It works remarkably well, by the way!) But I think it's the only piece I've yet encountered in which I actually couldn't cope at all without pistons (in this case just a sprinkling of generals).

 

One well-known cathedral assistant has been heard to remark (on discussions concerning a very small two-manual chamber organ being designed for their establishment) - "what, no pistons? How am I supposed to change stops?"

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I have actually had students (before lessons!) and attended concerts (where a beautiful console and stops were in evidence) and saw no use other than pistons and sequencer and general crescendo. The music in my estimation suffered and the stops were only there to create the often bizarre i.e. illogical registrations. But that's just me and my dreary damp-rag view. Sorry.

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

I can understand that overuse of pistons means that the registrations can be unimaginative. However I don't see why use of the sequencer needs to have a detrimental effect.

 

Stephen Barber

 

Not that I have one - haven't even got generals!

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
I can understand that overuse of pistons means that the registrations can be unimaginative. However I don't see why use of the sequencer needs to have a detrimental effect.

 

Stephen Barber

 

Not that I have one - haven't even got generals!

 

The use of the sequencer made two fatal errors in one concert because it seemed to go a 'step too far'. It also made for unnecessary changes of registration which were in my opinion detrimental to the flow and architecture of the piece. Then there was the question of the space between movements of a Trio sonata and sometimes the proper space between works. It was as if the concert was on a CD. Talking afterwards, the player agreed that they had gone overboard with registering because they had had the device at their disposal. I can see a very agreeable point in such a device to set important registrations on it when generals or divisionals need not be utilized. Don't get me wrong. But I prefer it to be the help-mate and not myself the slave. Furthermore concerning hand registering, there is a wonderful psychological thing for me when drawing or pushing in a stop. In others, I find a natural breathing and phrasing too permeating the music - just like a conductor and a choir. A stamp or a plunge at critical musical moments leaves me rather cold. But this all about me. I am just a stick-in-the-mud but I will only use modern technology if I can see that it improves in a palpable way. To be frank, I am far more used to using hands. On big instruments they perhaps have only grown to that size because electrics allow no curbs. When I see a new organ that has a Positive division of 5 stops and that it has 5 pistons too, plus hundreds of memory levels etc etc and the whole has a disposition of some twenty-odd stops, I wonder who actually requires what.

Just some thoughts and observations from an oldie.

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

PS As this is under the Franck heading - he used the 'modern' devices of the instruments of his time for adding or subtracting at his 'tonal moments'. Do we possess present-day composers writing music to embrace multi-level memories and sequencers? I would be interested. The 'rolling pin' helped Reger/Straube. Any others?

N

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