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Contrebasse


justinf
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The Contrebasse 16' is a fixture in French pedal deparments, but I'm having a tough time understanding what it is. The organstops site describes it as a string (double bass), but I suspect there is more to it than that.

 

Many Cavaillé-Coll pedal departments are based on the Contrebasse+Soubasse pair (St. Ouen, Ste.-Trinité, NDP), and at La Madeleine the only 16' flue is a Contrebasse. Is the Contrebasse a principal then, or perhaps a string which adds harmonics to the Soubasse to create principal tone? What makes it different than a Violonbasse? When looking at the Mander organ of St. Ignatius Loyola, should I mentally translate Montre/Contrebasse/Soubasse to Open Diapason/Violone/Bourdon?

 

While searching these forums, I found two specs from Pierre, one that extends a Contrebasse to an Octave, while the other extends it to a Violoncelle. On another site I read about a Fisk/Rosales organ in Texas where the Contrebasse is extended to Flûte 8' and Flûte 4'. (Then again, isn't the term "Flûte" sometimes used for a principal in France?)

 

The more I read, the less I know, unfortunately. Thanks in advance for helping to clear up this Contrebasse contretemps. :blink:

 

--Justin

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In the french nomenclature, the Pedal Contrebasse is simply the open 16',

the other, stopped, being the "Soubasse", a frenchified "Subbass".

This is the same couple as "Open-Stopped" (Diapason).

This stop is made of wood, of Principal or Geigen (after A. Harrison nomenclature) scales,

that is, moderate scale but not stringy like, say, an english Violone.

When there are several open 16' on the Pedal, with a 16' Flûte (another very vague name)

oe Principal (Montre 16'), the Contrebasse will be on the narrow side, hence its extension

being a Violoncelle.

During the baroque period all pedal flues (that is, not many!) where named "Flûte" or

"Pédale de Flûtes", whatever they could be: Flutes, Stopped Diapasons or Principals.

The french nomenclature is a rather short one, so that the same name is given to different

things.

Take the Dom Bédos "L'Art du facteur d'orgues"; he describes, for his "Grand Projet", five

very different Cornets (save the specifications which are indeed the same) to which no other organ nomenclature

would have given the same name. (Hence much misunderstandings of the french style up to today)

 

Pierre

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Pierre, thank you for the explanation.

 

I must have been looking for order where none exists, like: Contrebasse 16/Basse 8 (St. Ouen), Montre 16/Octave 8, Violonbasse 16/Violoncelle 8, Soubasse 16/Bourdon 8. I am glad the French ideal is a bit less regimented than that.

 

The organstops description of "[a]n imitative string stop of 16' pitch" is a bit misleading after all. Unless I'm misstating your post, the name Contrebasse refers more to its role as an open 16 than to a precise timbre.

 

I do intend to hear these instruments in person some day, but for now I am stuck home. Still, I am looking forward to heading downtown this Friday to hear the new Letourneau instrument for the first time. It is terribly large (though not literally so, I trust).

 

--Justin

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Actually, as the french organ very rarely had any 16' on the Pedal -a typical

french Pedal, on a big organ, up to the 19th century, could have been:

Flûte 8', Flûte 4', Trompette 8', Clairon 4', the names "Soubasse" and "Contrebasse"

were derived from the german "Subbass" and "Kontrabass", when these stops

arrived from Germany.

The german "Kontrabass" refers to a Geigen, in France to "Open 16'", like in

England "Open wood" is somewhat non-descript (though often quite large in scales,

larger than the french Contrebasse).

The funny thing is the fact the german "Subbass" is less precise than the french stop,

which is always stopped; there are german Subbass that are....Open! (examples are

many with Walcker).

 

Pierre

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  • 2 months later...

The Contrebasse 16' is a fixture in French pedal deparments, but I'm having a tough time understanding what it is. The organstops site describes it as a string (double bass), but I suspect there is more to it than that.

 

 

The only contrabass that I have come across was in fact a quinted 8'. It is found on the organ in Faversham PC in Kent. The organ was worked on by Gern (amongst many others) and his legacy included the swell reeds, plus this contrabasse. The stop, as I remember it, is very successful as a stringy 16'. I was not aware of its construction until the organ tuner told me...I think it has fooled many people.

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