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A Somewhat Different Bach


Pierre Lauwers
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The Dalstein & Haerpfer firm of Bolchen/ Boulay in Lorraine, France, was an exceptionally

interesting post-romantic Organ-builder.

They were at work around the 1870-1920 period, and were, with Walcker, the preffered

of Albert Schweitzer; the famous recordings we have, and which have been re-launched

on two CDs, were recorded, not on a "restored Silbermann", as he himself said, but on an

instrument which was completely rebuilt by Dalstein & Haerpfer in 1911 after Schweitzer's

instructions, with much 8', pneumatic action and membranes "Taschenlade" windchests.

So the leader of the beginning "Reform" was a fully post-romantic man...

 

Now a 1906 Dalstein & Haerpfer has just been restored in Guinkirchen (F) and re-opened

by our good friend here "Cavaillé-Cool".

Here is the stoplist:

 

Grand orgue (56 notes)

Bourdon 16

Principal 8

Bourdon 8

Flœte 8 (not overblowing)

Salicional 8 (very mild)

Prestant 4 (very keen))

Octave 2 (borrowed from theMixtur)

Mixtur (Mixtur-Cornet, also bass without, treble with 1 3/5' tierce)

Trompete 8 (Kolossale!!!)

 

Récit expressif (56 notes)

 

Viole de gambe 8 (very keen)

Voix céleste 8

Bourdon 8

Flûte octaviant 4' (without "e")

Basson-hautbois

 

Pédale (27 notes)

Violonbass 16 (Posaune-like)

Subass 16

Octavbass 8'

 

 

II/I en 16, 8 et 4 (d'origine)

I/P, II/P

Expression Récit

Crescendo

Combinaisons fixes : Piano, Mezzo-Piano, Forte, Tutti ohne Zungen [Tutti sans anches]

Trémolo II

The action is 100% tubular pneumatic, with Taschenladen.

 

And now, ladies and gentlemen, take a deep breath, sit down with an Ale pint, and listen

how this thing, with the typical "Kornettmixtur", sounds in Bach:

 

http://paroissecatho.boulay.free.fr/prelud...ur_js_bach.html

 

Does it seem strange to your ears ?

Then I give again here this sound file of a Joachim Wagner Plenum (Angermünde):

 

http://www.orgellandschaftbrandenburg.de/M...mannsperger.MP3

 

.....A 100% genuine central german baroque organ also.

The "à la Schweitzer" version -Trumpet in the fugue included- on the 1906 Dalstein & Haerpfer

may well be closer to the "historic thruth" than the neo-baroque ones.

 

Pierre

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A beautiful and beguiling sound, although I think I prefer the more silvery quality of the Wagner organ.

 

It certainly doesn't sound strange, as I play a lot of Bach and pre-Bach on this, in St Mary-de-Lode, Gloucester, UK:

 

Great long compass, GG, AA to f

Open Diapason 8

Stopped Diapason 8

Principal 4

Fifteenth 2

Sesquialtera III (bass) (new, in 18th century English style)

Cornet III (treble, from mid C) (new, in 18th century English style)

Trumpet 8 (from middle C only. John Gray pipes circa 1820)

 

Swell tenor F to f, in 'Nags Head' box

Open Diapason 8

Stop'd Diapason 8

Principal 4

Hautboy 8

 

Ped

Bourdon 16 (Bevington pipes)

 

Shifting movement and usual couplers

Rest of pipework pre 1800. Restored John Budgen, 2004. Thomas Young temperament.

 

The tierces sounds wonderful in contrapuntal music, and certainly suit unequal temperament (although I usually avoid playing hymns in certain keys!)

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Very interesting !

 

Are there sound files of this organ available ?

And yes the Mixtures there should sound in a comparable

manner.

The Wagner Mixtures are more or less the same as the one

in the Dalstein & Haerpfer, but one complete octave higher, with

the Tierce at 4/5' instead of 1 3/5'. Same with Trost. Of course,

this is what Bach had, and the results in his music are of course

more convincing; the point is, the Dalstein & Haerpfer is closer

to it, by far, as one could believe.

 

Pierre

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....

And now, ladies and gentlemen, take a deep breath, sit down with an Ale pint, and listen

how this thing, with the typical "Kornettmixtur", sounds in Bach:

 

http://paroissecatho.boulay.free.fr/prelud...ur_js_bach.html

 

Does it seem strange to your ears ?

Then I give again here this sound file of a Joachim Wagner Plenum (Angermünde):

 

http://www.orgellandschaftbrandenburg.de/M...mannsperger.MP3

 

.....A 100% genuine central german baroque organ also.

The "à la Schweitzer" version -Trumpet in the fugue included- on the 1906 Dalstein & Haerpfer

may well be closer to the "historic thruth" than the neo-baroque ones.

 

Pierre

 

The comparison is interesting.

 

Maybe it's just the quality of the recording or playback equipment or maybe even the playing but I found 10 minutes of unremitting tierce mixtures in the Bach F major toccata at Guinkirchen a bit too much for my ears. I had to turn it off after 5 minutes and don't really want to listen to it again - and this on one of my favourite pieces of Bach.

 

Maybe it's a different experience listening to it in the flesh.

 

The Wagner sounds gentler and clearer. The choruses clearly aren't voiced as hard and the result is much better and clearer - at least on the strength of the recordings. However, I still don't know whether I could handle the Bach f major on this organ with unremitting tierce mixtures for 10 minutes.

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Good point, Colin!!!

 

It is clear those Mixtures aren't intended to be used at lenght, but rather alternated

with either 1)- lighter chorus (8-8-4-2) either 2) Reed stops, like here in the fugue.

 

And so it is highly probable Bach himself did not play with Mixtures 99% of the time

like present-days players do it with those Quint Mixtures Marcel Dupré imponed practically

worldwide.... Read W-L Sumner again: "There were never tierces in the Plenum". This was

a Mantra during the "Reform", though Dupré himself -like Schweitzer- was a post-romantic player.

 

Complicated matters!

 

Pierre

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The comparison is interesting.

 

Maybe it's just the quality of the recording or playback equipment or maybe even the playing but I found 10 minutes of unremitting tierce mixtures in the Bach F major toccata at Guinkirchen a bit too much for my ears. I had to turn it off after 5 minutes and don't really want to listen to it again - and this on one of my favourite pieces of Bach.

 

Maybe it's a different experience listening to it in the flesh.

 

The Wagner sounds gentler and clearer. The choruses clearly aren't voiced as hard and the result is much better and clearer - at least on the strength of the recordings. However, I still don't know whether I could handle the Bach f major on this organ with unremitting tierce mixtures for 10 minutes.

 

I have to agree with this - I cannot cope with it either. Notwithstanding, I am grateful to Pierre for taking the time to post these interesting files. Unlike Ian, I prefer greatly the sound of Bach played on the purity of beautifully voiced quint mixtures.

 

Personally, I would not wish to use such mixtures (as illustrated on these files) in Bach at all - much less for an unrelieved stretch of ten minutes. However, the playing is good and cleanly articulated.

 

Perhaps it is just me, but I do not find such a sound clearer for polyphonic music - just tiresome.

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Good point, Colin!!!

 

 

... And so it is highly probable Bach himself did not play with Mixtures 99% of the time

like present-days players do it with those Quint Mixtures Marcel Dupré imponed practically

worldwide....

Pierre

 

But this is still purely supposition, Pierre. We still do not know what Bach may or may not have done, with regard to registration. In addition, what evidence exists is sometimes incomplete - or is itself subject to conjecture. For example, some years ago, I was given to understand that 'gap registration' was not generally employed by players in the time of Bach. Subsequently, I read of evidence that this was incorrect - a few registration plans had been unearthed, which showed clearly that players were rather more imaginative and did not necessarily adhere to a rigid set of rules.

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"We still do not know what Bach may or may not have done, with regard to registration"

(Quote)

 

Indeed; but we do know which Mixtures he had, save with the few northern

organs he exceptionnaly played (and had Sesquialteras, Terzians, which

were part of the Plenum, anyway), and the Silbermann organs (which were

pure outsiders then in the organ scene there).

And we know he was creative, innovative as regards registration.

So a complete Prelude & fugue with Mixtures ? Forget it...

 

The Quint Mixture, used with a Diapason chorus entirely made of octaves,

is a french idiosyncrasy. The Tierce was a flute registration and the two did not

go togheter.

It is for this reason Marcel Dupré banned the Tierce from the Plenum "in ancient music",

the difference between an Andreas Silbermann organ (read: their 10 times rebuilt remains!)

and a Scheibe or a Trost being something slightly exotic to discuss then.

This "Plein-jeu" was always used in chords, never in fugues. It is completely

foreign to Bach.

 

Pierre

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... And we know he was creative, innovative as regards registration.

So a complete Prelude & fugue with Mixtures ? Forget it...

 

Pierre

 

This is precisely my point, Pierre. The fact that Bach was innovative surely includes the possibility that he may have done exactly that - played an entire prelude or a fugue using a 'pure' chorus capped by a quint mixture.

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And we know he was creative, innovative as regards registration.

Do we? I think perhaps we need to be careful here. All we know* is that, according to Carl Philipp Emmanuel, his registration used to astound other organists who saw him draw combinations that they thought could not possibly work - until they heard them and had to change their minds. Now I'm no Bach, but it is no exaggeration to say that (on the right organ) I could produce a similar reaction with many local organists simply by drawing an Open Diapason, a Principal and a Fifteenth. (Wot, no flutes? No strings? Wot about all the other 8' stops?) For all we know Bach may have done nothing more unusual than use the North German style of registration he had picked up in his youth from Böhm and Buxtehude in front of Thuringian organists used to mixing their colours more horizontally. One would ideally like to know a lot more about the calibre of those who were astounded. That's just one scenario among several, of course; it is also entirely possible that his registration was indeed innovative as Pierre suggests. All we know is that we don't know!

 

*Actually it isn't quite all we know. There are his very few registration directions. Given the modest nature of typical mid- and south-German Pedal departments I could imagine Bach's use of a 4' Pedal solo might have raised a few eyebrows. So might his use of stops in a different octave (as in the 4' stops specified at the begining of the D minor concerto), but I believe that sort of usage was known and countenanced at the time.

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.....And if he did not have what we understand today with "a pure chorus" ?

I might as well state he'd prefer something from Durham or Birkenhead.... No,

there are our tastes for one part, and the facts for the other.

I grew up with Bach by Walcha at Alkmaar, and I liked it -I still do-. But when

you investigate the Data, what we actually can learn about the facts, you realize

Walcha's was a post-romantic vision, something a pupil of Straube logically develloped

as an "anti-romantic" vision.

But to be "anti-romantic" does not imply to understand what the baroque organ was; and it happens

the baroque organ in Saxony, Thuringia, among others areas, is hundred of Miles away from what

we have been teached to believe it was.

 

This misconception the english baroque organ still pays today. Besides the "music boxes", "no pedal",

"wrong compasses" and all other possible pejorative judgments against it, and against any proposal

to reconstitute a significant number of them, everyone overseens the fact it is "not that false", it too,

as a genuine baroque instrument. It did not suit the "Reform" and its standardization process, so it

was condemned.

 

Now we can hear Wagner, Trost organs. A big Michael Engler (whose Mixtures have of course tierce ranks)

has just been restored in nearby Silesia; the last Casparini organ has at least been studied in Lithuania

(The first german Casparini organ dates back 1700, and was at the Thuringian border...), so we may no longer

say "We know nothing so let's our "musical sense" decide, read: we can do what we want.

(We may of course do what we want, but not impone it any more like Dupré et al. did!)

 

And the "truth" is, those organs sound very strange to our ears, we have to acclimate to them, so different

they are.

Faced with such instruments you can react after two manners: 1)- Question the understanding we have of

the music; 2)- Decide "this was wrong, Bach would have preffered my 1980 Neo, or a Schnitger like he played

two times".

 

But one of those two ways might seem somewhat blind, oder ?

 

Another interesting comment, from Vox humana:

 

"For all we know Bach may have done nothing more unusual than use the North German style of registration he had picked up in his youth from Böhm and Buxtehude in front of Thuringian organists used to mixing their colours more horizontally."

(Quote)

 

Why not ? This is something which deserves trials on those instruments I mentionned above.

The risk is of course to reinforce the belief "northern is better", but it is documented Bach

admired northern reed and pedal flue stops (particularly the well-speaking 32').

Now were organists of Bach times already accustomed to more "horizontal" registrations ?

This could be doubted, because the organ of this area was in a quick evolutionnary process then,

and its many 8' were something new (not the Tierce Mixtures, which obtained there since the Renaissance).

But to try to register like on a Schnitger at Altenburg would certainly be an interesting experiment, agreed.

 

Pierre

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We still don't know exactly how Bach registered those organs still extant, though, do we? At best, we can only offer conjecture.....

 

And organists of each "era" think they *know* what is right for Bach, and dismiss earlier ideas as being less well-informed. But, without factual registrations listed by Bach on organs which are extant, we're still guessing, however informed we think that guesswork to be.

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Now were organists of Bach times already accustomed to more "horizontal" registrations ?

This could be doubted, because the organ of this area was in a quick evolutionnary process then,

and its many 8' were something new (not the Tierce Mixtures, which obtained there since the Renaissance).

Bach's life spanned the period when this evolution was happening, but I think his method of testing organs is telling. As we all know he would "test the organ's lungs" by playing with all the stops drawn. Why would he bother to think it important for the organ to be able to cope with this? Was it what we would today call "over-engineering" - making a product of higher quality than it ever needs to be? I think not. I rather suspect that he was concerned that the instrument should be able to cope with players mixing wind-hungry stops at the lower pitches.

 

But I could be quite wrong, of course.

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"We still don't know exactly how Bach registered those organs still extant, though, do we? At best, we can only offer conjecture....."

(citation)

 

.....Or even better: pay a visit to those organs, and try them.

 

Pierre

 

So which instruments are we certain remain exactly as Bach knew them - both tonally and with regard to action?

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As for the man who would discuss the Porsche Turbo you present him

could have its charge pressure 1% different from the construction norm,

what would you think, save that he does not really want of it ? ;)

 

Pierre

 

I am sorry, Pierre, but I am not sure what you mean here....

 

:o

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  • 2 weeks later...
... I grew up with Bach by Walcha at Alkmaar, and I liked it -I still do-. But when

you investigate the Data, what we actually can learn about the facts, you realize

Walcha's was a post-romantic vision, something a pupil of Straube logically develloped

as an "anti-romantic" vision. ...

Pierre

 

Yet you liked it - at least on some level, which means that it must have worked as an interpretation. I have one recording of Walcha at Alkmaar, and also like it.

 

I understand your point about the anti-Romantic version; however, I find a clarity and an attractiveness (this is really too 'light' a term) in this type of sound for Bach (or also Jos van der Kooy at Amsterdam) which brings life to the music and lifts my heart in a way that these heavy, reedy-mixtured performances cannot touch.

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Yet you liked it - at least on some level, which means that it must have worked as an interpretation. I have one recording of Walcha at Alkmaar, and also like it.

 

I understand your point about the anti-Romantic version; however, I find a clarity and an attractiveness (this is really too 'light' a term) in this type of sound for Bach (or also Jos van der Kooy at Amsterdam) which brings life to the music and lifts my heart in a way that these heavy, reedy-mixtured performances cannot touch.

 

I liked, and still like, this Walcha vision !

Not the slighest doubt about it; this is an austere, in-depth interpretation which sends us

Miles above this bankrupt (!) earth. In Fine, we agree.

 

But this was not Bach's vision. Bach was far from being a puritan lad, as we know. When he

arrived somewhere to play in recital, the local guys were afraid of going bankrupt (!) because

he would empty the wine stock...

The organs he played much of the time weren't Schnitgers. They were nor "better", nor "wrong",

simply different, and diverse.

And Bach never criticized this diversity, preffering to focus on the technical sides of the matter,

encouraging Scheibe's search for new tone colors, appreciating so different jobs as Scheibe's,

Trost's or J.Wagner's .

 

So we may like any version of Bach we want. Be it from Walcha, or O. Schmitt's on the Dalstein & Haerpfer

-like Schweitzer-, or Mr Bossert's at Giengen, etc, etc, etc.

But we also need a reference record.

And this has to be an historic one.

Why ?

Because if we don't, among all those different visions, one will "win", that is, the "dominant" of the day

will impone its own.

Next generation, the next "dominant" will follow, with a "better" one, etc. And with what shall we

end up ?

Nobody knows, save that it will not be Bach's music any more.

 

Pierre

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Here is another vision of Bach one may like -and I do-:

 

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=m66PBlJX4uA&...feature=related

 

Far remote from any historical reference, this deserves its place

as well as an historic vision by itself.

 

Pierre

 

Yes, actually I agree with you, Pierre. After hearing this recording, I parted with some hard-earned money a few weeks ago and ordered the book which has this arrangement, and have enjoyed learning it over the past couple of weeks along with another couple of VF's arrangments which I actually included in last Thursday's recital at Paignton. I shall now take shelter whilst accusations of being a "tasteless blighter" come thick and fast no doubt! :):D:)

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......And if someone asks "How to play Bach on an A. Harrison", this could

be the answer. Mind you, I heard it once somewhere in *W*estern England

and it was unforgettable. (Just after that came Elgar's "Nimrod" transcription;

as you imagine, you could have heard a fly afterwards in the, euh, "building", despite

many tourists wandering around).

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