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Divisions On Two Levels


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Dear community,

 

German late romantic organ building - i. e. the Walcker firm and others - introduced the splitting of a divisions' soundboard into one layer for the larger stops, and one for the smaller ones. The latter usually hosted stops of 4' length and smaller, the rest was on the other soundboard, which was located above the 4'-soundboard. Technically one could talk about two divisions, but they were controlled and thought as a unit. The action system was usually the Kegellade (cone chest), with pneumatic or electropneumatic action.

By this way, it was possible to have many stops, even if there was a lack of depth of the space affordable. Of course, height must not be an issue. I did not hear so many examples live, but have seen layouts, where the 4'-layer was often somewhat hidden in the organ (or below facade pipe level), and at least the 8'/16'-layer covered the free projection of sound from the smaller pipes.

Is this practice known in English organs, was it applied to slider chests, too, and are there thoughts or impressions about the outcome?

 

Thanks

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There are instances of 'split' soundboards on a number of English organs - usually for reasons of space. The Swell organs of Exeter and Saint Paul's cathedrals have at least two soundboards, as far as I can recall. Exeter may even have three, with the reeds (and possibly the 16ft. Quintadena) on one soundboard, the foundations on another and the upperwork on yet another. There are no doubt many other instances of this type of layout. As you state, these are treated as one division - and would normally have slider chests.

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It's not uncommon in the UK for the Swell High Pressure (HP) reeds to be on a separate soundboard to the fluework (which is on a lower pressure), especially on larger organs. The HP chest is nearly always at the front of the swell box and there is usually a passage board between the HP and LP soundboards, with the faceboards to both soundboards available at foot or shin level - they're usually at the same level. Usually the Oboe & Vox humana are on the low pressure chest - there's no need for them to be HP and the tremulant normally only works on the LP chest. Sometimes there's a high pressure swell open diapason or some similar innovation - it'll either be on the HP reed chest behind the reeds or on a separate chest. Quite often the large flue basses (normally a stopped 16' and the 8' basses of the Swell open diapason and strings) will be conducted off and be on off-note chests to the back & sides of the swell box - sometimes, where things are desperate, they'll be on the ceiling as well... Sometimes these pipes will be conducted off until comfortably in the tenor octave. However, the swell box is generally pretty tight - there is rarely much space except for a passage board down the middle and between the HP & LP chests for tuning.

 

English soundboards are generally quite small compared to the vast things found in very large German and French organs - the reason being the generally cramped conditions British organs inhabit in the triforium or under a chancel arch. The soundboards tend to be a fairly standardised width, the only thing that really varies is the depth, which obviously is dependant on the number of stops.

 

Most chests in the UK are slider soundboards and most of the organs with separate swell HP & LP soundboards will be EP or pneumatic action - it's only in very large organs (like RAH) that one starts to run into the limits of how many stops one can happily put on a soundboard and this is very rare. Even a fairly lavish Cathedral swell organ will be something like L.P: 16.8.8.8.8.4.4.3.2.IV.8.8, HP: 16.8.8.4 and the LP stuff can (just) go on 1 soundboard.

 

It's very rare for the chests to be at different heights - I can only think of the RAH, whose swell box is on 2 levels but the new RFH swell box is pretty vast too - it could almost house my church's entire organ! I'm not sure how the pipes are disposed between the 2 levels of the RAH's swell organ - JPM would know better than me!

 

The size and shape of the swell box plays an important part in its characteristics - the size of its walls plays an important role, as does its depth - a small, shallow box is much more effective, with a larger dynamic range and better projection - a lot of sound can be trapped in a large, deep swell box and never get out. Swell box walls with smaller surface area transmit less sound than large swell box walls when shut - partly why Hill's dovecote swell boxes in small organs (with the basses in the middle) are so effective.

 

It's worth bearing in mind the location and demands on British swell boxes: many have restricted headroom because of their location under an arch or roof in the triforium so they've spread horizontally instead. The situation of many German organs, with a west wall in a lofty nave to fill, is very different - you've got lots of head-height to play with but not always as much depth. As a rule, British churches are not as lofty as their continental cousins, unless one compares buildings that have their roots as monasteries or major religious foundations.

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After Oscar Walcker archives, this german practice goes back to

Niehoff's Rückpositivs, the Renaissance also. Two chests on two stairs.

Isn't that a bit different? Usually the second level was conducted off the first and had no windbox of its own. And in the two-and-a-half centuries in between, people were mostly happy with one-level, single-soundboard divisions. Few exceptions in the 17th century, the Compeniuses and maybe Fritzsche.

 

There was no continuity between early Brabant practice and the reinvention of the two-level division by Walcker and his successors. My guess is that this practice allowed for more foundation ranks and doubles per division without the case becoming too deep.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Isn't that a bit different? Usually the second level was conducted off the first and had no windbox of its own. And in the two-and-a-half centuries in between, people were mostly happy with one-level, single-soundboard divisions. Few exceptions in the 17th century, the Compeniuses and maybe Fritzsche.

 

There was no continuity between early Brabant practice and the reinvention of the two-level division by Walcker and his successors. My guess is that this practice allowed for more foundation ranks and doubles per division without the case becoming too deep.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

......But at least we know the Walckers did know Niehoff's practice.

 

Pierre

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Fact is, Oscar Walcker wrote it; so we know he knew.

E-F Walcker owed absolutely all to the baroque masters,

there was no "romantic" example to follow before him in his area.

And afterwards his descendant Oscar Walcker inventoried absolutely

all the "house papers", he was a keen author.

So there are very few builders dynasties as well documented

as that one.

E-F Walcker built his "double deckers" divisions after ancient models,

he had nothing else as a reference. He made it after his own way, of course.

 

Pierre

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It's very rare for the chests to be at different heights - I can only think of the RAH, whose swell box is on 2 levels but the new RFH swell box is pretty vast too - it could almost house my church's entire organ! I'm not sure how the pipes are disposed between the 2 levels of the RAH's swell organ - JPM would know better than me!

I can think of 2 Willis Cathedral organs, of considerably differing vintage, where some of the departments are disposed vertically.

 

At Lincoln the Great is on 3 soundboards within the main case on the screen. The sliders run east/west and the Great occupies the centre part of the case, flanked by the Choir to the north and the Solo/3 Pedal ranks to the south. On the Great middle level soundboard is the main diapason chorus (open no.2 to mixture), below this are the remaining diapasons and the flutes, the reeds are above at the very top of case with the pipes going right up into the attic.

At Lincoln, Father Willis had to work within the constraints of the existing casework from the previous Allen organ, although he did raise the height to create a case which is tall and relatively narrow.

 

At Liverpool, the Swell and Choir divisions in the north chamber are also disposed vertically. Both occupy one large swell-box, with a dividing wall and separate sets of shutters (like the new Choir and Solo divisions at Worcester) which are flush with the front of the main arcade, the shutters can be easily seen from the right angle. These boxes are surprisingly shallow, if I remember correctly the Swell pipework is on 3 levels but I'm not sure about the Choir.

 

DT

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

The largest lift-shaft x 2 design in the UK must surely be the H & H at Coventry Cathedral? It works a-treat and the surround sound is staggering. I am never leaving unimpressed and frankly, often hugely inspired.

 

N

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The largest lift-shaft x 2 design in the UK must surely be the H & H at Coventry Cathedral? It works a-treat and the surround sound is staggering. I am never leaving unimpressed and frankly, often hugely inspired.

 

N

 

Coincidentally I was listening to the David M Patrick Durufle CD from there earlier - one has to check the correct ear phone alignment - then enjoy ranks popping up from all over the place. You don't get the upper and lower level effects of course but the left and right are pretty startling - verging even on the random. Great fun though!

 

AJJ

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Coincidentally I was listening to the David M Patrick Durufle CD from there earlier - one has to check the correct ear phone alignment - then enjoy ranks popping up from all over the place. You don't get the upper and lower level effects of course but the left and right are pretty startling - verging even on the random. Great fun though!

 

AJJ

 

When making recordings, I like to put omnidirectional microphones quite close to the instrument (forming a nearly equal-lengthed triangle, taking the instruments width as the base) to catch the room AND the panoramic impression of the organ. It is limited by the amount of action or blower noise. The usual alternative is to use cardioide characteristic mics and to move them more into the room, as is done on most occasions.

But I like to detect the L/R positions of the pipes, too, certainly when listening via headphones.

 

My original question is meant to find out, if two-level layout is possible on instruments, which are meant not to sound like these sometimes "muddy" deep divisions of (German) romantic instruments of the last (not recent...) turn of the century - instruments intended to allow a broader repertoire and musical attitude.

I know the "baroque" way of conducting some stops above original soundboard level. My issue is more about the real existance of an upper chest and its meaning as a cover for sound projection.

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"which are meant not to sound like these sometimes "muddy" deep divisions of (German) romantic instruments of the last (not recent...) turn of the century - instruments intended to allow a broader repertoire and musical attitude...."

(Quote)

 

Op minger Sprooch: "Wat bedeitet" ?

 

Again, these "deep divisions" did not wait the romantic period to obtain. In his organ for the Marienkirche,

Berlin, Joachim Wagner built an "Hinterwerk", behind the Hauptwerk, whose depth from the façade to

the back equals exactly the same lenght than the Manuall II of the 1907 Walcker organ of Salzinnes,

Namur (BE).

 

Pierre

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"which are meant not to sound like these sometimes "muddy" deep divisions of (German) romantic instruments of the last (not recent...) turn of the century - instruments intended to allow a broader repertoire and musical attitude...."

(Quote)

 

Op minger Sprooch: "Wat bedeitet" ?

 

Again, these "deep divisions" did not wait the romantic period to obtain. In his organ for the Marienkirche,

Berlin, Joachim Wagner built an "Hinterwerk", behind the Hauptwerk, whose depth from the façade to

the back equals exactly the same lenght than the Manuall II of the 1907 Walcker organ of Salzinnes,

Namur (BE).

 

Pierre

 

Ahmm, yes, I do know baroque Hinterwerks... but it makes a difference if you place them under a nice vault without any further installations like chests or a roof, and behind a Hauptwerk of, say, not much more depth than 1.2 m - yes, this can have quite a presence in the room!

I do know the Hinterwerks of St. Cosmae Stade (Huß/Schnitger) and the marvellous one of Hamburg Jacobi (Schnitger). But certainly the latter has an optimum placement, which is the secret of its power and beauty.

Regarding the Kronwerk here in St. Marien, too, there is no visual connection between pipes and any place down in the nave. The carved sun with its center plate of ca. 1m and radiant beams of quite a length, and other casework hide it.* But between that massive front and the soundboard, there is about 1,5 m open vault space, helping to make this 7 stop division on 65 mm pressure the best audible manual divison of the instrument !

(Just Pedal reeds and maybe the somewhat ordinary Giesecke Trompette of the Swell may be felt louder...)

 

When talking about muddy divisions, I was merely thinking of those ones hidden behind a closed frontplate, speaking "from the cellar" via small spaces between windchests, bellows or canals installed above them.

 

And with broader repertoire, I meant: For those late Walcker beasts, the appropriate literature goes fine with that "muddy effect" or a soft speech of the (coupled) divisions. But I am thinking of "universal" organs, with complete diapason choruses etc.

 

*) You can even see it in the icon below - for the scale, you have to take in account, that the total height of the nave is 38,5 m

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