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Great Gambas

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Guest Echo Gamba

Vox Humana posed a question a little while back as to the purpose of Great Clarinets.

 

Could I ask a similar question concerning Great Gambas, Viola's, etc - on English schemes? Are they meant for solo use, or to add a stringy edge to the Open Diapason? I obviously understand the place of a string on the Grande Orgue in a French scheme, but have often wondered about their use on this side of the channel.......

 

I suppose the question could be broadened - what did Bach use String toned stops for?

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V

I suppose the question could be broadened - what did Bach use String toned stops for?

 

Try playing on the Aubertin strings at St Louis en L'Ile in Paris or St John's College Oxford - they are real ear openers. 'Like nothing from any UK tradition. I am not qualified to go too far into Bach organs but I'd love to do a Bach cantata using one of these instruments only for the accompaniment. The strings almost sound like real 'Baroque' strings and the flutes like real 'Baroque' flutes.

 

As to Great Gambas etc. - they could be seen to be part of a tradition where 8's and 4's etc. are combined horizontally to achieve variety and contrast - less part of he 'neo' tradition of registering vertically ie. single stops/pitches 'piled up' on top of each other. (I remember some discussion on here a while ago about how each of these were used by different organists at Gloucester Cathedral. Some would go straight for an 8, 4, 2 etc. effect - thin etc. while others would start by coupling all the 8s - adding 4s etc. - much more lush an effect.)

 

Also - the only stop that will accompany a Swell Oboe solo is often the Great string (or Dulciana) - certainly on my instrument the 8' Great flute is too big for this purpose so the (mildish) string is invaluable.

 

Alastair

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We do not have Bach's phone number. But what we do know is:

 

1)- 90% of the organs he played had at least one Viola di Gamba on the Hauptwerk.

 

2)- There was often more, up to -oh my God!- an Unda-Maris; but this was rather

a soft Flute or a Principal, the kind of the italian "Voce umana".

 

3)- These stops were slow in speech, and were intended to be used with something else.

 

4)- Principal+Gamba rarely works. You need to add Flute (or Gedackt!) tone.

 

5)- Listen to the Cantates again. What do you hear ? Warm, stringy tone or cold,

colorless neo-baroque "heavy (blue) metal" ?

 

Pierre

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The only thing I would say about baroque strings is that the ones I have heard hardly sound like string stops at all and certainly not like modern string stops. But I haven't much experience, so my take on them may not be accurate.

 

It seems to me that in some ways a Fr Willis organ is not so very different from a Cavaillé-Coll. For example, both were designed to be registered principally using foundation stops with the mixtures + bright chorus reeds being added en bloc on each division. I feel sure that Willis's Great Gambas were, just like French ones, designed to be used as chorus stops. They add richness and a quasi-orchestral colour to the unison tone. Hele intended his Gambas to be used in chorus; Hele also had a particular fondness for 4' Gambettes (not on the Great though). Of course, any decent chorus stop should also be usable as a solo voice and a good Gamba will lend itself to this.

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Guest Echo Gamba

I think Vox Humana has a very good point regarding Willis being, if you like, an "English Cavaille Coll". I suppose that's why, for example, Lincoln Cathedral speaks excellent French!

 

I play an organ near me once a month where the Swell Open Diap is very indistinct and "woolly" but if you draw the Swell Gamba with it, it becomes quite usable.

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Pierre made a good description of baroque strings, but if one tried them or not and knows any romantic model, he will see many differences. My last "string encounter" was on the Walcker of 1908 here in Rostock. VERY fine restoration (partially reconstruction) by Christian Scheffler. There you find this Aeoline stuff, = very thin and soft strings, and you find the violas, powerful enough to re-colour the principal chorus. The latter is something a barqoue stop would never deliver. Baroque strings most often come close to modern Gemshorn (as the majority is conical, too - isn't it, Pierre?), and certainly if not restored by a super voicer, there will be speech problems, as roller beards where invented in those times.

 

About playing a cantatq movement on these or those strings? I'd say, do everything what sounds fine! That's the way Bach would have taken seat at every organ, I think. :blink:

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A few thoughts:

 

i) Isn't it interesting that string stops appear in all of the main romantic organ building traditions, BEYOND a beating pair of strings in the swell box? In the language of Cavaillé-Coll the Gamba/Salicional is the narrowest member of the 4 fonds of the GO. I think the 4 fonds are pretty much always used together, their strength is fairly equal.

 

ii)...which isn't the case in England where the Great 'fonds' are usually either loud or soft.

 

iii) The German Romantic tradition favours a strict hierarchy of 8' stops to achieve a seamless crescendo (literally ppp-ff), all upperwork is almost entirely for colour. I have regular contact with a Sauer organ from 1922, the Gamba on the Hauptwerk is rather strong, (stronger than in either England or France I guess), and, apart from its role in the foundation-ensemble, is rather more effective as a solo stop in the tenor register than any higher.

 

iv) I think the differences between Cavaillé-Coll and the first Henry Willis are more obvious than the similarities (and Lincoln is in any case atypical). Consider C-C's broader scaled 16' Plein Jeu and compare it with FW's narrow scaled, hard blown tierce mixtures. If I recall correctly, only after the first Henry Willis does the 8' Harmonic Flute appear on the Great (did this come from their absorption of the Lewis company on whose organs such a stop is 'normal'??)

 

A general point, the French and German Romantic organs imply far more standardised general registrational practices than the English organs. In the case of the German organ, this is evident in the layout of the console (the crescendo is implied in the order of the stop knobs) and in the order in which the Walze adds the stops. The English Gamba question could just as easily be applied to many other stops and probably the English organ builder had less of a fixed idea about how such a stop would, or at least should, be used.

 

Greetings

 

 

Bazuin

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"as the majority is conical, too - isn't it, Pierre?"

(Quote)

 

The majority, I do not know, but I encountered some,in J. Wagner organs included.

 

Pierre

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I think Vox Humana has a very good point regarding Willis being, if you like, an "English Cavaille Coll". I suppose that's why, for example, Lincoln Cathedral speaks excellent French!

 

Off topic but - I sang in a concert there once when Jennifer Bate played for the Duruflé Requiem - an amazing experience as was her Messaien at the same event. I learnt the organ there for a while - it's a fabulous instrument.

 

Alastair

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iv) I think the differences between Cavaillé-Coll and the first Henry Willis are more obvious than the similarities ...

Me too – thinking of French romantic scaling with its soaring trebles and scales dramatically ascending throughout the compass, whereas, if I am not mistaken, Father Willis preferred much more modest treble scales and fast halving ratios. That would make for a whole lot of differences all through the repertoire, liturgical or concert.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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iv) I think the differences between Cavaillé-Coll and the first Henry Willis are more obvious than the similarities...

Agreed. In the context of blending foundations, a Lieblich Gedeckt 8 and/or Salicional 8 usually makes no difference whatsoever when added to an Open Diapason 8 on a Willis I organ.

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Guest Echo Gamba
I think Vox Humana has a very good point regarding Willis being, if you like, an "English Cavaille Coll". I suppose that's why, for example, Lincoln Cathedral speaks excellent French!

 

I rather put words into VH's mouth here, making it sound rather a sweeping statement. I was not talking specific voicing in the treble or whatever, but rather the broader tonal concept - I think that is what VH had in mind?

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Sort of. I was really just drawing attention to what seem to me to be one or two points of contact in an era that was seeking to enable the organ to cope with the expressive demands of Romantic music and to become more "orchestral". Whether this came about through cross-fertilisation or convergent evolution I have no idea.

 

Bazuin's points are excellent ones. I entirely agree that the differences between Willis and Cavaillé-Coll are more striking than the similarities. An obvious example, tonally, is their different approach to the Choir/Positif division. There is no way that Willis's Choir Organs are the secondary departments that the French Positifs are; I doubt they were meant to occupy the same (or even any) function in an "orchestral" build-up (the clue to their intended use being in the name). In fact, when I look at Willis's many modest two-manual parish church organs with their well-developed Great chorus and tiny Swell divisions, I rather doubt that a seamless orchestral build-up was part of his philosophy at all. Bazuin also makes a good point about the relative strengths of the 8' foundation stops and this is perhaps even more marked with Hele, who liked big, fat Open Diapasons.

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"There is no way that Willis's Choir Organs are the secondary departments that the French Positifs are; I doubt they were meant to occupy the same (or even any) function in an "orchestral" build-up (the clue to their intended use being in the name). In fact, when I look at Willis's many modest two-manual parish church organs with their well-developed Great chorus and tiny Swell divisions, I rather doubt that a seamless orchestral build-up was part of his philosophy at all. Bazuin also makes a good point about the relative strengths of the 8' foundation stops and this is perhaps even more marked with Hele, who liked big, fat Open Diapasons."

 

I have never seen an organ by Hele, but I think both the points about the choir divisions, and about Open Diapasons (at least 'Open Diapason No 1s' to say it like that) apply in general in England in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods? I have seen both consistently in organs by Willis, Nicholson, Harrison etc. Perhaps the OD is less all-dominating in the Lewis organs, at least in the time of T.C. Lewis himself?

 

The idea of the truly seamless 'orchestral build-up' is something which probably doesn't apply at all until after 1900, (ties in a little to the discussions here before about reconstructing trigger-swells). Here one could speak of a kind of conflict between the ideals of the present-day accompaniment practice in England, and the aesthetic ideals of the Victorian roots of many of the Cathedral organs, obscured by the addition of ever more complex combination systems. Perhaps this could be a serious research topic for someone!

 

Regarding Willis Swells - I have also seen 2 manual Willis organs with tiny swells. What I remember in particular about one (from the 1860s I think) was a Cornopean in a 4-stop swell division voiced to maximise the overtones - it really packed a punch. Full Swell in one stop.

 

Lincoln strikes me from afar (I haven't been yet!) as being an extraordinary organ.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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Going back to the first entry of this thread, I do know that Nicholson and Lord of Walsall used to include an 8ft Gamba on their Great Organs. These certainly added somthing both to the Open and the Flute at 8ft Pitch and they went down to bottom C as well. I have tued a couple of N&L organs, which has both a Gamba and a Dulciana on the Great - an interesting discovery.

 

JT

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I have never seen an organ by Hele, but I think both the points about the choir divisions, and about Open Diapasons (at least 'Open Diapason No 1s' to say it like that) apply in general in England in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods? I have seen both consistently in organs by Willis, Nicholson, Harrison etc. Perhaps the OD is less all-dominating in the Lewis organs, at least in the time of T.C. Lewis himself?

I suppose it is slightly unfair of me to compare Hele (by which I mean John rather than George) and Willis organs since Hele really belongs to the next generation. His Great ODs do often give the impression of being almost of Open Diapason no.1 type scale, even when there is only one of them. They seem significantly bigger than those of Victorian builders and personally I find the effect oppresive, though I admit I am biased. I think it was MM who pointed out that T. C. Lewis's diapason choruses remained faithful to the concept of the vertical chorus, in the sense that the centre of tonal gravity was not so centrered on 8' pitch as was becoming the norm. The church I can see from my back window has a IIP Lewis that has a glorious Great diapason chorus. The Open is full of harmonics and you can play on it for ages without getting tired of it - which is not something you could say of Hele's.

 

I have tued a couple of N&L organs, which has both a Gamba and a Dulciana on the Great - an interesting discovery.

The first organ I ever played had both these stops too. It also exhibits the type of small Swell I had in mind. It was potentially quite fiery, thanks to its bright Cornopean, but unfortunately the whole organ was buried in a stone chamber in an extremely lofty church with a dry acoustic and even the Great struggled to make itself heard, let alone the Swell buried at the back. http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=N09699

 

I note that Willis's Great string was often a Viol d'Amour, e.g. http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=N18172. Were these stops just Gambas under another name or was there a real difference?

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"His Great ODs do often give the impression of being almost of Open Diapason no.1 type scale, even when there is only one of them."

(Quote)

 

There was an illustrious predecessor....

Has it open-toe voicing ? And leathered mouths ?

 

Pierre

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I'm only a humble player, Pierre, so I'm afraid you're asking the wrong person! I really don't know about the toes, but as far as I know Hele didn't leather his diapasons. At any rate, I've never seen one. I think it would be wrong to draw too many parallels between Hele and Hope-Jones. Although Hele organs are principally 8' organs, Hele still did believe in the value of colour at 4' pitch - unlike HJ, who merely left octave couplers to do the work. Anecdotal tales of old local organists here show Hele's taste to have been very much the fashion of the time. Typical is the story of Dr Harold Lake (1878-1961), the organist of Tavistock Parish Church and a minor composer, who, when setting up the pistons at St Andrew's, Plymouth for a recital, eliminated every stop above 4' pitch with the words, "I can't stand these squeaky things!" I am sure similar tales abound everywhere.

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Guest Echo Gamba
I'm only a humble player, Pierre, so I'm afraid you're asking the wrong person! I really don't know about the toes, but as far as I know Hele didn't leather his diapasons. At any rate, I've never seen one. I think it would be wrong to draw too many parallels between Hele and Hope-Jones. Although Hele organs are principally 8' organs, Hele still did believe in the value of colour at 4' pitch - unlike HJ, who merely left octave couplers to do the work. Anecdotal tales of old local organists here show Hele's taste to have been very much the fashion of the time. Typical is the story of Dr Harold Lake (1878-1961), the organist of Tavistock Parish Church and a minor composer, who, when setting up the pistons at St Andrew's, Plymouth for a recital, eliminated every stop above 4' pitch with the words, "I can't stand these squeaky things!" I am sure similar tales abound everywhere.

 

I have heard a similar story concerning Dr W H Harris

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"unlike HJ, who merely left octave couplers to do the work"

(Quote)

 

It is interesting to know Hele might have differed from H-J conceptions, of course,

not simply following; but the above sentence I do not agree with.

H-J used 4' indeed -up to some 2'- and Quintadenas as a mutation rank substitute.

He even experimented with a kind of Quintadena that yeld the Tierce instead

of the Quint (Tiercina).

We'd rather go for a Cornet today, of course, but the intention was there.

 

Pierre

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I played recently a wonderful 2-manual Father Willis in Emmanuel URC, Cambridge, and the points raied here all seem to be valid, especially with reference to the bright cornopean stop. In terms of the use of the great Gamba, this seemed to be one of the loudest stops on the Great (although this may have been different in the body of the church) and didn't seem suitable for accompanying (instead, a Dulciana was also provided on the Great, presumably for this purpose). I used it as a solo stop, but it is also possible to view it as part of an integrated choir manual on the great.

 

Just a few thoughts...

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Try playing on the Aubertin strings at St Louis en L'Ile in Paris or St John's College Oxford - they are real ear openers. 'Like nothing from any UK tradition. I am not qualified to go too far into Bach organs but I'd love to do a Bach cantata using one of these instruments only for the accompaniment. The strings almost sound like real 'Baroque' strings and the flutes like real 'Baroque' flutes.

 

As to Great Gambas etc. - they could be seen to be part of a tradition where 8's and 4's etc. are combined horizontally to achieve variety and contrast - less part of he 'neo' tradition of registering vertically ie. single stops/pitches 'piled up' on top of each other. (I remember some discussion on here a while ago about how each of these were used by different organists at Gloucester Cathedral. Some would go straight for an 8, 4, 2 etc. effect - thin etc. while others would start by coupling all the 8s - adding 4s etc. - much more lush an effect.)

 

Also - the only stop that will accompany a Swell Oboe solo is often the Great string (or Dulciana) - certainly on my instrument the 8' Great flute is too big for this purpose so the (mildish) string is invaluable.

 

Alastair

 

I have also found the Dulciana to be most useful in this respect. There are some beautiful examples to be found. What a pity that they have become unfashionable to some people. I think that an unenclosed Dulciana provides a wonderful alternative to the enclosed Salicional /Celeste effect in the Swell.

I have also played some wonderful organs in Stockholm with a wide variety of strings, some mild, some big and French. The 3 - manual romantic organ in the St Maria Magdelena Church has no less than 5 strings on manual III, including a Salicet at 4' pitch. One could sit and improvise all day!

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I have also found the Dulciana to be most useful in this respect. There are some beautiful examples to be found. What a pity that they have become unfashionable to some people. I think that an unenclosed Dulciana provides a wonderful alternative to the enclosed Salicional /Celeste effect in the Swell.

I have also played some wonderful organs in Stockholm with a wide variety of strings, some mild, some big and French. The 3 - manual romantic organ in the St Maria Magdelena Church has no less than 5 strings on manual III, including a Salicet at 4' pitch. One could sit and improvise all day!

 

What do Boarders think about the solo string chorus at Ely??

 

Contra Viola 16

Viole d'Orchestre 8

Viole Celeste 8

Viole Octaviante 4

Cornet de Violes III

 

When I was younger I thought it was rather a luxurious waste- but I haven't heard it since.....

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What do Boarders think about the solo string chorus at Ely??

 

Contra Viola 16

Viole d'Orchestre 8

Viole Celeste 8

Viole Octaviante 4

Cornet de Violes III

 

When I was younger I thought it was rather a luxurious waste- but I haven't heard it since.....

 

 

I haven't heard the Ely chorus but if it is anything like the Durham one it is absolutely wonderful and adds a whole new range of colour particularly to the Psalms. I remember spending nearly a week in residence with a visiting choir in Durham a few years ago and used the string chorus a lot. You could use the orchestral reeds with it and really do all sorts of things. Sounded great with full swell too!

 

Best

 

DO

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