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A Fine Organ Sounding Good In A Concert Hall

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Winspear Wonder

 

... this huge 96-stop Canadian organ has more colour than even Liszt, in his wildest dreams, could ever have imagined’ (Gramophone)

 

terrific … fantastic … a very fine instrument’, ‘Obviously, it fulfills everything. It's a really good concert hall organ, it really sounds in the building. The soft sounds, the deep sounds, they're all working so well in the building. And of course the loud choruses are really telling, over the orchestra if necessary. But every single stop is a thing of beauty.’ (Christopher Herrick)

 

Recently, there has been quite a few comments made about concert hall organs. The general concensus seems to be that it is very difficult to get an organ to sound good in a modern concert hall. While the Disney Hall organ is one counter-example, here is another. The acoustic in the Winspear Centre is simply imppecable. This is the largest mechanical organ on the continent. You can hear it for yourself here.

 

The show is 90 minutes long and includes wide ranging music by Clarke, Bartok, Mulet and a new concerto by Hetu. The performers are Christopher Herrick, Rachel Laurin and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra directed by Mario Bernardi.

 

More photographs and the stop list is available from the Orgues Létourneau website. Opus 50

 

A Hyperion record of this organ played by Christopher Herrick and Jeremy Spurgeon is also available. Here are two samples: David Johnson: Trumpet Tune in G and Liszt: Fuga from Fantasia and Fugue on ‘Ad nos, ad salutarem undam’.

 

By the way, the hall was desinged by the same firm as the Birmingham Symphony Hall, Artec. See if you like the sound of this organ in this hall and tell us what you think.

opus50_a3.jpg

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As a guy somewhat accustomed to romantic organs, having passed

much time with forgetted examples untouched since zig-tenths of years,

I'm always a bit uncomfortable with the modern "orchestral" organs,

Concert-Hall organs etc.

This one is a fine example of these modern instruments, extremely well

done, voiced and regulated etc but to my ears it is not a romantic organ,

but still a neo-classical one.

 

The main reason for that are the "stiff attack" of the pipes, aimed at since

fifty years to get "polyphonic precision", togheter with light and precise

tracker actions.

Romantic music needs the supple, mellow attack of a genuine romantic

style of voicing, close to the actually round attacks of the orchestra's

instruments.

 

I have the impression (this is something very general and not about this

very organ in particular) that today it is believed "romantic tone= loudness

and darkness"; for me nor the first nor the other are true.

The maximum output of a Walcker or Cavaillé-Coll organ does not exceed

a baroque organ's one, while the darker registration are always firm and

self-restrained, because of the harmonic developpment of the stops.

 

I may be erring towards the treshold of conservatism, but I do not believe big scales and high volumes are the answer to accomodate organ in modern, strangely designed concert-halls (or churches by the way).

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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I have the impression (this is something very general and not about this

very organ in particular) that today it is believed "romantic tone= loudness

and darkness"; for me nor the first nor the other are true.

The maximum output of a Walcker or Cavaillé-Coll organ does not exceed

a baroque organ's one, while the darker registration are always firm and

self-restrained, because of the harmonic developpment of the stops.

 

I may be erring towards the treshold of conservatism, but I do not believe big scales and high volumes are the answer to accomodate organ in modern, strangely designed concert-halls (or churches by the way).

 

===================

 

I'm sorry, but that is neither a scientific statement nor a musical one.

 

The bass output of both Walcker and Cavaille-Coll organs, with their large wood basses fed from copius supplies of wind, is vast as compared to a true baroque instrument. It's interesting to compare recording a baroque organ and a big romantic organ; the latter of which requires much reduced gain levels. Once we get to orchestral organs and cinema organs, the power output is enormous. Look at it the other way, and consider how many horsepower are being used to pump air into big romantic instruments, and assuming that it isn't all leaking away, the energy is going somewhere!

 

Unfortunately, the ears are not a good guide to what is atually going on, because the brain modifies what we hear a very great deal; like a whole studio full of tricks.

 

The trick of voicing a good organ is to adapt the sound to the room, and if that room is taking away mid-frequencies at an alarming rate, then a good organ-builder has to compensate. The best way of compensating is to increase the mid-frequencies, and that is perhaps best done with high cut-ups, bigger scaling and a healthy supply of wind; thus giving a voicer some control over the relative amplitude of pipes at different points in the audible spectrum.

 

In other words, it is what I said right at the beginning about many modern concert-halls........as baroque as you like, but with Wurlitzer firmly in mind!

 

I stand by what I said.

 

MM

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You need many horsepower to feed many 8' flue pipes, even for so

tender things as Dulcianas; so there is no relationship between

the power at the bellow and the power you can measure.

 

The power of a romantic organ may be impressive, but we know

a Silbermann organ is actually louder than a Walcker (in decibel),

while the Isnard at St-Maximin du Var outpowers a Cavaillé-Coll

easily -in that case I agree the decibel measure would tell the

reverse, tough-.

The bass pipes in german romantic organs are actually quite shallow,

while it is true some Cavaillé-Coll's pipes could accomodate a man

(A perfect murder idea for a belgian author!), but the wind pressures are

always low for these pipes (as in english organs).

 

High pressures in theatre organs are not meant to accomodate acoustic

needs, nor do their pipes scales; it is a matter of style .

If you "push" a "classic" organ by this kind of means to this aim, you no

longer get a classic organ but something else.

So it may be that some kind of rooms may be better served with a Wurlitzer,

but then let us name them as such -there is nothing wrong with a theatre organ-.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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The power of a romantic organ may be impressive, but we know

a Silbermann organ is actually louder than a Walcker (in decibel),

while the Isnard at St-Maximin du Var outpowers a Cavaillé-Coll

easily -in that case I agree the decibel measure would tell the

reverse, tough-.

The bass pipes in german romantic organs are actually quite shallow,

while it is true some Cavaillé-Coll's pipes could accomodate a man

(A perfect murder idea for a belgian author!), but the wind pressures are

always low for these pipes (as in english organs).

 

High pressures in theatre organs are not meant to accomodate acoustic

needs, nor do their pipes scales; it is a matter of style .

If you "push" a "classic" organ by this kind of means to this aim, you no

longer get a classic organ but something else.

So it may be that some kind of rooms may be better served with a Wurlitzer,

but then let us name them as such -there is nothing wrong with a theatre organ-.

 

==============

 

Well, I suppose I deserved this reply. I should have been more specific.

 

For a start, we have no point of reference for Pierre's statements concerning relative loudness, and that is critical. Simply waving a microphone at an organ is not a reliable guide to what is going on, for a variety of reasons, and in order to understand actual sound pressure levels, it would be necessary to remove pipes, place them in a controlled environment and then take measurements using identical measuring equipment under identical circumstances concerning humidity, wind-presures, microphone gain-levels and distance between sound-source and collection point.

 

Few, if any, on this board will have gone to that trouble.

 

Using a highly directional microphone placed close to windchests would be a more reliable, but still flawed guide to what is going on.

 

The problems start whan we look at microphones and sound measuring equipment.

Microphones are "coloured" and individual, and even matched pairs demonstrate slight differences. Sound measuring equipment usually has dBA filtering, designed to match the human response to human hearing at low to mid-frequencies, and even "flat" responses are therefore anything but flat.

 

On a practical level, any recording or sound test performed on an organ in a given room, is influenced by the acoustic and the relative distances involved between sound source and hearing/sampling point, which is why the whole business is totally un-scientific and why dBA levels can be meaningless as a measure of initial sound energy levels.

 

Concerning Wurlitzer organs, there are certain misconceptions being being trotted out here. The scaling is not that big, and I seem to recall the name of Topfer being associated with the progressions. The Tibia is certainly of big scale, which is the fundamental chorus sound of a theatre organ; all other things being subservient, save for the snappy big reeds and hugely powerful diaphonic basses, where they exist. The Diapasons are really quite normal, but of course have leathered lips, saw tooth nicking, closeed foot-holes and relatively high cut-ups. Under those circumstances, wind-pressure is much less important than might be assumed.

 

Many classical organs have bigger scales, and if we think of Father Willis diapasons (geigens?), the cut ups are relatively high and they are blown hard. In fact, an Arthur Harrison First Open Diapason, with leathered lips, is probably a LOT louder than a Wurlitzer one. Pierre should be aware, I think, that when John Compton built cinema organs, he was actually building church organs with additional Tibias, Tremulants and percussion stops. They can be made to sound EXACTLY like many of Compton's church extension instruments.

 

However, we are in real danger of missing the whole point, because there is another factor in all this.

 

Human hearing is at its' most critical within the frequencies of 1KHz and 4Khz; perhaps the frequncies most especially found in nature, where sounds within this range alert us to the dangers of predators. As I have stated previously, modern building materials can have the disturbing habit of killing frequncies in this range very quickly, and it can be quite an intimidating experience to walk into a building

using extensive amounts of mid-frequency absorbing material.

 

Organ builders have a long association with a very different type of acoustic, and centuries of pipe-scaling and voicing techniques have exploited these acoustics to the full. Even drier acoustics still retained a certain balance, for whilst it may have been necessary to thicken textures and provide weightier basses in dry rooms, the critical mid-frequencies emerged relatively un-scathed.

 

Let's put it another way, a good Compton organ in a dry acoustic has almost the same brilliance and weight of tone as that of a Schnitger in a great German hall-church; though other differences should be obvious enough.

 

Because not all modern concert-halls are built by great acoustic engineers, we see the problem emerging that even some of the most respected organ-builders in the world fall foul of them. I would also assert boldly, that when an acoustic is of the mid-frequency gobbling type, any attempt to install a consultant's dream of a new, gently blown "werkprinzip" style of instrument, is almost certainly doomed to failure from the off.

 

Perhaps it is no co-incidence that the Americans, with their heavily carpeted, luxury churches, acoustic tiling and heaven knows what else, are working with a familiar problem, and know how to get around it.

 

I would remind Pierre that the Disney Hall organ, in the words of one contributor, uses big-scales, high cut-ups and relatively heavy pipe pressures. The pipework of the Great organ is 5"wg.....about the same pressure as realistically hits the top lip of Wurlitzer diapasons!

 

Apparently, this organ sounds good in the hall, so maybe the proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof.

 

Like I said, "as classical as you like, but with Wurlitzer in mind."

 

I STILL stand by it.

 

MM

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"Like I said, "as classical as you like, but with Wurlitzer in mind."

 

(Quote)

 

.....But never a genuine romantic organ.

 

Standing by it too.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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For what it's worth, I thought this instrument seemed too dependent on its reeds for power - rather like a number of modern concert hall organs in the UK. I wonder whether any school other than the Iberian can be played idiomatically on this instrument. I really do hope I'm wrong and that it has a magnificent diapason chorus that hits you between the eyes, like the Klais at Hayleybury, but which, for reasons known only to himself, Christopher Herrick hasn't seen fit to use in the Liszt.

 

Of course, this judgment is being formed on the basis of only two recordings. One really needs to hear it (a) in the hall and (:D in several different hands to form a balanced view.

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Nick,

 

Have you checked out the first link on my original post? It's a recording of the opening concert for the new organ and I thought there were quite a few pieces that showcased the stronger diapason stops. Of course, I can be wrong as I have yet to develop the ability to tell the names of stops by just listening. But I'm pretty sure I can tell between flue and reed pipes.

 

Eugene

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"Like I said, "as classical as you like, but with Wurlitzer in mind."

 

(Quote)

 

.....But never a genuine romantic organ.

 

======================

 

What, I wonder, is a genuine romantic organ?

 

Cavaille-Coll, Schulze, Walcker, Hill, Harrison & Harrison, Skinner, Lewis or maybe Hope-Jones?

 

All these builders built totally different instruments, but they're all romantic.

 

Surely, "romantic" and "neo-baroque" are merely labels which attempt to categorise a style and concept; not limit the period or the artistic means?

 

MM

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That is indeed a good question, MM, but it would

need a book to answer it properly.

 

A romantic organ may be "summarized" as so (just as a way to tell):

 

-It's based on the Abschwächungsprinzip: see the 14 pages here:

 

http://forum.aceboard.net/18898-3199-15070...ng-ennuyeux.htm

 

-It's voiced with an ascendency of strenght towards the treble;

(to a degree varying with the stop's families)

 

-The attacks are round, mellow, without "chiff";

 

Here is an example of the two above: a 1907 german Principal 8':

 

http://www.aeoline.de/Schultheis_Schlimbac...R_Prinz8_HW.mp3

 

-The mixtures are designed, made and voiced to crown registrations

containing all families of stops, not the Diapasons alone, save in England

(Diapason chorus+Reeds, Flutes and Gambas excluded).

 

Here is an example of a romantic mixture (Schlimbach) played alone:

 

http://www.aeoline.de/Schultheis_Schlimbac...R_Mix223_HW.mp3

 

(For the rest: soft stops, dynamic range etc see the link above, or do I really

need to translate these 14 pages?)

 

As a result you can build a romantic organ with a nearly classical stop-list

(see Hill!)

 

The Neo-baroque organ was tought as a reaction against romantic design and voicing

(which was difficult and so the voicers were "the kings", not the consultants),

with a quest towards what was believed to be the true baroque organ,

i.e. "the reverse of the romantic organ". This is very well explained

by Jonathan Ambrosino on his Website:

 

http://homepage.mac.com/glarehead/ambrosin...re-ohs1994.html

 

One more:

 

http://homepage.mac.com/glarehead/ambrosin...-co-1998-3.html

 

Another excellent article about the whole topic:

 

http://homepage.mac.com/glarehead/ambrosin...re-present.html

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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That is indeed a good question, MM, but it would

need a book to answer it properly.

 

A romantic organ may be "summarized" as so (just as a way to tell):

 

-It's based on the Abschwächungsprinzip: see the 14 pages here:

 

http://forum.aceboard.net/18898-3199-15070...ng-ennuyeux.htm

 

-It's voiced with an ascendency of strenght towards the treble;

(to a degree varying with the stop's families)

 

-The attacks are round, mellow, without "chiff";

 

etc etc.

 

===========================

 

Organ historians love to create links and time-lines, whereas great organ-builders create musical instruments.

 

I suspect that once one leaves the mainland of Europe, the links start to collapse like a pack of cards. The perceived wisdom seems to be Germany, then France, with Hill and Willis annoyingly getting a look in as the 20th century approached.

I could argue, and indeed WOULD argue that St.Bavo, Haarlem, was the first big, romantic organ....quite unlike any other before it, and quite different to almost anything which followed later. Of course, no-one was writing music for the organ very much after 1750, but I feel sure that the metrical psalm accompaniments sounded splendid.

 

It's actually quite interesting to be reminded of the fact, that in the UK, after an brief flirtation with German romanticism, the style was dismissed by other builders such as Willis but continued to be revered by Lewis, until Willis gobbled up the company and closed it. Cavaille-Coll organs were not terribly respected in the UK, though a few found homes in the UK; the reeds being considered coarse. Anneessens organs were derided by many eminent organists in the UK, and apart from a handful of Schulze/Walcker instruments, the German experiment was soon considered "old hat."

 

The biggest influence on America was UK organ-building, which later flowed back in the late romantic era as Skinner demonstrated new sounds and ways of doing things. Even American money propped up certain UK organ-builders. Wasn't Compton funded from America?

 

The simple fact is, nationalism, empire and insularity, as well as the Anglo-American "special relationship," more or less formed the brick-wall which dismissed continental organ-building as inferior, and even the American Classic, with its' Germanic influences, probably owed as much to T C Lewis as anyone else.

 

When all is said and done, MOST romantic organs are to be found in America and the UK. It's therefore a pity that they didn't inspire heavyweight organ-composers such as the organs of Cavaille-Coll and Walcker did.

 

Still, we shouldn't get depressed. After all, Vierne played on a Father Willis sounds a lot better than Howells played on a Cavaille-Coll! :D

 

MM

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The first genuine romantic organ was built at the Paulskirche, Frankfurt,

in 1829, by Walcker.

It was the result of a torough re-thinking of Abt Vogler's ideas combined with the southern german baroque tradition.

William Hill commenced to build romantic organs in Britain about the same time, I do not know under which influences.

 

Cavaillé-Coll visited Walcker organs at least two times in the 1840's.

 

The german influence in Britain is sufficiently known and documented.

 

The first romantic organ in the US. was the Walcker in the Boston Music-Hall

which was widely influential; not to forget, too, is the fact a majority of workers

with firms such as Roosevelt and, later, Skinner, were germans.

 

(An anecdote about this was when E.M. Skinner asked an employee to name

a kind of Gemshorn he had found. The answer was "Erzähler").

 

So it's a belgian historian that tells you: the romantic organ is a german

invention. An invention that was adopted outside Germany by the english

first.

The english did contribute from the start, in that Vogler introduced the Swellbox

in Germany from England.

The work of William Hill deserves a torough examination, but I'd add Samuel Green as well; like the southern germans baroque builders -among which a certain Snetzler, tough swiss- he may well be called a "pre-romantic" builder.

So we end up far from "sheer power", rather at the exact opposite.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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The first genuine romantic organ was built at the Paulskirche, Frankfurt,

in 1829, by Walcker.

 

William Hill commenced to build romantic organs in Britain about the same time, I do not know under which influences.

 

..........The first romantic organ in the US. was the Walcker in the Boston Music-Hall

which was widely influential............

 

So it's a belgian historian that tells you: the romantic organ is a german

invention. An invention that was adopted outside Germany by the english

first.

 

The English did contribute from the start, in that Vogler introduced the Swellbox

in Germany from England.

 

The work of William Hill deserves a thorough examination, but I'd add Samuel Green as well...........

 

======================

 

I had overlooked the influence of the Methuen organ in the US, but as Pierre will know, it only existed for twenty years before falling silent; eventually being resurrected of course. Certainly, this instrument possibly served as a model for many later US instruments, with their use of a German style Choir/Positive organ.

However, the orchestral organ soon totally eclipsed this style, and in time, the work of Estey and Hope-Jones took classical organ design well away from the German origins.

 

All this apart, I have had this conversation elsewhere at some length, and it seems to me that both French and German romantic instruments serve quite different musical purposes. It is reasonably obvious that the French style is all about colour, dynamic, expressiveness and impressionism, whilst the German romantic instrument, as a concept, relies on homogeneity and the vast tonal pallet which can be exploited to the full by the rollschweller pedal. The two styles of instrument are really like cheese and chalk.

 

Is there really anything to be learned from either style of instrument; impressive though they may be?

 

It's one thing to want to re-create historic Le Mans races by using an old Bentley or Mercedes, but the fact is, if you just want win a race, a powerful modern saloon car would beat them hands down.

 

I am regularly thrilled when I hear Reger performed on the Bavo organ, and equally thrilled when I hear French music (especially) performed on the organ of Blackburn Cathedral. By the same token, both German and French romantic music always sound splendid when performed on the Willis organ of St.George's Hall, Liverpool.

 

As for William Hill, he was guided by others, but never really strayed away from what he had picked up on the way. The so-called "German" period is about as German as Indonesia is, and the stop-lists do not reflect the reality.

 

Samuel Greene has nothing to teach anyone. Muffled, gentle, indistinct, lacking build-up and chorus-work; they would probably make better musical-boxes than fully grown-up classical organs, but they doubtless have their place in history.

 

MM

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Dear MM,

 

Well, you will end up convincing me maybe I'd better use my time as a too early

pensioned sell-out-by-date guy writing this book about the history of the romantic organ -something too pedantic by far for a man alone save with say four reincarnations in order to have the time to get the thing plus or minus correct-.

 

To say the germans only influenced the US's choir organ is to see the whole stuff

as Lego bits.

The core of any romantic organ, be it british, polish, belgian, canadian,mexican,

or even -as far as something like that existed save imported from the Netherlands-

indonesian, is 1) The Abschwächungsprinzip (see link abobe) 2) The Grundtönigkeit.

 

The first may be summarized with "terraced dynamics", that is, the disposition of the stops between claviers by their strength:

 

Manual Eins FFF

Manual Zwei F

Manual Drei MF

Manual Vier P

Manual Fünf pp (Fernwerk)

 

(For the king size thing of course! far more common was F-MF-P)

 

The second was a quite lenghty process that began in Italy during the Renaissance

period, and may have influenced the ancient english organ -What? England at the forefront? Our little poor island (etc, etc, etc)?- with the duplication of the 8' Principal, which lend rapidly, probably incidentally trough tuning problems, to the "Voce Umana", the first undulating stop.

 

This, togheter with the singing quality of the italian Principal, arrived in southern Germany, where it was aimed to add these qualities to the existing german foundation tone.

And so we had four flue 8' on a clavier already in the 18th century.

The "Grundtönigkeit" principle emerged from the necessity to have all these stops working togheter, not only as a pack of disparate bits.

It was found a kind of chorus could be made if all stops had a different harmonic developpment:

-Stopped pipes: Bourdon

-Diapason tone

-Gamba tone

-Flute tone

 

This association you will find in all romantic organs worldwide... save in England (again?) where this role was held by multiple Diapasons of differing scales

(I, II, II....Plus this lovely Dulciana).

 

-What is "Orchestral?" From an historic point of view, the southern german organ

already was one. It was not a Skinner, no doubt, but it was aimed to be a vocal

instrument and an imitative one too.

 

-To try to distinguish "German and French" would lead to erring because 1)- There

were many exchanges between the two (I mean not only amunitions!) 2)- What

is a french romantic organ? Cavaillé-Coll's was a synthesis of spanish, german

and classic french one, while Merklin was a Walcker pupil who happened to write

stop-lists in french.... So what?

 

-I believe you impone on Hill a large dosis of understatment; this builder could

actually have been at the very forefront, a leading force in the arising of the

romantic organ.

 

-Maybe I must see here the reasons the english cathedral organ to be better

appreciated and praised....Outside UK. It is of course excellent in a vast Repertoire,

from Mendelssohn and S-S Wesley up to Howells, many french music included.

 

-Ditto Green. Would only one of these "music boxes" land in Belgium, it would be

Denkmal at once. Repertoire or no Repertoire (always this old neo-baroque

idea that forbiddes all save neo-baroque, academic designs), mind you, to find again such voicing techniques and aims, you have to wait up until the late-romantic german organ with his own music-box -The Fernwerk-

 

The romantic organ isn't the Tuba alone; it's also: Aeoline, Dolce, Dulciana...

 

Enough for today!

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Dear MM,

 

Well, you will end up convincing me maybe I'd better use my time as a too early

pensioned sell-out-by-date guy writing this book about the history of the romantic organ -something too pedantic by far for a man alone save with say four reincarnations in order to have the time to get the thing plus or minus correct-.

 

To say the germans only influenced the US's choir organ is to see the whole stuff

as Lego bits.

The core of any romantic organ, be it british, polish, belgian, canadian,mexican,

or even -as far as something like that existed save imported from the Netherlands-

indonesian, is 1) The Abschwächungsprinzip (see link abobe) 2) The Grundtönigkeit.

 

The first may be summarized with "terraced dynamics", that is, the disposition of the stops between claviers by their strength:

 

Manual Eins FFF

Manual Zwei F

Manual Drei MF

Manual Vier P

Manual Fünf pp (Fernwerk)

 

(For the king size thing of course! far more common was F-MF-P)

 

The second was a quite lenghty process that began in Italy during the Renaissance

period, and may have influenced the ancient english organ -What? England at the forefront? Our little poor island (etc, etc, etc)?- with the duplication of the 8' Principal, which lend rapidly, probably incidentally trough tuning problems, to the "Voce Umana", the first undulating stop.

 

This, togheter with the singing quality of the italian Principal, arrived in southern Germany, where it was aimed to add these qualities to the existing german foundation tone.

And so we had four flue 8' on a clavier already in the 18th century.

The "Grundtönigkeit" principle emerged from the necessity to have all these stops working togheter, not only as a pack of disparate bits.

It was found a kind of chorus could be made if all stops had a different harmonic developpment:

-Stopped pipes: Bourdon

-Diapason tone

-Gamba tone

-Flute tone

 

This association you will find in all romantic organs worldwide... save in England (again?) where this role was held by multiple Diapasons of differing scales

(I, II, II....Plus this lovely Dulciana).

 

-What is "Orchestral?" From an historic point of view, the southern german organ

already was one. It was not a Skinner, no doubt, but it was aimed to be a vocal

instrument and an imitative one too.

 

-To try to distinguish "German and French" would lead to erring because 1)- There

were many exchanges between the two (I mean not only amunitions!) 2)- What

is a french romantic organ? Cavaillé-Coll's was a synthesis of spanish, german

and classic french one, while Merklin was a Walcker pupil who happened to write

stop-lists in french.... So what?

 

-I believe you impone on Hill a large dosis of understatment; this builder could

actually have been at the very forefront, a leading force in the arising of the

romantic organ.

 

-Maybe I must see here the reasons the english cathedral organ to be better

appreciated and praised....Outside UK. It is of course excellent in a vast Repertoire,

from Mendelssohn and S-S Wesley up to Howells, many french music included.

 

-Ditto Green. Would only one of these "music boxes" land in Belgium, it would be

Denkmal at once. Repertoire or no Repertoire (always this old neo-baroque

idea that forbiddes all save neo-baroque, academic designs), mind you, to find again such voicing techniques and aims, you have to wait up until the late-romantic german organ with his own music-box -The Fernwerk-

 

The romantic organ isn't the Tuba alone; it's also: Aeoline, Dolce, Dulciana...

 

Enough for today!

 

====================

 

I wouldn't discourage anyone from writing a book Pierre....all strength to you.

 

It's fun finding the exceptions to the general trend, and in quoting "four flue registers" as an essential component of the romantic Great organ, then of course, you will find exactly this at St.Bavo, with 2X8ft Principals (always heard together) plus a Gamba and a flute. Not only that, the duplicate 8ft Principal idea is found on one other manual also. Also, at Haarlem, you can mix and match most registers quite freely.

 

Haarlem may be a baroque organ in concept, but in practice, it certainly points the way forward to the romantic period, and can produce the most ravishing romantic sounds.

 

The William Hill thing is quite interesting, but he never left the UK and knew nothing about what was going on elsewhere except perhaps, by what others told him. Certainly, the organist of Doncaster Parish Church at the time when Hill was extending the organ to "German" compass, spent much time abroad and knew many important instruments there.

 

I always get the impression that William Hill was a humble Lincolnshire-born man who listened to others and tried faithfully to provide what they wanted, using his tremendous natural organ-building abilities and craftsmanship.

 

I worry a little about the idea that Pierre seems to link South German organs with English, and especially American, orchestral organs of a much later period. Colour, homogeneity and tonal variety are one thing, but when individual registers

become more important as solo voices than as part of an organ-chorus, and simply cannot blend, such organs had left serious organ-building far behind.

 

MM

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"worry a little about the idea that Pierre seems to link South German organs with English, and especially American, orchestral organs of a much later period. Colour, homogeneity and tonal variety are one thing, but when individual registers

become more important as solo voices than as part of an organ-chorus, and simply cannot blend, such organs had left serious organ-building far behind."

 

(Quote)

 

Well, something may happen on a 150 years period! but the link is there,

tough; moreover, "non blending" may not be appropriate for builders

like Skinner....

 

Once more, what is a "proper chorus"?

I have some descriptions by Sumner, for example, an important

english author but....I'll find at least hundred good choruses that

do not match his descriptions!

 

"I always get the impression that William Hill was a humble Lincolnshire-born man who listened to others and tried faithfully to provide what they wanted, using his tremendous natural organ-building abilities and craftsmanship."

 

(Quote)

I would be willing to accept that idea, but where did these "better knowing"

gentlemen find their inspiration? At this time -1820-1830- could they

have understood what the works of a Gabler or Holzhay would mean shortly

afterwards?

I suggest the question might deserve a bit more investigation.

 

 

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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(Quote MM)

 

"I always get the impression that William Hill was a humble Lincolnshire-born man who listened to others and tried faithfully to provide what they wanted, using his tremendous natural organ-building abilities and craftsmanship."

 

(Quote - Pierre Lauwers)

 

I would be willing to accept that idea, but where did these "better knowing"

gentlemen find their inspiration? At this time -1820-1830- could they

have understood what the works of a Gabler or Holzhay would mean shortly

afterwards?

I suggest the question might deserve a bit more investigation.

 

==========================

 

I don't think I properly know the answer Pierre, but if we move on to the building of the first great Schulze organ at Doncaster, it is abundantly obvious that there was, by then, an awareness of things.

 

Working back from that point, we might usefully recall that Mendelssohn, as a very young man and organ virtuoso, was obliged to cancel recitals due to the fact that the organs were unsuitable.

 

Mendelssohn had such a tremendous impact in the UK, and because he enjoyed a close friendship with the German Prince Albert, he would automatically be part of the "inner sanctum" of musical life. I wish that all the links fell into place concerning Dr Gauntlett, Mendelssohn, Prince Albert and the rest, but I have yet to come across anything definitive.

 

More importantly, it is known that the organist of Doncaster Parish Church was especially well-versed in "the best organs in Europe" and was known to have travelled extensively. Furthermore, the Bavo organ was well-known in the UK, and Charles Burney certainly knew the instrument; the fame of which spread around Europe almost from the moment it was finished.

 

I wouldn't dare speculate without firm evidence, but I have a hunch that the Bavo organ, being quite near, had an affect on those in the UK who went ot hear it, as it still does to this day.

 

Almost certainly, organists were THE establishment figures in musical academia, and it follows naturally, that the walls of august institutions would resound to passionate arguments about the merits or otherwise of the "German" style of organ-building.

 

Equally, there was an "old-guard" who defended the pedal-less, F-compass instruments, and one of the most celebrated examples of this concerns the organ of Lichfield Cathedral, when Holdich supplied a very comprehensive "German" style pedal organ.

 

I think the reply the organist gave was, "....he (Holdich) may put them (the pedals) in, but I will never use them."

 

Knowing what the hierarchy was like, and knowing how the educated musical-elite operated, I have serious doubts that they would take the slightest notice of anything that William Hill might have suggested. He would have been, I'm afraid, regarded as just a workman and servant, just as Schnitger and da Vinci were long before him.

 

This was long before the idea that an organ-builder may have

a) brains

B) education

c) musical ability

d) superior knowledge

 

Of course, Schulze, Cavaille-Coll and Father Willis proved that Hazlitt was right when he wrote about "The ignorance of the learned."

 

MM

 

PS: The great Victorian passion was continental travel Pierre; especially by rail. Quite a lot of people had connections with Germany as railway-engineer, and which town was the great railway engineering one, which supplied rolling stock? Doncaster, of course!

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It may be interesting to add some points:

 

-The Schulze british adventure was later than the Hill's

first achievements (1820-1830);

 

-Mendelssohn complained....About the too heavy touch

of Hill organs.

 

(This we can imagine to be true of these first romantic organs.

We halas have no records for the 1829 Walcker at Frankfurt,

but one can imagine it wasn't neo-baroque light as well!).

 

There are indeed "classes struggles" preconceptions obscuring the

history -"working-class" brilliant people never received the same

attention, this is obvious.

This I suspect could explain, partly at least, why Hill's name is not

as highly praised as others.

But Schnitger is no example of that, quite to the contrary. He lived

an worked in an hanseatic, liberal town. He was a businessman, while

the Silbermanns and the like in central Germany where under tight control

and limitations imponed by their*slightly less democratic* kind of regime.

 

Now let us imagine what these "upper class" travellers might have seen while

touring Europe towards 1820 -not later of course because the revolution by Hill started in the 1820s-.

Had they visited Belgium, they would have encountered one manual organs without any Pedal save some pull-downs 99% of the time; this situation was to be continued up to 1850 or even a bit later.

France had slightly different matters to cope with since some anecdotic problems like

a Revolution in 1789, followed by some funny games up to a 1815 party here in belgian Waterloo; the state of the organ in France round 1820 was little more than an absolute mess -to say the least-. The bigger organs that escaped destruction owed this to the fact they had been used to accompany revolutionnary tunes, but as far as maintenance was concerned....

The situation wasn't better in Germany, largely for the same reasons save there had been no revolution there but only a deep crisis with hundreds thousands people

in hunger state (etc...) from about 1800 up to 1820.

So it was not the best period for this kind of tourism I fear. Save St-Bavo and those southern german organs by Gabler etc and the Silbermann school in central Germany there was but little inspiration to be found in order to tell William what to do.

 

Besyt wishes,

Pierre

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It may be interesting to add some points:

 

-The Schulze british adventure was later than the Hill's

first achievements (1820-1830);

 

Now let us imagine what these "upper class" travellers might have seen while

touring Europe towards 1820 -not later of course because the revolution by Hill started in the 1820s-.

 

(snip)

The situation wasn't better in Germany, largely for the same reasons save there had been no revolution there but only a deep crisis with hundreds thousands people

in hunger state (etc...) from about 1800 up to 1820.

So it was not the best period for this kind of tourism I fear. Save St-Bavo and those southern german organs by Gabler etc and the Silbermann school in central Germany there was but little inspiration to be found in order to tell William what to do.

 

======================

 

I think I made the point about the "later" Schulze influence on British organ-building, but this is not, I suspect, the whole story. Nevertheless, finding the link is probably harder than finding the missing one!

 

I certainly cannot agree with Pierre about "upper class tourism," or his assumptions that apart from the Bavo organ, the only inspiration would possibly come from Silbermann and Gabler, for example.

 

The great fad in 18th century European society was to embark on some grand-tour of Europe....even Bach did a bit of that, and his sons more so. We find Italian musicians as far North as Kiel, and German musicians roaming around Italy. Mozart certainly trailed around Europe, and for some strange reason, seemed to take it all in his stride.

 

As far as the UK is concerned, she had a fifty year advantage in industrialisation and the exploitation of world markets; though others caught up eventually, and the Dutch Empire was certainly a powerful rival in terms of international marine-trade.

 

The links between Germany and England were especially strong, and trade would have been constant along the Hanseatic ports which included Lubeck and Hamburg.

The earliest German railway, starting at Leipzig, was a British endeavour by and large. The English royal-family were of German origin, and there was certainly a counter-reaction to Prince Albert's involvement in UK politics.

 

Knowing Holland well, as I do, I can think of dozens and dozens of inspirational instruments in Holland which do not carry the name Muller or Schnitger; some of them by Hinsz and others by such as Hagabeer. With Hamburg comes the name of Schnitger among others, so it is inconceivable that touring organists would not be aware of a very rich tradition indeed.

 

I doubt that the truth will ever be known, but I suspect that Mendelssohn was the most significant link between the continental tradition and the UK, and a few maybe went out to discover the truth of what he said.

 

Concerning William Hill, who groped around in the dark to some extent, he perhaps arrived at his destination by the best English method of doing things...instinct, trial and error.

 

MM

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"Concerning William Hill, who groped around in the dark to some extent, he perhaps arrived at his destination by the best English method of doing things...instinct, trial and error."

 

(Quote)

 

Indeed! here we are.

In this case we must augment his rating, and that's precisely my point; Hill

may have been a bigger player than we tend to believe it.

I agree with MM the situation wasn't that simple!

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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As a guy somewhat accustomed to romantic organs, having passed

much time with forgetted examples untouched since zig-tenths of years,

I'm always a bit uncomfortable with the modern "orchestral" organs,

Concert-Hall organs etc.

This one is a fine example of these modern instruments, extremely well

done, voiced and regulated etc but to my ears it is not a romantic organ,

but still a neo-classical one.

 

 

I am loathe to judge an instrument purely on the basis of a single hearing of a recorded performance over the web. I listened to it over headphones and the bass is huge, just as I found with the Pipedreams webcast of the new Mander in Atlanta. I guess headphones over the web really pushes the bass. But my computer is not wired up to good speakers, just the built-in laptop speakers, which are like a small, transistor radio type speaker.

 

That said, from what I heard, this organ does not strke me as a true neo-classical organ, as Pierre described it, in the full sense of what I understand the term to mean. To my ears it sounds like an eclectic approach, perhaps not unlike that of CB Fisk of Gloucester, Massachussets. There seems to be more than one style going on here in this new Letourneau instrument. On the one-hand, there appear to be some romantic leanings, especially in some of the flue work and strings with what seems to be fairly prompt speech and no hint of 'chifs' or 'quacks', and then there is the more neo-classical approach in some of the other flue work where some 'chiff' is audible, but, perhaps, not to the degree of a true neo-classical instrument. So I suspect there is some flue work that has open tip voicing, minimal nicking and the languids placed where they produce some 'chiff' and then there is other flue work that seems to have much prompter speech. Both styles can be heard in the Duruflé Siciliene, which is a little unnerving.

 

As for the reeds, the chamades sound fairly brash and vulgar and do more than just provide a crowning glory to a tutti in the manner of, say Cavaillé-Coll. Instead, they tend to dominate the tutti. Some of the softer, solo, manual reeds sound rather unrefined to me and not particularly romantic. But this could just as easily be something caused by microphone placement.

 

I'm not sure whether the instrument relies solely on the reeds for power as has been suggested elsewhere in this thread. I think the mixtures have some part in this too and it is not just force of tone, but harmonic development too.

 

But the missing clue to this puzzle is a live hearing in the flesh. Without that, I do not want to judge this instrument. I'd like to hear how it sounds in the room, how it fills the room and how it sounds with a live orchestra.

 

The eclectic approach is still favoured by many organ builders, unfortunately. I think Fisk achieved a more cohesive result in the big concert hall in Dallas, even though this instrument is also eclectic. Again, I can't tell for sure, because I've not heard the instrument live. But I have talked to somebody who has played it, who says that it does work well in the hall and with orchestras and in the concert hall context.

 

Regards

Anthony

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I'd agree this organ may be considered eclectic; it is in that way I

compare it to the neo-classic style, which opened precisely that way.

 

I listened to it with my B&W speakers, that give a fair idea of the attacks

and the tones, as long as there aren't too big registrations of course.

I forwarded the link to some friends, among which organ-builders.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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