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Modern Tracker Action Organs

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Guest Cynic
Well touch wood St. Chad's Cathedral organ Birmingham hasn't gone wrong yet and it's 16 years old.....

 

 

Wow - how time flies. I remember being present at the opening recital.

 

I'd played its predecessor (a seriously un-special instrument of significant size) and I know David Saint a little. I was initially somewhat disappointed when the specification for the new organ was announced. My impression was 'there's not much of a cathedral organ here', but I was gloriously wrong. The effect, both musical and visual in that cathedral is just stunning; I think it is a very fine instrument indeed.

 

When I think what has happened to J.W.Walkers since, I feel very sad. They (Penells and co.) were capable of bringing such expertise to the task. Please don't judge JWW's work based on hearing St.Martin-in-the-fields!

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I played the T/S Collins twice last year for local choral societies and whilst its limitations are VERY apparent (Brustwerk was useless for choral accompaniment - the damn doors still don't stay at any position - why not fit it with a set of louvres??) it was reasonable. The programme was particularly difficult to register though!

 

Britten - Rejoice in the lamb

Finzi - Lo, the full Final Sacrifice

 

But I did decamp to the piano for the Rutter 'Birthday Madrigals!!'

 

I have to agree with most of you though, that the Rieger at Clifton knocks it into a cocked hat!

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Guest Voix Mystique
Name me a single electric or pneumatic job which has gone on for 50+ years without needing a virtually new action at the end of it.

 

 

Doesn't St. John's, Cardiff have a 1894 Willis with TP key action (mechanical stop action): both are the originals.

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Guest Voix Mystique
I could give you one in Glasgow, now only 11 years old, but trouble after less than 5!

Would that be St. Gilbert's, Sherbrooke?

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I found this recently: http://www.theberkhamstedorgan.org.uk/plannedwork.php which sounds a bit alarming.

 

I haven't heard of any modern Mander, Harrison or Walker mechanical actions wearing out prematurely. Leighton Buzzard PC sounds excellent with a silent action, as does St Martin in the Fields.

 

Hi

 

Maybe that's true of very recent actions - I would hope so - but the experiments with different materials (aluminium, plastic etc) have - at least at times - proved problematic - the Mander at Jesus College, Cambridge http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N05212 is a case in point. Addmitedly, a very heavily used organ, but the action was very rattly in recent years.

 

Is the answerto return to traditional materials, or have these teething problems been resolved in newer designs of tracker action?

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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To have to spend 40,000 GBP on a 23-year-old mechanical action organ is a damning indictment of the original instrument. This unless the church have been alarmingly negligent in looking after it (quite possible, can someone tell us which is true?). To then spend part of that money adding digital stops is a sad combination of incredibly bad stewardship and artistic bankruptcy, especially in these troubled economic times. In my opinion, of course.

 

"Is the answerto return to traditional materials?"

 

The merits of 'modernisation' are often discussed on this board. When one considers the number of mechanical slider chest organs in all parts of the world (including England) that go on and on and on, sometimes for hundreds of years......well I've made my point. Were many mechanical organ builders still using experimental materials as late as 1986? (In Holland it had mostly stopped by then I think).

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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"When one considers the number of mechanical slider chest organs in all parts of the world (including England) that go on and on and on, sometimes for hundreds of years...."

(Quote)

 

This has purely statistic reasons, especially in Great Britain where the "Registerkanzelle" was introduced

quite late.

In Germany, the Registerkanzelle was much helped in its vanishing: WWI, then the Orgelbewegung, then

WWII...

The presence of 100 years + Roosevelt, Kegelladen and Taschenladen chests, still working, sometimes

without even a releathering, must lend us to think the craftmanship is what counts, not the system.

I know of several organ-builders who share this claim: "there is nothing more durable than a good

pneumatic organ".

And there are of course excellent tracker organs, and excellent electropneumatic ones. There is even

a new -and welcome!- tendancy not to "update" their electrical parts. With the modern fuses we have today

("differential") we can keep historic electrics without eschewing modern safety standards. A very good move.

 

Pierre

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"must lend us to think the craftmanship is what counts, not the system."

 

Of course, I didn't mean to suggest a hierarchy of systems. Quality is absolute. Pierre is absolutely right. As usual.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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To have to spend 40,000 GBP on a 23-year-old mechanical action organ is a damning indictment of the original instrument.

Yes, indeed.

 

It's interesting to note that, several years ago, I was asked to advise on a 22 year old practice instrument from the same stable. See http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N10444

 

It was very, very worn indeed, and required a complete reconstruction. The authorities agreed but, unfortunately, chose an organ builder whom I would not have recommended to do the work due to his lack of specialism in mechanical actions, and subsequently also settled for a rather cheap "overhaul" as recommended by that builder instead of rather more extensive work which was obviously required. Unfortunately, this didn't improve matters, and I understand that the organ was again unplayable shortly after the overhaul. It is no longer at this venue, and nobody seems to be aware of what has become of it.

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Holz, do you happen to know whether this one is still in situ and playable?

I last played this one around 15 years ago, and actually thought it rather lovely at the time, despite a specification which looks rather austere on paper.

 

Sorry, Vox, but I don't know any more about it, not having played it since. I'd love to find an excuse to reacquaint myself with it, though.

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This thread is extremely interesting.

 

I long wondered why so few great players dared record Bach on authentic,

ancient organs, always preffering neo-baroque ones.

I understood why when I could visit Silbermann, Trost and Wagner organs;

none of these permits the "ti tuh tâh" breathless speed race which is fashionable for

Bach since some decades.

 

Pierre

 

As ever on these forums, fascinating!

 

I once attended a concert, where, if my memory serves me correct, there was a small string orchestra playing, maybe even just a quartet. The cellist had to give a solo and gave a little speech in which he lavished praise on his fabulously expensive, rare, original 18th century instrument and how it helped him so much to play baroque music.

 

Not to be outdone, when it was the violinist's turn to speak, she lavished praise on her brand new replica of an 18th century violin, claiming that it gave us an even more authentic performance than the cello, since the instruments that Bach's musicians would have played would have been new in those days, and they would not have been playing on 300 year old strings (did they even have cellos 600 years ago???

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As ever on these forums, fascinating!

 

I once attended a concert, where, if my memory serves me correct, there was a small string orchestra playing, maybe even just a quartet. The cellist had to give a solo and gave a little speech in which he lavished praise on his fabulously expensive, rare, original 18th century instrument and how it helped him so much to play baroque music.

 

I know it's a digression, but Jakob Lindberg has a nice story about his very ancient and wonderful lute which he always tells audiences during gaps in the programme to fiddle with it. "People ask me, they say, how long have you had your lute for? Thirty years, I say. And how long have you been playing, they ask next. Fifteen years, I say. What did you do the rest of the time, they say. Well, I was tuning it."

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I long wondered why so few great players dared record Bach on authentic, ancient organs, always preffering neo-baroque ones. I understood why when I could visit Silbermann, Trost and Wagner organs; none of these permits the "ti tuh tâh" breathless speed race which is fashionable for Bach since some decades.

 

I once attended a concert, where, if my memory serves me correct, there was a small string orchestra playing, maybe even just a quartet. The cellist had to give a solo and gave a little speech in which he lavished praise on his fabulously expensive, rare, original 18th century instrument and how it helped him so much to play baroque music.

 

Not to be outdone, when it was the violinist's turn to speak, she lavished praise on her brand new replica of an 18th century violin, claiming that it gave us an even more authentic performance than the cello, since the instruments that Bach's musicians would have played would have been new in those days, and they would not have been playing on 300 year old strings (did they even have cellos 600 years ago???

Quite so. I have three of the volumes of Margaret Phillips's Bach recordings - those played at Waltershausen, Grauhof and Trinity, Cambridge. The playing on all of them is completely wonderful, but to my mind the Cambridge discs outshine the others by some way simply because the organ is obviously more compliant; the age of the historic ones shows. I also happen to think as well that there is far more beauty in the sound of the Metzler than the other two, but that's just me. I wouldn't mind betting that the Aubertin discs are stellar too.

 

I last played this one around 15 years ago, and actually thought it rather lovely at the time, despite a specification which looks rather austere on paper.

 

Sorry, Vox, but I don't know any more about it, not having played it since. I'd love to find an excuse to reacquaint myself with it, though.

Perhaps we should arrange a visit!

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I wouldn't mind betting that the Aubertin discs are stellar too.

 

You haven't lived until you've heard Ulrik Spang-Hannsen play the St Anne on an Aubertin - I forget which one.

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I know it's a digression, but Jakob Lindberg has a nice story about his very ancient and wonderful lute which he always tells audiences during gaps in the programme to fiddle with it. "People ask me, they say, how long have you had your lute for? Thirty years, I say. And how long have you been playing, they ask next. Fifteen years, I say. What did you do the rest of the time, they say. Well, I was tuning it."

 

The idea behind this joke is extremely dangerous !

 

Lawrence Phelps wrote it is better to replace old pipes with new ones, because they aren' good

any more, etc; same category of argument, the ancient instruments are "worn out" like

an old fridge.

But we know today Phelps organs, though interesting -and deserving protection, and not

revoicings as it is halas often done nowadays-, are MODERN organ, not ancient ones, nor

even "neo-ancient" ones.

So what if he had restored Altenburg, Naumburg etc ?

 

The claim "the copy is worth the original" is not only false, it is an hazard.

 

If the german baroque organs do not permit our funny way of playing Bach today,

it is not because they are "used", but because their actions are made the way they were

in the 18th century for not that little organs, with much massive wood, more robust

than sophisticated. No, the issue is simple: if the true baroque organs do not allow us

to play Bach like it is fashionable today, it is the playing which is false.

 

Pierre

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"Quite so. I have three of the volumes of Margaret Phillips's Bach recordings - those played at Waltershausen, Grauhof and Trinity, Cambridge. The playing on all of them is completely wonderful, but to my mind the Cambridge discs outshine the others by some way simply because the organ is obviously more compliant; the age of the historic ones shows."

 

I think you've got the wrong end of the stick, MP is a fine organist but her access to those instruments is minimal, her playing in Waltershausen sounds to me as if she hasn't quite grasped the nettle, (uncoupled plenum in BWV 552/1 sounds predictably one-dimensional). The Cambridge organ is more compliant, but only because it poses MP fewer problems. There are plenty of better Bach recordings in Waltershausen etc to prove the point. Once again, with due respect to Margaret Phillips who is undoubtedly a fine player, but to make a worthwhile new Bach recording today you need to do something really extraordinary. Wolfgang Zerer's and Andrea Marcon's recordings on Hanssler Classics make me long for more from both of them.

 

"The claim "the copy is worth the original" is not only false, it is an hazard."

 

Gustav Leonhardt once played a concert on an organ of Arp Schnitger. After the concert, he was approached by a member of the audience who asked him why no organ builder today could make a Trumpet stop as beautiful as one by Arp Schnitger. Leonhardt replied "because first you have to want to."

 

"if the true baroque organs do not allow us

to play Bach like it is fashionable today, it is the playing which is false."

 

Bravo Pierre!

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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I think you've got the wrong end of the stick, MP is a fine organist but her access to those instruments is minimal, her playing in Waltershausen sounds to me as if she hasn't quite grasped the nettle, (uncoupled plenum in BWV 552/1 sounds predictably one-dimensional). The Cambridge organ is more compliant, but only because it poses MP fewer problems.

Clearly I must have the wrong end of the stick since I do not understand your point. Pierre was wondering why so many players have preferred to record Bach on neo-classical instruments. I was merely suggesting why that might be, viz. modern instruments are easier to handle. You seem to agree with me.

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Clearly I must have the wrong end of the stick since I do not understand your point. Pierre was wondering why so many players have preferred to record Bach on neo-classical instruments. I was merely suggesting why that might be, viz. modern instruments are easier to handle. You seem to agree with me.

 

Yes, and this may be the problem!

Easier might not always be "better", sometimes even rather "wrong".

 

Pierre

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Guest Echo Gamba
Sorry David, it's the Victorian trackers that seem to be able to go on for ever. I challenge you to name me a modern tracker job (by a UK builder) that is more than thirty years old and has never given trouble. I could list you twenty or thirty high-profile jobs that have needed serious work well within their guarantee periods.

 

 

Not just UK builders! This has given trouble, and has been replaced by a toaster.

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Clearly I must have the wrong end of the stick since I do not understand your point.

 

Sorry, I wasn't clear enough. The point is that the problem lies with the player and not with the organ. The organ doesn't 'play ball' as easily as the modern organ because of the player being a fleeting visitor rather than someone who lives with historic instruments all the time. Your comment that "the age of the historic ones shows" implies a criticism of the organ, while other recordings of the same organs (and my own reasonably extensive experience of playing and even performing on historic organs) leads me to believe that the problem is with the player. Once again, without wishing to express any disrespect for Margaret Phillips, who is a fine organist.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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