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At Least It Was Interesting

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At least there is life in the board now, isn't it ? :rolleyes:

 

Pierre

 

Absolutely - although I confess that I am somewhat mystified by the statement at the head of your post.

 

:blink:

 

I just thought that the board needed livening-up a little. Naturally, I have no particular desire to be contrversial....

 

B)

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"The organ is there to perform a job - whatever one's tastes in organ design might be. If we take the view that the music is there to serve the organ, rather than the other way around, then I am not sure that this is not equally flawed."

 

Its a two-way street. A good organ, of whatever sort has as much artistic value as the music. The one-way street you describe applies to steam trains and washing machines. But not organs.

 

"Incidentally, the reeds in question were installed (or at least revoiced) by Arthur Harrison, in 1925. If you never either heard them, nor had to accompany a choir or congregation on the instrument - or for that matter, give an organ recital, then surely it is folly to disagree with one who had daily contact with the instrument?"

 

But now we revere anything Arthur Harrison touched. No? Are the trombas at Redcliffe defective?

 

"Yet, if the '100-plus y/o pneumatic action' works only up to a point - or with inadequate repetition (thus rendering a lot of brisk music either unplayable or sounding absurd), is this really worth keeping?"

 

Yes. Play slower and admire the whole canvas. Not just the bits you want to.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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"The organ is there to perform a job - whatever one's tastes in organ design might be. If we take the view that the music is there to serve the organ, rather than the other way around, then I am not sure that this is not equally flawed."

 

Its a two-way street. A good organ, of whatever sort has as much artistic value as the music. The one-way street you describe applies to steam trains and washing machines. But not organs.

 

I would agree that the argument looks both ways - but your earlier post gave me the distinct impression that you viewed it as one-way - in the other direction....

 

You may find that steam train enthusiasts (amongst whose number I do not consider myself a part) would disagree with you.

 

"Incidentally, the reeds in question were installed (or at least revoiced) by Arthur Harrison, in 1925. If you never either heard them, nor had to accompany a choir or congregation on the instrument - or for that matter, give an organ recital, then surely it is folly to disagree with one who had daily contact with the instrument?"

 

But now we revere anything Arthur Harrison touched. No? Are the trombas at Redcliffe defective?

Not I. And - 'Yes', in my view.

 

 

"Yet, if the '100-plus y/o pneumatic action' works only up to a point - or with inadequate repetition (thus rendering a lot of brisk music either unplayable or sounding absurd), is this really worth keeping?"

 

Yes. Play slower and admire the whole canvas. Not just the bits you want to.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

 

So therefore, we do the composer a disservice....? "Oh, he cannot really want this played at crotchet = 120 (the organ, poor old dear, simply cannot cope). However, I like this piece, so I shall proceed to play it somewhat more slowly." Never mind that it is now robbed of its vitality, or that it is in danger of becoming a caricature of itself....

 

I am not one who plays everything at top speed - but neither do I want to play (or hear) a well-known piece played rather too slowly, simply because the vagaries of the pneumatic action (for example) do not allow me to play it at a speed approaching that which the composer had in mind at its creation.

 

I am not sure that I understand your last sentence. If I play a piece, it is usually because I like it - the whole piece, not a part of it. I generally try to avoid playing pieces which I do not like.

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"at a speed approaching that which the composer had in mind at its creation."

(Quote)

 

....Or rather: at the speed we imagine he intended!

If you find pneumatic actions slow, what about 18th century

big organs ?

Have you ever tried some ?

 

Pierre

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"at a speed approaching that which the composer had in mind at its creation."

(Quote)

 

....Or rather: at the speed we imagine he intended!

If you find pneumatic actions slow, what about 18th century

big organs ?

Have you ever tried some ?

 

Pierre

 

Of course - but I would not attempt to play something which I considered to be unsuitable for an instrument of this type.

 

Composers often include metronome marks, particularly so with regard to twentieth century French music. Clearly, we whould then have a good idea of what a composer intended. I know that there is some doubt as to the accuracy of Vierne's markings, for example; however, they still provide some guideline.

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Guest Echo Gamba

If the Horn Quint at Ely was of no musical use, what do you think was the rationale behind it? Can anyone remember hearing it and what effect it had if used?

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"but I would not attempt to play something which I considered to be unsuitable for an instrument of this type."

(Quote)

 

Indeed. But why would the others kinds of organs not deserve the same respect ?

 

 

"Composers often include metronome marks, particularly so with regard to twentieth century French music."

(Quote)

 

Indeed. Who had electric actions....

 

Pierre

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This may be overstating the case. There exist in this country many Romantic instruments in a variety of sizes, a number of which have either had little or no alteration (tonal or mechanical) and others which have been treated with respect by virtually any standards, save those of the most fanatical preservationists - which themselves could be considered restrictive and occasionally obstructive.

Etc, shortened for the sake of space (which I unwittingly appear to have taken up myself).

 

At the risk of spending the next series of posts having to defend my opinion, I find much here that I have to agree with. Possibly because of the deleterious treatment of some instruments in the mid and later 20th century, I limit my comments to the UK, having insufficient depth of experience to comment on European occurences, it appears that there is a lack of clarity in understanding the purpose of a pipe organ. I do not include the USA in this, as attitudes there do not entirely mirror those here, and I find the attitude towards protectionist preservation, or not, better argued, although this may be just coincidence. I by no means limit myself to considering comments posted here.

 

I cannot recall a time in history when organs were subjected to preservation arguments as they are now. Occasional instances have, I am sure, happened, but not as a cohesive and recognised movement. It seems to me that my comment above is probably to some extent at the root of this, but I would not be so bold as to say that I entirely understand why.

 

To me, the knub of the matter is whether the organ works - I will try to identify what this word may mean later. Organs in the past that have not worked, when the opportunity arises, have been altered so that, with the best intentions (not without exception) of the custodian and practitioner, they do within the context of how they were understood at the time. Now what about the people subject to changes of fashion - well that's human nature, and a matter of record throughout the entire history of organ building, in a sense, that is the historical norm. A trawl through the histories of any 10 prominent organs extant for more than 150 years will easily demonstrate it. So, for the first time, collectively, we are deviating from the norm, and I think understanding why should help to polarise thinking and provide some of the missing clarity. I am sure that Pierre is right when he identifies those proponents of neo-baroquism, who said they were trying to re-create the baroque, and clearly were not, as being part of the problem. Whether they truly believed they were or not is another debate, but I think constant cries of disingenuousness, for the UK, are somewhat misplaced.

My own opinion is that we are deviating from the norm, and looking back to preserving our history because we both recognise that some changes were made which should be reversed, but that also we have no live vision for the future. In a sense, neo baroque was the last collective vision for moving forwards into new territory, and having identified it's mistakes, we have not replaced it with anything new, merely a re-working, reconstruction, restoration of the past.

 

Inevitably, somewhere, this will be at odds with the concept of whether the instrument works or not. Sadly, in my opinion, very many of the organs in this country do not work at one level or another. They must be reliable in their construction and operation, and excuses that, in the words of the car mechanic, they're all like that sir, or, it was made that way sir (so you'll have to put up with it), will not do. We know enough, and have the skills, to make those that do not work properly in this way, do so. There are a small number of instruments which, by virtue of being unaltered from their original or prime state, should be preserved despite the fact that they do not work at this level, because they are historical documents and should be preserved. They however are the exception, and not the rule.

 

To continue the argument, the instrument should be capable of performing the musical duties required of it by the custodian. Organs are foremost musical instruments, not museum pieces, exceptions above acknowledged, and so should have the resources, and reliability, to perform this function. I think we can scrutinise fashion here, but we should, if we do so, scrutinise the fashion of our current age at the same time. The question should be answered, why is leaving something more valid than changing it, if, in leaving it, the past is preserved, but the present day, and the future are not promoted. We have, as a general rule, to be aware of now, and prepare for the future. Again, I caution this with recognised exceptions, which is why I say a general rule.

 

The player should be able to play the instrument with relative comfort, and reasonable resources, and if changes are needed, they should be placed in the context of the points made above. We have a liturgical context to consider in religious buildings, which differs from place to place and tradition to tradition. One size (often in the chancel) does not fit all. Mind you, DAC's are tarred quite often with the same protectionist and preservationist approach, being influenced by the arguments of the day, so as to render the musical uses of a musical instrument secondary; they are also very good at stopping acts of vandalism, so there is a continuum here that we should be aware of, but a basic question which, quite often is improperly answered, or not answered at all. In a civic context the requirements are different, and should be addressed in different ways. There is nothing new here, but we still seem unable to get it consistently right with new organs in either context.

 

When dealing with instances of eminent and highly experienced organists who wish to make changes, in my opinion, they are the authority on the use of their instrument. We should not quite so readily question them on the grounds of historical context as I think at the moment we are inclined to do. Again there are clearly exceptions to this, but we are not dealing with idiots, and we should be very careful so as not to appear patronising towards them.

 

At the risk of carrying on ad infinitum, I will pose a question to conclude. Do the roots of the future a. lie in the past, b.replicate the past or c. view the past as something to be mimicked in a modern context. Hindsight, foresight, reaction and responsiveness are four key elements here.

 

AJS

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"Do the roots of the future a. lie in the past, b.replicate the past or c. view the past as something to be mimicked in a modern context."

(Quote)

 

Deep, interesting question !

 

If we look at the matter from the History of the organ, we see each generation

was in search for something new. But it was always firmly rooted in past traditions,

so that the late romantic organ still had traits dating back to the Renaissance organ.

Moreover, seldom were the areas wealthy enough to be able to replace all, or nearly

all, their organs within one generation. So, each builder had his place, and rarely

built more than 10 new organs (there are of course exceptions like Schnitger, J Wagner...).

 

This began to change during the 19th century, when the industrial power enabled more

work to be done in the context of one generation.

 

The 20th century was one of disclosures, marked with wars and ideology; we believed

"we discovered more than all previous centuries togheter", etc. I have been told such

enormities at school...The war's destructions left our parents with the belief they were

building a new world, while the ideas -all those things which ends with "ism"- ruled the day.

 

And so we still believe "to make something new" equals to get rid of the past.

But this was never so! more, it does not work, because you cannot build new walls if you

destroyed the basement.

This was, actually, the very reason the neo-baroque was necessary. Halas, it was soon

spoiled by the ideology...

 

Now if we want to re-start the machine of the progress, and warrant the organ a future,

we first need to repair as much ancient organs as possible.

How would one invent, say, a new kind of Mixture, if all date from 1950 to 1980, while

countless kind of Mixtures have been built ? No, you need the complete movie if you intent

to write the next episode.

 

For that we also need to reverse the hierarchy; the organ comes first, the player, a poor limited

creature, is at the service of the organ. Not the reverse. An organ isn't a fridge! and if it does

not fully fit the "needs (1)", just say "but wait a minute, those needs will change in a fortnight".

 

(1) Whatever this may not mean, since "musical", "liturgical", etc, "needs", are fully meaningless,

we are 6,000.000.000 on earth, who all would have different "definitions" of those, by definition

impossible to define, vague terms.

 

Pierre

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Guest Roffensis
I would agree that it is incredible - but probably not in the sense you mean. It is certainly also unlike Truro - but then, I am not particularly keen on that instrument either.

 

Voicing aside, I believe that there are fundamental design flaws present in the west end organ at Saint Mary's, Warwick. In fact, I suspect that the only sensible course of action is to start again and design a new instrument - including the perfectly hideous and impractical console.

 

 

Truro is ok, a bit "splashy". Not as bold or exciting as Canterbury.

 

As to Warwick, why be so polite? :rolleyes: It's perfectly vile. I'd bin the lot.

 

R

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"but I would not attempt to play something which I considered to be unsuitable for an instrument of this type."

(Quote)

 

Indeed. But why would the others kinds of organs not deserve the same respect ?

 

There would be no difference in the level of respect I would give - I have written on a few occasions of my liking for many types of instrument. However, I would try to choose repertoire which I felt showed the instrument in a positive light, and which suited its overall character.

 

In fact, I count myself fortunate indeed that I am able equally to appreciate and to enjoy playing the organs in the cathedrals of Bristol, Chichester, Coventry, Exeter, Gloucester and Worcester (the former instrument) - to name but a few in this country alone. I doubt that many would disagree that, even amongst the few examples which I have selected, there is a marked diversity between the style and voicing of each instrument.

 

"Composers often include metronome marks, particularly so with regard to twentieth century French music."

(Quote)

 

Indeed. Who had electric actions....

 

Pierre

 

Well, not in the case of S. Sernin (Toulouse), S. Ouen (Rouen), S. Etienne (Caen), S. Sulpice, Sacre-Coeur or Nôtre-Dame de Paris, for example. Only the latter instrument has been rebuilt with electric action (and two new consoles) - and this only since 1963.

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.....Or at least with powerfull Barker levers. Anyway, light and quick actions,

nothing to compare with the 18th century (save maybe the british organs,

which had a strong reputation for excellent actions).

 

I am convinced we ow the speeding races in Bach to the prevalence

of electric actions during Dupré's period (Dupré, who was seminal in

the playing of several generations of players, do they like it or not...)

Dupré and his pupil Rolande Falcinelli were strongly in favor of

electric actions.

 

Pierre

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.....Or at least with powerfull Barker levers. Anyway, light and quick actions,

nothing to compare with the 18th century (save maybe the british organs,

which had a strong reputation for excellent actions).

 

I am convinced we ow the speeding races in Bach to the prevalence

of electric actions during Dupré's period (Dupré, who was seminal in

the playing of several generations of players, do they like it or not...)

Dupré and his pupil Rolande Falcinelli were strongly in favor of

electric actions.

 

Pierre

 

Ah - I was not thinking of the music of Bach. I agree that, to indulge in a generalisation, it has often been played too quickly. On the other hand, there are a few recorded examples of well-known French organists playing some of his music extremely slowly - by any standards.

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I am convinced we ow the speeding races in Bach to the prevalence of electric actions during Dupré's period (Dupré, who was seminal in the playing of several generations of players, do they like it or not...) Dupré and his pupil Rolande Falcinelli were strongly in favor of electric actions.

 

Pierre

I may not have a complete picture, so feel free to expand it, but I would lay the prelavence of fast speeds in Bach mainly at the door of two seminal recordings of the complete organ works: firstly those of Lionel Rogg in the late '60s and secondly Peter Hurford around 1980 or so - and both of these were played exclusively on modern tracker instruments. Hurford's immaculate playing, in particular, had a wow factor that many felt utterly compelling and wished to emulate. But this also needs to be considered against a background of ever increasing speeds in Bach generally, not just in the organ music. Speeds in the instrumental music have definitely become lighter and more airy (and superficial) in the last fifty years or so. Moreover, for as long as I have been aware, pianists have always been playing Bach at breakneck speed.

 

The problem is that the more you hear these speeds (even if you disagree with them) the harder it is to return to accepting slower tempi. The ponderous speeds at which Schweitzer and Vierne played Bach must have seemed musical to them. I remember being mightily impressed with Schweitzer's intepretation of the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue which was my first experience of Bach's organ music as a kid and I wouldn't mind betting that, even today, if I heard Vierne's In dir ist Freude from the quite step at Notre-Dame it might actually seem right for the building and make quite a noble impression. I see no reason why we could not learn to appreciate these very slow tempi again - but who would ever feel the inclination?

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"For that we also need to reverse the hierarchy; the organ comes first, the player, a poor limited

creature, is at the service of the organ. Not the reverse. An organ isn't a fridge! and if it does

not fully fit the "needs (1)", just say "but wait a minute, those needs will change in a fortnight".

 

Hurray for Pierre!

 

"I am convinced we ow the speeding races in Bach to the prevalence

of electric actions during Dupré's period"

 

I think something else plays a role in the speeding races. Until now most organ builders since the start of the reform movement have tried to make light mechanical actions, even when restoring large organs (this is perhaps the only criticism one could imagine of Jürgen Ahrend, probably the most important organ builder of the 20th century). Many recordings have been made in Hamburg since 1993 which bear this out. Now organ builders are realising that heavier actions are normal for larger organs.

 

"Now if we want to re-start the machine of the progress, and warrant the organ a future,

we first need to repair as much ancient organs as possible."

 

This is the point precisely. In the late 19th and early 20th century we lost, for various reasons, several centuries of knowledge about organ building techniques. Preserving jealously, and reconstructing the past is vitally important, not as an end in itself but to provide a basis of knowledge with which to build a worthwhile future. I've said it before, but in the US this has already happened. This:

 

"http://www.pasiorgans.com/instruments/opus14spec.html"

 

is, on the face of it, eclecticism gone mad (why do we never discuss dual-temperament organs on this board?) but I doubt there has been a better organ built yet this century. Why? Because that school of American organ building copied the past for almost a whole generation (and at a level only equally by Ahrend in Europe!) before they developed this form of eclecticism. This is undoubtedly the most progressive organ building in the world today.

 

There are 2 reasons we are having this discussion:

 

i) because organs in the prestigious places in the UK have a social function (to be rejoiced). But this brings with it responsibilities which have been, often disgracefully, disregarded, resulting in the ruining of thousands of organs on the command of their organists.

 

ii) because British organs uniquely in Europe have no state protection. This sort of discussion simply doesn't happen elsewhere. That organs are preserved is taken for granted, (mostly, sometimes it goes wrong in Belgium!)

 

"I am not sure that I understand your last sentence. If I play a piece, it is usually because I like it - the whole piece, not a part of it. I generally try to avoid playing pieces which I do not like."

 

I was referring to the instrument, not the piece!

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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The overspeeding problems pre-dates the neo-baroque players; here is an

interesting example with Jeanne Demessieux's playing at the Victoria Hall, Genève:

 

 

 

....And then compare with Dieter Gloss playing a nearly intact, german 18th century, close to the

true Bach's organ tradition, Joachim Wagner organ of Angermünde:

 

http://www.die-orgelseite.de/mp3/demo/MOT_12011-00_12.mp3

 

.....The tempo is...nearly the same, but this time you do not get any impression of over-speeding.

Aha ? So, the matter might be more complicated than that...

 

And, ladies and gentlemen, now I would be interested with your answers to this question:

WHY ?

 

I add another sample in order to help somewhat.

 

Dandrieu, same player, same Wagner organ:

 

http://www.die-orgelseite.de/mp3/demo/MOT_12011-00_01.mp3

 

(to be heard loud, like the organ itself is!)

 

Pierre

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