Jump to content
Mander Organs
Malcolm Kemp

"great" Prelude & Fugue In B Minor - Jsb

Recommended Posts

Guest Cynic
Clearly Cynic hasn't heard the Koopman recording of the B minor P & F or he might be tempted to express himself in rather less conciliatory manner. The reaction of Mr Kemp and Mr Corr and others is entirely understandable; there seem to me to be a number of factors which lead to their dismay. First, and it's not Koopman's or anyone's fault but the organ is very sharp; my own pitch memory plays me false all too often these days but it sounds closer to C sharp minor than C. This in itself can be unsettling even if you don't have pitch memory.

 

But surely the performance of the Prelude must take the palm (if that is le mot juste) for the most rhythmically slipshod and careless performance of any piece not only committed to disc but presented in any form as a performance. There is nothing "free" about it; it sounds like the effort of an enthusiatic but incompetent amateur, which is not how I have viewed Mr Koopman as a performer in the past. Cynic has made a large number of quite excellent recordings and he would never to allow such poor, unrhythmical and uncontrolled technique to be issued on a recording. Nor would his producer! It's almost worth having the recording just to remind ourselves of how bad a commercial recording can be. What an appalling offering to foist upon the public!

 

The fugue, I feel, fares better, although the player sounds quite uninterested in what he is doing. On the question of speed, I have thought from time to time about the tempo of the fugue, and I wonder whether anyone would agree with me that usually one can gauge the most effective speed of a piece not from the opening bars but more likely from a passage in the middle: bars 37 and on for a few, if taken too slowly can over-emphasise the fact that they are little more, dare I say, than high class note spinning; rather like similar passages in the BWV 565 fugue.

 

Mr Kemp raises another interesting point; how many of us interpret the music we play and direct as a result of having heard it that way many times in the past. We have got used to it and it sounds comfortable and familiar. Of course, it isn't always wrong, but going back to the score and revising it afresh can sometimes yield surprising results. When Benjamin Britten recorded Elgar's Dream of Gerontius many critics found the result unfamiliar and often unacceptable; the trouble was that in almost every case what Britten did was what Elgar had directed in the score! (I think I may have bored for Britain before on this subject . . .I plead that I have done nothing wrong and it's all within the rules).

 

Must go and deal with the other hornet's nest . . .

 

David Harrison

 

Awfully sorry, but I did listen to the recording that Richard McVeigh kindly linked to, earlier in the topic. Of course, the broadcast might have been of another Ton Koopman version. We don't all have to like the same things, so it should not worry you that I found this version pretty rivetting actually. Yes, it was fractionally irritating at times, but we all have ideal interpretations already in our brains, so the shoe often chafes a little!

 

I am naturally flattered by any kind remarks about my own work, but for me, this was a rhythmical performance although the rhythm was (in a totally natural way IMHO) distorted a little by the use of agogic accents here and there (lingering on certain chords or cadences to bring them out). Put it this way, rhythmically speaking, I have heard many many worse. Those who play like automata for instance to me being more or less equally bad as those who cannot keep to a consistent beat at all. To my ears it was a little fast but it still comes across as totally committed and sincere playing.

 

If this performance or my views upset anyone, I'm sorry. I believe variety is the spice of life and to hear another slant (even a sharp one) on a masterpiece must surely be healthy, even if it is (obviously) not for every palate.

 

Your comment about determining the ideal speed from some particular feature later in the movement I entirely agree with. In this case, a speed that sounds appropriate for the later pedal entry (the one which is not the subject) would determine it for me. Played too fast, that interpolation seems frivolous or only of passing significance, which it isn't. My ideal speed would certainly be slower than this recorded version, but what right have I to say that my opinion is any more valid than anyone else's?!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I must apologise to one and all that I haven't yet sussed the art of quoting; after I have done my time on the naughty step I will try to sort it out.

 

I'm sorry (I know. we've heard a lot of that expression recently) to have misquoted you, Cynic. I think we probably did hear the same recording and clearly we heard different felicitations and irritations. I'm most grateful for your observation about the pedal entry in the B minor fugue and I shall have a closer look at that when I come to the piece again.

 

Quot homines, tot sententiae, suus cuique mos.

 

David Harrison

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a complete contrast, I have just been listening to a recording of Bairstow playing this piece on the Minster organ in 1927.

 

He is even faster than Koopman, especially in the fugue, which he takes at a hell of a lick! I had never thought of anyone from that period being a speed merchant.

 

And, of course, there are constant changes of registration. He starts the prelude on the flutes, uses the reeds a lot (box closed, of course, until the end) and there doesn't seem to be much above 4ft: I believe I have heard FJ say that Bairstow disapproved of anyone using the mixtures.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a recording by the late Käte van Tricht, organist at Bremen cathedral and virtuoso student of Karl Straube, Reger's friend and favourite performer. Straube edited several organ works by Bach, pre-Bach masters and Reger which, today, can be seen as protocols of his own way of playing this literature, before he made contact with, and became vivid supporter of, the Orgelbewegung.

 

The disc (MD+G) was recorded at the Bremen Sauer (c. 1900, IV/100+) before the last restoration, which took the organ -- that in the meantime had grown quite some cymbals and lost lawns of strings instead -- back to a more romantic state. Nevertheless, underneath some shiny XXV-or-so-rank mixtures, you hear the unbreakable Sauer core of foundation and reed sound.

 

The B-Minor prelude, played by van Tricht after the Straube edition, is foundations throughout, quite slow and melancholic, as if played by a large string orchestra. The first fugato entry in the prelude, in fact, sounds on the string céleste. The prelude starts pp, builds up to a climax of foundation sound just before the re-entry of the last ritornello, then shifts back to pp -- a most compelling effect, smoothening the formal break and keeping the flow beautifully.

 

The fugue starts very soft and rhythmically free as well, then gains a more and more solid sound and pace, and ends, with a monumental ritardando, on full organ.

 

It is an interpretation that always harkens back to a big Wagner orchestra behind the organ sound. It is one-of-a-kind playing. I like it much better than TK's, who, no matter what he plays, tends to raise my heart rate and blood pressure most uncomfortably.

 

Best,

Friedrich

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"The B-Minor prelude, played by van Tricht after the Straube edition, is foundations throughout, quite slow and melancholic, as if played by a large string orchestra."

(Quote)

 

The organ of Bach's time was not an "anti-romantic" one, like the neo was; it was

in search of the romantic sound.

It is often completely overlooked that Casparini built two celestes in an organ in

1700 already...Such stops were very common in Bach's area up to about 1780,

when a puritan fashion shed them in the shade for nearly a century; then, oooops,

the "Voix céleste" appeared, as if from nowhere, a "typical romantic" stop....

Dass ich nicht lache...

Besides this, Bach's musical textures obviously appeal for a kind of orchestral sound,

nor a "northern" one, nor a "romantic" one: a baroque orchestra.

 

But whenever we think "orchestra", we think Wagner (Richard, not Joachim!),

and we err, as always.

 

This baroque orchestra had indeed strings....As the organs Bach played, and not

vaguely stringy Principals like Silbermann's, but rather like those, splendid, we still

have in the Fux organ in Fürstenfeld: nearly as stringy as a 1890 Sauer's...

 

http://www.viscardi-ffb.de/denkmal_fuerste...SabiSandra.html

 

So that version you mention might be, from an historic point of view, more accurate

than many others, later ones, up to one important point: the Crescendo-Decrescendo

was not possible that way with the organs of that period, of course.

 

Pierre

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As a complete contrast, I have just been listening to a recording of Bairstow playing this piece on the Minster organ in 1927.

 

He is even faster than Koopman, especially in the fugue, which he takes at a hell of a lick! I had never thought of anyone from that period being a speed merchant.

 

And, of course, there are constant changes of registration. He starts the prelude on the flutes, uses the reeds a lot (box closed, of course, until the end) and there doesn't seem to be much above 4ft: I believe I have heard FJ say that Bairstow disapproved of anyone using the mixtures.

 

I too have this recording, and whilst period performance purists may shudder, I actually find it quite inspiring. The playing is astounding, especially in view of the breakneck tempo, and the opening registration (if not the whole registrational scheme) makes such sense to me that I find myself reaching for a pair of flutes plus a Gamba when playing it myself.

 

Amongst the organists of his generation, Bairstow must surely have taken some beating!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...