Jump to content
Mander Organs
Sign in to follow this  
contraviolone

Rfh Organ

Recommended Posts

As one of the firms which tendered for this work, I can assure everyone that there is no intention to modify the organ tonally at all. Great emphasis was placed on the importance of retaining the tonal attributes of the organ exactly as they were. I rather hope that the RFH organ curator, William McVicker will reply more fully to this post in due course, so I will not say more myself. However, if I may put my pedantic hat on for a moment, I am not at all sure that "eclectic" is the right term to be used for the RFH organ. It is certainly versatile but the term eclectic implies the synthesis of a number of different styles and one of the significant attributes of the RFH organ is (in my opinion) its homogeneity. All the pipework was treated in very much the same and somewhat unique way and it is my belief that it is this which lends the instrument its blend and versatility. If I were to be allowed to be really pedantic for a moment, I would point out that the term eclectic has been stripped of its true meaning. Eclectic was a philosopher who unashamedly took other philosophies and synthesised them into a philosophy of his own. In organ building terms I see this as the philosophy behind much of Charles Fisk's work where he would combine very different styles of organ building within one instrument. To my mind that is not an ideal way forward, although I do think that the way Fisk managed to do that was uniquely successful.

 

John Pike Mander

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well,

 

I shall have to revise the definition of the word "pedantic", I think.

 

I observed and studied many "eclectic" or -even more annoying-"eclectisided" organs in Belgium, to end up with the personnal conclusion it is to be considered as an aestethic by itself. The french talk about "Néo-classique" organ to define this kind of melting-pot, and "Néo-Baroque" for the straight baroque-like organ.

 

The "Néo-classic" organ is of course a failure if we judge it to its original aims, that is, to create an organ upon which all musics could be played. If we now consider Messiaen, Duruflé, Langlais, Grünenwald and others, who wrote for these instruments, it becomes clear that even at least some of these ones we need to keep intact. They are a valuable testimony, too, to the fact "adding some stops" is not enough to "enlarge a repertoire", so a kind of warning signal for the future generations. Of course the builders and designers from this period did not know many about the crucial matter of temperament.

 

I know of some beautiful "Néo-classique" organs. I'll cite two: the Maurice Delmotte of Châtelet, near Charleroi in Belgium. It was built in 1942 and sits just between late-romantic and néo classique. It is beautiful because it's toroughly romantic voiced -even the Larigot-. The Danion Gonzalez of Beauvais (1979) is the second. You should know it through Jennifer Bate's splendid recordings of Messiaen; this one is lightly, clearly voiced throughout. So the homogeneity took over upon theories in the last case, while the former -a provincial belgian builder- did not even have heard of these theories....that we maybe can qualify as "pedantic", this time.

 

The worst cases are "rectified" instruments. There is near here a Walcker from 1907, 37 stops. In 1960, one of the Great's chests was put on the floor, with "baroque" new stops, while a half of the 8 feet flues were replaced by mixtures of the screaming kind. The pneumatic action -still working perfectly in 1960- was electrified, with cables everywhere, glued with chatterton. That no fire did happen since then is a bit more than a little miracle.

 

So I think that we maybe need to exercise care not to put all these instruments into the same basket. While such "rebuilds" as I mentionned above we may lightheartly "delete" to come back to something else, we certainly need to keep the technically and musically sound ones.

 

Best wishes,

 

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to confess that I was under the misguided belief that the RFH organ was 'eclectic' in the definition described by John Mander. I thought I had read somewhere that the principal choruses were somewhat 'Germanic' in nature, while the reeds were French. It is so long since I've heard the RFH organ, and I have no recordings, that I can't really remember what it sounds like.

 

But, from my memories of hearing it in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it all seemed to hang together. I remember that the 32ft pedal reed often resembled machine gun fire, which I think was due to the dryness of the accoustic. And I remember thatt the biggest disappointment of all was the accoustic. If something could be done to the RFH's accoustic, in the manner that John Mander describes has just been done in Birmingham Town Hall, what might sound like an entirely new instrument might emerge. I read somewhere, earlier this year, that when the tonal finishing of the RFH organ was being carried out, pipes were being perpared on voicing machines in corridors and foyers outside of the hall and Ralph Downes commented on how much better they sounded outside of the hall than inside it.

 

Alas, as the RFH is not the classic shoe box shape, I'm not sure that such an accoustic transformation is possible or likely.

 

I guess really, I don't know the RFH organ at all, so it would be interesting to read more threads from people who do know the instrument.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Strictly speaking that is true of course. But that hardly makes it an amalgamation of French organ style and German. In fact, I consider the flue work to be of a unique style devised almost by Ralph Downes with the Harrison voicers. At the time the organ was built, Ralph Downes had not been to Germany so the German influence is really questionable. In particular, there appears no obvious attempt to make sections or specific stops of the organ copies of differing schools. All the flues are of one style as indeed are all the reeds. But I admit it is not quite as clear cut as I suggested.

 

John Pike Mander

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know the RFH instrument very well, but I do know the sound of the Gloucester Cathedral instrument, which was designed by Ralph Downes, though it was originally HN&B not H&H. The acoustic is, if anything, too resonant - the opposite of course of the RFH.

 

As in the RFH, Downes used very light wind pressures, and specified French shallots for the reeds, though most of the reed pipes themselves were survivals from previous instruments, notably Willis. Anecdotal evidence has it that Downes, who supervised the tonal finishing, was fanatical about the voicing of the flue work, but was happy for the reeds to be as rough as you like! And they are rough, particularly the Great reeds.

 

Following Pierre Lauwers' comments, I think I would concede that the instrument is eclectic. Its diapason choruses are thrilling for Bach, the plein-jeu ideal for Couperin and friends, and it does the French Romantic school very well. For evidence, see - or rather hear - David Briggs' recording made immediately after the recent Nicholson rebuild, in which you can hear all three.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would be happy to see the end of all its reeds, excepting the Solo Basset Horn.

English reeds of the low pressure type would transform the instrument. With new reeds, I think it has the potential of greatness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This could be dangerous, for often, one commences to change one thing, then the next...Then, 30 years later, with the next rebuild, one finds an organ "not fully original", and whammo! "what is wanted" is done without remorse.

 

The english high-pressure reeds are reknowed worldwide, and I wish we had some on the continent...

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having tuned some of the reeds of the RFH organ, I know they are actually a lot better than they sound in the hall. I think with improved acoustics they should come into their own and I do not think that should be changed.

 

John Pike Mander

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The RFH and Gloucester organs are unique and should be treated as such. Adding octave couplers as at Gloucester (to produce more 'thrill' and flexibility) would have made Ralph Downes foam at the mouth! He balanced the choruses the way he wanted them. It is interesting to note that the octave couplers at the RFH do not affect all the stops! He realised the effect this would have on the mixtures and their balance in the chorus. The reeds are wonderful and should be left as they are. We need more organs with French reeds in the country not less then we have already!

What the RFH needs is a better acoustic; this is obvious to us all. The way to achieve this is another story. It would transform the organ sound and improve the bottom end of the registers a great deal, while helping the upper harmonics to blend more. I'm sure Downes would approve of this, with some reservations. If only he was still with us.... to guide H & H. The most important thing about his instruments was the fact that they sounded MUSICAL and did not kill the music. Anything with heavy pressure and unclear muddy voicing was not part of the equation. All the stops had to blend together to produce a beautiful musical singing quality; and they did where the acoustic allowed them.

What is upper most is the MUSIC and delivering this in a MUSICAL way like a professional singer or any instrumentalist would on stage.

I have just returned from France where I attended an organ course. The Aubertin organ (restored by) was one of the most beautifully voiced I know for French Classical music. Wonderful choruses and exciting French reeds (low pressure naturally), but the best stop on the organ was the acoustic! Call it what you like, eclectic or not........ the RFH and Gloucester should remain as statements of their period. Don't fiddle with them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear Mister Gunning,

 

I fully agree such organs as RFH's we owe respect, like I said, and the others of the same kind abroad too. But does this perfectly sound aim need any downgrading of what preceded?

 

If yes, we must recognize we shall write the same story as our ancestors, that is, systematically destroy our parent's organs. And then our children will "better" ours.And.And.And.

 

High pressure stops are beautiful, and we need to preserve them. I personally like very much things like Vox angelica, Violes celestes, Cornet de viols, Flute celeste with Flauto dolce, Solo claviers topped with a beautiful Tuba...That's my aestethic. But I would not impone such stops to an 18th century organ. Nor shall I ever pretend "neo-baroque organs= s...").

Mind you, I believe my post-romantic favorites don't need that. I'd love very much to see churches with two organs, one for Howells, the other for Titelouze.

Peace and love !

Only challenge: to convince the people not trying to play both organs togheter. (Aequal temperament+ mesotonic.....Could be something like a clash).

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have read with interest the discussions on the board concerning the Royal Festival Hall organ. The organ will not be changed tonally, not even minor tonal changes - the acoustic will be changed and this will have a profound impact on how the instrument sounds.

 

I have taken the liberty of adding here an essay published in the BIOS Reporter and Organ Club Journal which I hope will give a clearer picture of the works to the RFH organ.

 

Future plans at London’s Royal Festival Hall

 

William McVicker

SBC Organ Curator

 

It is often said that the best stop on an organ is its acoustic. It is well known that the Royal Festival Hall (RFH) has very little reverberation time – which is particularly disappointing as it is such a large building, with seating for almost 3000 people. Set in context some fifty years later the RFH does seem acoustically bald to say the least – but this is not quite how it was designed to be. It was constructed as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain – a festival which formed the cutting edge of modernism.

 

In 1948 the French radio broadcaster Pierre Schaeffer created the first electronic music studio. What preceded this was the formulation of the difference between the acoustic required in a studio and that for widely differing musical forms. Most acoustics textbooks contain graphs showing optimum reverberation times for auditoria of various sizes. At one end of the spectrum lie the needs of studios, speech and conference rooms which require as little resonance as possible, and at the other are the ideal conditions for organ music. Somewhere in the middle are optimum conditions for chamber music, which is performed in a more intimate space than, for example, opera and large-scale nineteenth-century orchestral music which, in turn, require enough reverberation time to provide warmth but not sufficient to cloud clarity. The RFH was designed to have a clear, dry acoustic. A recent study showed that Hope Bagenal, the RFH’s acoustician, used inaccurate absorption coefficients in his calculations when working out the proposed reverberation time for the new hall. This fact, together with the difficulties of finding high-quality construction materials in post-war Britain, resulted in the acoustics of the building being much drier than was expected. Into this environment the organ was constructed. The difficulties encountered by Harrison & Harrison and Ralph Downes are documented in the latter’s book Baroque Tricks. The author describes the depressing experience of hearing the virile pipework singing in the hall’s resonant marble lobbies and being transformed into a comb and paper sonority when brought into the auditorium. Of his first experience of the acoustic tests in the building, Downes wrote: ‘I breathed a fervent prayer of thanksgiving that it was not the organ but an orchestra that we had first heard in this astounding ambience: something would have to be done: and it was. In short a good deal of the eliminated natural resonance was recovered by filling up cavities, and removal of absorbents, though the large span and ingenious suspension of the ceiling absolutely forbade the addition of considerable weight to its fabric: at the very best, therefore, dryness would have to remain a characteristic of the hall’s acoustic properties.’

 

Not all the effects of this dry acoustic quality were negative: its character contributed to improvements in the standard of post-war orchestral playing in Britain. When the Hallé orchestra played there in the 1950s they were said to have sounded like a school band – the lack of resonance revealing ensemble and tuning difficulties not evident in halls blessed with a more generous reverberation time. The same must apply to the standard of organ playing – reviews from the 1950s document that some of the most well-known organists of the period found it difficult to adjust to the lack of reverberation. The hall’s character reveals any shortcomings in technique. Stephen Bicknell’s recent article in Choir & Organ (Jan/Feb 2004, p. 26-30) summarises some of the difficulties performers face when registering the instrument. The organ is, I believe, at its best when registrations are not doctrinaire, but are, as Andrew Marvell said in The Coronet, ‘set with Skill and chosen out with Care’.

 

The RFH acquired an assisted resonance system in the 1960s, based on Helmholz resonators; this was disconnected a number of years ago, because it malfunctioned. It never met with universal acclaim, as natural sound was amplified and reproduced through a speaker system – a process which almost negated the notion of going to listen to live orchestral music.

 

When the hall was built the idea that rock bands, with large amounts of kit and scenery, would use the auditorium was not contemplated. The RFH is now put to uses never envisaged at the outset of the planning process. Classical concerts now account for only 50% of the presentations at the hall and radical improvement to backstage access (for the daily ‘get-ins’ and ‘get-outs’) is now required. Such improvements have successfully been undertaken at the Royal Albert Hall. These changes will bring the hall’s facilities up to the standards prevalent in most busy world-class concert venues. A further complication is that the RFH stage is too small for large-scale orchestral productions and there is insufficient seating for concert choirs – a flaw which has become more apparent as the years have gone by. Mahler’s second and eighth symphonies are difficult to stage, and space is noticeably cramped and uncomfortable when accommodating large orchestras in, for example, The Alpine Symphony, or The Pines of Rome. The stage needs to be larger.

 

The process of examining the possibility of improving the acoustics has been going on for some time and has gone hand-in-hand with the fact that the building’s fabric is now over fifty years old and shows considerable signs of very heavy wear. Many of the seats in the auditorium are in poor condition, carpets are wearing out, and timbers and materials around entry and exit points have deteriorated. The two large ‘blast’ walls either side of the stage are positioned at too wide an angle to send first sound reflections (back) to the performers. Musical ensemble is difficult at some points on the stage because sound reflections are late. Many of the surfaces and fabrics are absorbent and not reflective; examples abound: carpets, tapestries, horse-hair filled leather walls, and thin, absorbent materials; the so-called Copenhagen panelling (a wooden knucklebone finish) was specifically designed to break up sound – which it does very effectively – sapping energy over a wide frequency range. The orchestral canopy is set too high above the orchestra to be wholly effective. Absorbers of low frequencies include the wooden organ doors, walls made of thin materials with cavities behind them, and the large air volume below the stage. There are acoustic ‘blackspots’ beneath the boxes (the Annexes) and below the balcony – even the very substantial organ chamber is an effective absorber. The seating, which, ironically, is considered to be acoustically good (enabling the reverberation to remain roughly the same whether the hall is full or empty), provides insufficient leg-room for modern audiences. The size and shape of the RFH (i.e., that it is not rectilinear) mean that it will never have the basic acoustic property of Vienna’s Musikverein or Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. But the process of dealing with as many of these acoustic problems as is possible, within the constraints of the building’s Grade 1 listing, means that the South Bank Company (SBC) has confidence that the acoustic proposals (made by Kirkegaarde Associates and dealt with architecturally by Allies and Morrison) will enable significant acoustic gains to be made to the hall’s character.

 

I was asked by the SBC to look at the question whether or not the organ chamber could be reduced in depth. I decided to ask some of our eminent organ consultants to join me in pondering the complexities of any proposals and to this end Ian Bell, Nicolas Kynaston, John Norman and Dr Nicholas Thistlethwaite formed a think tank to ponder the many questions that had arisen. As a general principle the Organ Consultants’ Committee (OCC) felt it could be confidently stated that the tonal character and the experimental open-foot voicing of the organ could and should be safeguarded. It was also realised that, within the context of the substantial alterations required to the Hall’s fabric in order to accommodate the acoustic gains, the organ must, and should, play its part in the acoustic remodelling. If the Hall’s acoustic character changes, then so will the sound of the organ – even if nothing were to be done to the instrument. It is, therefore, important that the hand fits the new glove, so to speak, lest the organ sounds poorly balanced, crude and too loud (or, worse, too soft) when used in an orchestral context. Correction of the Hall’s hungriness in the lower frequency range will be of enormous benefit to the instrument – and should impart grandeur to its sound that the building effectively counteracts.

 

It is evident from archive documentation that the organ’s appearance was the cause of great argument between each of the interested parties, and it was only through mediation that the final result was achieved. One of the London County Council’s (LCC) architects wrote: ‘the installation of a large organ in a concert hall presents serious problems in design to meet effectively its acoustical needs as well as those of the orchestra and the choir … the need for good reflectors around the orchestra is very great, and a large opening is undoubtedly a disadvantage’.

 

The visual integration at the end of the hall became the subject of bitter debate between Downes and the auditorium architects represented by Sir Leslie Martin. One source of the problem was that Downes had talked extensively with Edwin Williams, another architect from the design team, who represented the ‘old school’ LCC approach. Williams gave some encouragement to the idea of a large symmetrical monogram of organ pipes. Correspondence survives which indicates Martin’s absolute horror at this approach: he would have seen this as entirely undermining the careful relationship of parts and threatening to dominate the hall. It was determined that the organ pipes would not be seen and would be hidden behind a gauze screen. Harrisons therefore built the instrument without particular regard for the visual arrangement of the pipework, which is why it seems relatively loosely organised today.

 

The appearance of the RFH organ is therefore something of an accident and was the result of indecision. A façade of pipes (referred to variously as the ‘monogram’, ‘organ case’ or ‘frontispiece’) was considered and two models made (now lost). The archive at Harrison & Harrison Ltd. of Durham contains letters and drawings relating to the discussions. In the late 1940s the architects wanted copper pipes in what was to be a substantial ‘monogram’, but post-war shortage of metals thwarted development of this plan, as copper had to be obtained under special government licence. A drawing was made in January 1950 and a mock-up erected in Durham some months later, but no decisions were taken. Eventually the idea of a ‘total grille’ replaced the monogram from about mid 1950. This grille was somewhat akin to the arrangement designed for the organ in the Colston Hall in Bristol – a functional and (then) fashionable way of avoiding the classic and expensive nineteenth-century-style town hall organ-pipe display. A letter in 1952 from Sir Leslie Martin put the monogram back on the agenda.

 

As discussions on the nature of the organ’s casework unexpectedly ground to a halt in 1952/3 the exposed pipework accidentally became the organ’s visual character – it has even acquired its own status, and this kind of open-plan style is now widely associated with Holtkamp, an American organ designer who developed this type of pipe architecture. The organ’s appearance in the auditorium (and, by default, its internal layout) is thus inextricably linked with the character of the RFH’s interior.

 

When viewed from the auditorium it is evident that the organ sits somewhat unhappily behind both the back wall of the choir and the so-called ‘chewing-gum’ strand of walnut which runs in front of the lower part of the organ and through its central section, providing architectural continuity between the substantial walnut blast walls. The various designs for the organ’s case were never realised and, with hindsight, it is clear that confusion in the early stages of planning between the designer Ralph Downes and Edwin Williams in the architect’s department, together with the expectation that the organ would have a more conventional façade, resulted in the fact that the organ sits too low within its chamber. Both the ‘chewing-gum’ strand and the choir wall had to be cut away at a late stage to allow for both unimpeded egress of sound and the visibility of the pipework.

 

The ‘monogram’ of copper, tin and wooden dummy pipes which sits on the front of the instrument was added at the eleventh hour by Sir Leslie Martin, possibly as a way of concealing the organ’s moving parts from the audience. The fiasco that surrounded this particular aspect of the organ’s design is documented in chapter ten of Ralph Downes’s book. The monogram front attracted a good deal of adverse criticism from the outset, principally because of the hopelessly overscaled wooden pipes.

 

The organ in the Royal Festival Hall is acknowledged to be an epoch-making instrument that changed the way organs were conceived and built in England in the second half of the twentieth century. It is constructed of high-quality materials and works hard to blend in one of the most difficult of acoustic spaces. Given the acoustic hurdles it acquits itself well in the auditorium.

 

SBC recognises that the instrument in its care has an important place in the development of English organ-building and musical composition during the second half of the twentieth century. The instrument has been widely written about and occupies a significant section in every history of the organ. Its importance has been neatly summarised in a recent publication by Peter Hardwick: British Organ Music of the Twentieth Century (Scarecrow Press, Inc., Maryland, 2003), p. ix: ‘The opening of the organ in the Royal Festival Hall, London, in 1954 … marked [not only] the beginning of Neoclassical organ building in Britain but also the start of the country’s Neoclassical organ composition’.

 

Summary of proposed alterations affecting the organ

 

The opportunity now arises to tackle the building’s acoustical shortcomings, to attempt to realise the ambitions the original design team aspired to, to provide a much-needed increase in the size of the stage, and to modernise the equipment and facilities in the Hall. The aims of the project are to restore the organ to reliable condition, to maintain its tonal integrity and to restore and rebalance the organ’s tonal output within the context of the change in the building’s acoustic profile.

 

In tackling the building’s acoustics and during the extensive refurbishment of the RFH auditorium, the organ is to be removed during building works. Some soundboards have suffered excessive shrinkage and will be remade; most will be restored and many repositioned. In order to achieve the increase in stage area it is proposed that the organ chamber be decreased in depth by 1.4m. The proposed increased depth of concert platform is the primary reason driving change to this instrument. The principal changes to the soundboard positions will be within the swell-boxes and hence will not be apparent to the eye. Although most of the organ is constructed on two levels only, the two Swell mixtures are at that upper level and there is a good deal of unused space within the Swell box. It is proposed that it be reordered more fully on two levels, as will the Choir and the Solo (also mostly on one level at present), releasing space within the chamber.

 

The pipework is to be raised by 400mm. The repositioning of the organ will allow its visual character clearly to be seen from the auditorium without changing the general layout of the instrument. The frame of the organ will need to be remade to accommodate this change, as will the wind system. A revised scheme has been achieved by applying and continuing the designer’s logic to the interior layout of the instrument (by keeping the high-pitched stops at the upper level). The Great and Pedal reeds (8ft, 4ft and 2ft) will be moved towards the rear wall of the chamber and the Pedal mixtures will join them upstairs. The position of the console will change. It will be moved towards the organ by a metre or so and thus will be attached to it. This will prevent the almost continuous damage to its fabric from the lighting rigs which collide with it when lowered from the ceiling. The OCC unanimously recommended the disposal of the ‘monogram’ feature on the grounds that it looks weak, that the overscaled wooden pipes in particular are profoundly at odds with the organ’s tonal character and that there will be no room for it in a revised scheme if the organ’s depth is reduced.

 

Tonally there will be no changes to the organ. The Solo reeds, which are buried at the back of the box, will be brought to the front into a more conventional position and the 32ft flue pipes will be better spaced to allow them to speak more effectively. The reflector above the pipework at present is made of a composite material which resembles the fibre of a doormat. This has a thin plaster skin and the whole is a very effective absorber. The unenclosed reeds at the upper level, which at close quarters are strong and vibrant, have much of their energy absorbed by the ceiling. The organ chamber will be made more reflective and the plans provide for the addition of a more effective reflector.

 

The scheme of work to the organ is designed to allow the instrument to be repositioned in a smaller chamber, undertaking a minimum of alteration to the organ’s mechanism, retaining the organ’s tonal character whilst allowing the chamber to absorb less sound and reflect more. When the RFH’s acoustic character has been remodelled and the organ reinstalled, the pipework will be rebalanced to take into account the changes in the building’s profile.

 

In November 2003 a notice appeared in the Publication of Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Communities (OJEC) inviting organ builders with relevant experience to express an invitation to tender for works to the organ. Three companies were selected from those expressions of interest (Harrison & Harrison Ltd, Mander Organs and Casavant Freres) and Harrison & Harrison Ltd of Durham have been chosen as preferred contractor, pending completion of contract. The present organ recital series will come to a close in 2005 and so a chapter of organ history will close. It is hoped that a new one will open in 2007.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am not sure I would agree with C T Worcester. Having played the Gloucester organ many times I think that the acoustic is perfect. However, I realise, too that 'beauty is in the eye (ear)...' et al.

 

The GO reeds to my ears are also superb. Yes, they could be considered 'rough' if compared to Ripon's glorious Trombi or the Hill Posaunes at Lichfield, but to me they sound just right in the building. That GO Spitzflute is another matter, though (of course it wasn't revoiced at the last rebuild...lol)

 

Adrian Gunning's remark re-octave couplers could be construed as misleading. The only octave coupler added was a Sub Octave to the Swell - I think perceived to be most useful in French music, or improvising quietly on the mild strings. It did help the overall gravitas of the tutti, particularly since there is no 32' flue and the new 32' reed (added in 1999) is not exactly over-powerful.

 

As far as the RFH flue work is concerned, surely some of the influence is Dutch, not German. Downes had certainly been to Holland before drawing up the scheme. (I know that subsequent revisions pruned the excess of Quintadenas and some of the other more obvious Dutch points.)

 

I used to go to the 'Wednesdays (at least, I think it was on a Wenesday) at 5.55' at the RFH and heard and saw loads of players, including Jean Langlais; I quite liked the sound of the organ, although some resonance would have been good.

 

It may, dare I say, have been a slight mis-calculation on the part of Downes with regard to the perceived harshness of some of the chorus reeds - certainly all the French examples he heard before drawing up the scheme all spoke in resonant Gothic churches. I had also heard that Louis Eugene-Rochesson was not necessarily the best reed voicer in France, at the time.

 

Interestingly, I understand that some of the big reeds at St. Paul's Cathedral can sound a little raucous at close quaters (on a voicing-machine) - I do not mean merely 'loud' - but presumably Willis knew perfectly well that, in that cavernous acoustic the edginess was necessary in order to cut throught the echo, as it were.

 

However, if you want low pressure English chorus reeds, then you can do no better than go to Chichester Cathedral and hear the superb reconstruction/restoration of the Hill/Hele organ by Manders (1986). Having played for many services there, I think that this instrument fits the building like a glove, is perfect for the accompaniment of the choral services and a joy to play. The console is so elegant!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, a hint - at any rate.

 

Not much information about the H&H, I fear.

 

I have heard some worrying rumours that it is not even certain that the organ will be going back in. I hope that these are merely that - just rumours.

 

Now that Ken Livingstone has apparently managed to wangle it so that the Olympic 2012 Committee pay for the restoration of the RFH, perhaps the future of the organ is now safe.

 

However, I am not exactly re-assured by phrases such as 'push the organ back' and 're-designing the entire instrument'. Whilst I accept that it is not anticipated that any tonal alterations will be made, surely squeezing this very large organ into an even smaller space could result in overcrowding, inadequate egress for the sound and restricted access to certain parts for the purposes of maintenance.

 

If Dr. McVicker is able to write freely about any of these points, I for one would be very interested to read whatever he can share.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I found this in the 2004/2005 annual review (downloadable here), which also has an artist's impression of the new hall interior, showing the organ. It says that only one third of the organ will be reinstalled initially...

 

The 50-year-old organ, designed by Ralph Downes and built by Harrison & Harrison, will be removed and carefully stored. The closure of the Royal Festival Hall will provide an opportunity for essential renovation of the organ to be undertaken. When the Hall re-opens in 2007, one third of the organ will be reinstated. With all of the Swell Organ, most of the Great Organ and part of the Pedal Organ operational it will be possible for the organ to be used to service the orchestral repertoire. Organ recitals will resume once the restoration work and reinstatement can be completed

Paul

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One might have thought that it would have been easier to re-instate the entire instrument at the same time, as opposed to doing it in pieces. Perhaps H&H are too busy to spend long on it at the projected time of installation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Lee Blick

Why only a third of the instrument reinstated? I think this is unacceptable and opens the question will the authorities commit to the reinstallment of the other departments?

 

In my opinion the whole of the organ should be restored in keeping with the integrity of the hall as a whole. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... It is so long since I've heard the RFH organ, and I have no recordings, that I can't really remember what it sounds like.

 

Right now, I am listening to the splendid playing of Fernando Germani that was recorded in 1959; it was all Bach (BWV 565, 564, 582). It is (or was) available on an EMI-forte CD, along with some more Bach and Franck from Selby Abbey recorded in 1961 and 1964.

 

It is awe-inspiring how Germani overcomes the dry acoustics and makes the organ sound rightout spectacular. He applies a flawless ultra-legato and shapes the musical line by the most subtle phrasing. It sounds as if Germani had inhaled hugely and then, over 13 minutes of the passacaglia, sang out the piece like one beautiful, dramatic tune on one single breath.

 

Playing as concentrated as this I have only once experienced myself, when Olivier Latry was playing in the Muenster, Freiburg. It makes you feel you were inside the musician's head and were allowed to listen to him thinking the music. But I digress ...

 

I will be looking forward very much to listen to the RFH organ once it will be back in.

 

Best,

Friedrich

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It says on the H&H website that the Great and Swell Organs and the console will be re-instated this year, followed by the central and right hand sections at a later date (whenever that might be, if ever?).

 

Do they really mean to reinstate the Great and Swell this year, or do they mean 2007?

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
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...