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Buxtehude Prelude, Fugue & Chaconne In C Major


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Hi everyone,

 

I am supposed to be playing this piece at a performance in 13 days, and very much to my great ability to keep track of time I haven't payed much attention to the due date so am trying to polish the piece up in a bit of a hurry.

 

So has anyone got any tips about this piece, particularly about speed, phrasing and registration, that they could pass on?

 

I will be very grateful if anyone has any tips.

 

Cheers

 

JA

 

(I should've mentioned its the BuxWV 136)

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What sort of organ?

And do you mean BuxWV 137? (With the pedal solo to start) - Apologies if you don't 136 just doesn't ring bells for me.

 

136 is a grand piece in its own right and rather overshadowed by its neighbour (137)- mostly because people only seem to play a small nucleus of Buxtehude's works. Pity. Shame. I shall say that the organ will tell you about speeds as every instrument is different. There is no recipe that makes it all possible. Use your ears at every occasion. It is quite surprising how one's interpretation changes with each instrument (on one FF on another pp)- especially with the more 'phantasticus' works that we have in the repertoire that need a foundation from improvisation. All I can say in conclusion is: learn it very very well in the short time - one normally needs some time to digest such works and to let maturity set in before giving your interpretation on a paying public - so that you can adapt with professional ease when you greet a new organ.

Best wishes,

N

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I'm sure we're talking about 137 - 136 is also in C major but is a more 'standard' Praeludium.

 

Keep your registration scheme relatively straightforward - and make sure it reflects the structure of the piece. I often play with the plenum until the beginning of the fugue, then simply cancel the mixture and add the trumpet if it wasn't there already. It's a bit like Harald Vogel's idea of moving from plenum in the free sections to what he calls 'consort' registrations in the fugues - but without the extensive change of registration. Then back, and perhaps add something for the conclusio (ie following the end of the chaconne).

 

Note also the time signature of the Chaconne - 3/2 is not quick and the tempo marking (I think it's Presto) is somewhat spurious.

 

Good luck with it!

 

Bazuin

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What sort of organ?

And do you mean BuxWV 137? (With the pedal solo to start) - Apologies if you don't 136 just doesn't ring bells for me.

 

Thanks for the replies so far.

Yes, sorry I did mean BuxWV137 with the pedal solo.

 

I will be playing it on a two manual with the following:

GT; 16 Bourdon, 8 Princ, 8 Stop Dia, 8 Dulc, 4 Oct, 4 Harm. Flt, 22/3 Naz, 2 Fifteenth, III Mixt

SW; 8 Violin Dia, 8 Rohr Flt, 8 Salic, 8 Voix Cel, 4 Gems, 4 Lieb Flt, 2 Flautina, 11/3 Larigot, 16 Oboe, 8 Cornopean, trem

PED; 32 Resultant (very effective), 16 Princ, 16 Sub Bass, 8 Oct, 8 Flute, 4 Fifteenth, 2 Octavin

 

I realise that it would be difficult to suggest registrations on this organ without actually hearing it, but suggestions welcome.

 

Cheers

 

JA

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One of my favourite pieces! I have recorded it on a big English 4 manual (I think the one that brokedown on your fellow Kiwi from this forum) with plenty of stylus phant. IMHO, a great opportunity for a bit of extra ornamentation in the opening pedal solo and in the final flourishes. I play the last section at quite a brisk (but not quick bazuin) triple time, otherwise the pedal part can be a little lumbering. I also add an Fsharp to the ornament just before the final chord which rather offended one reviewer. I'm not claiming any originality for it, it came via my teacher via Ton Koopman. I mentioned this to a very distinguished Dutch organist that I was turning pages for, he was rather sniffily dismissive of Mr K, along the lines of all show and personality. I had to disagree, it was TKs recordings of Buxtehude that made the composer come alive for me as a teenager. It needs some rhythmic flexibility and some individuality to keep with the

 

fantastic style is especially suited to instruments. It is the most free and unrestrained method of composing, it is bound to nothing, neither to any words nor to a melodic subject, it was instituted to display genius and to teach the hidden design of harmony and the ingenious composition of harmonic phrases and fugues.

 

It is an emotive subject, and liable to cause as much upset as notes inegales!

 

Herrick pairs it with the Eben Homage to Buxtehude on one of his Fireworks discs.

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Speaking of Ton Koopman, does anyone know if it is possible to get a CD of an old LP he did of Byrd virginal pieces? I've searched on the web but to no avail. It must be out there somewhere; as an example it took me about 15 years to find the CD of Bradford Tracey playing Giles Farnaby virginal works - in the end I got it from Klassik CD in Denmark somewhere. Worth every penny, as the cassette I made when I first borrowed the LP from Crouch End library in about '84 was just about see through, and only played on special occasions.

 

ATG

 

ps Similarly for Colin Tilney playing stuff from Parthenia (a really echo-ey recording, must have had the mike at the other end of the hall).

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I'm sure we're talking about 137 - 136 is also in C major but is a more 'standard' Praeludium.

 

Keep your registration scheme relatively straightforward - and make sure it reflects the structure of the piece. I often play with the plenum until the beginning of the fugue, then simply cancel the mixture and add the trumpet if it wasn't there already. It's a bit like Harald Vogel's idea of moving from plenum in the free sections to what he calls 'consort' registrations in the fugues - but without the extensive change of registration. Then back, and perhaps add something for the conclusio (ie following the end of the chaconne).

 

Note also the time signature of the Chaconne - 3/2 is not quick and the tempo marking (I think it's Presto) is somewhat spurious.

 

Good luck with it!

 

Bazuin

 

Please forgive my ignorance, but I assume by plenum you mean 8' to mixture? I tried this while I was practicing last night and adding the mixture seemed to work great in that building.

 

JA

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OK, I do something like this - I've tried to talk in general terms rather than relate ot any specific instrument, page numbers refer to this: http://icking-music-archive.org/scores/buxtehude/BuxWV137/Buxtehude_Praeludium_137.pdf ://http://icking-music-archive.org/sco...udium_137.pdf (though I don't play from this usually):

 

Opening: Something quite big, including a pedal reed (taken off after the solo if too cataclysmic, though left on if at all possible)

From last three bars of first page: something lighter - ideally based around a principal stop an octave higher than the opening

Page 2, 2nd system, third bar, last beat: As opening

Fugue: Something lighter again, with pedal to balance - I also do cadential trills starting on the note

Page 6 2nd line: I sometimes go to a bigger registration here

Chaconne: Usually the same as the opening; perhaps something in reserve for last 5 bars

 

Awaits reasons why this is rubbish and should be ignored...

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"Please forgive my ignorance, but I assume by plenum you mean 8' to mixture? I tried this while I was practicing last night and adding the mixture seemed to work great in that building."

 

Perhaps with the 16' as well. On your organ I would also experiment coupling in the reeds. The plenum as a generic idea can include reeds (especially full-length ones) and (principal-scaled) tierces (assuming they're not already in the mixtures) as well.

 

good luck!

 

Bazuin

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Thanks for the replies so far.

Yes, sorry I did mean BuxWV137 with the pedal solo.

 

I will be playing it on a two manual with the following:

GT; 16 Bourdon, 8 Princ, 8 Stop Dia, 8 Dulc, 4 Oct, 4 Harm. Flt, 22/3 Naz, 2 Fifteenth, III Mixt

SW; 8 Violin Dia, 8 Rohr Flt, 8 Salic, 8 Voix Cel, 4 Gems, 4 Lieb Flt, 2 Flautina, 11/3 Larigot, 16 Oboe, 8 Cornopean, trem

PED; 32 Resultant (very effective), 16 Princ, 16 Sub Bass, 8 Oct, 8 Flute, 4 Fifteenth, 2 Octavin

 

I realise that it would be difficult to suggest registrations on this organ without actually hearing it, but suggestions welcome.

 

Cheers

 

JA

If this scheme works, then fine, but could I offer one or two observations which I would be asking myself with a scheme like this?

 

1) What do the Gt Dulciana and Sw strings actually add to this registration? I'll bet they make little or no audible difference. As a general rule it is bad practice to include stops that merely use wind to no effect - in fact, being the querulous old goat that I am, I'm inclined take it as a sign that the organist isn't using his ears properly! Of course, when doing a stop crescendo and diminuendo it may be more trouble than it's worth to subtract stops like these only to add them again later, but that isn't that case here.

 

2) Similarly, what do the flutes add? They may be necessary to make the sound agreeable, or to give the chorus a proper balance (or indeed the right balance between treble and bass), but again they may just thicken the sound where the diapason chorus alone might sound clearer. If all they do is give Buxtehude a Romantic veneer I would omit them, but bear in mind that the chorus may have been voiced with their inclusion in mind. Find out what sounds most musical.

 

3) The pedal registration looks nicely independent (and you do not mention couplers), but is it really? It may well be, but I know of organs over here where you can draw stops like these, yet the pedal still does not really produce an effective, independent, contrapuntal line with definition equal to the manuals. As for the 32', does it have time to speak properly at whatever speed(s) you are playing?

 

Bottom line: don't just go for aural effect; try to illuminate the music as well.

 

I'm sure you will have considered most, if not all, of this already, but I thought I'd pontificate anyway!

 

Edit; Sorry - just realised that you posted the organ spec, not your registration!! Haha! Ah well, never mind. Points are still valid, I think.

 

Note also the time signature of the Chaconne - 3/2 is not quick and the tempo marking (I think it's Presto) is somewhat spurious.

Hear, hear and thrice hear! Clearly it has to keep moving, but it seems to have become fashionable (over here at any rate) to race through it with a ridiculous superficiality. For me, the appeal of this movement is the dichotomy between the majesterial ground bass and the brighter, flowing activity that goes on above it. The "correct" speed is the one that preserves and finds the best balance between these two characteristics while still maintaining forward momentum. To dash through it headlong reduces its stature IMO. But the trouble with fashion is that once you have got used to hearing a fast speed it is very difficult to accept a slower one so that one man's majesty becomes another's deadly plod (think of Vierne's In dir ist Freude!) Fashion is an evil thing!

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If this scheme works, then fine, but could I offer one or two observations which I would be asking myself with a scheme like this?

 

1) What do the Gt Dulciana and Sw strings actually add to this registration? I'll bet they make little or no audible difference. As a general rule it is bad practice to include stops that merely use wind to no effect - in fact, being the querulous old goat that I am, I'm inclined take it as a sign that the organist isn't using his ears properly! Of course, when doing a stop crescendo and diminuendo it may be more trouble than it's worth to subtract stops like these only to add them again later, but that isn't that case here.

 

2) Similarly, what do the flutes add? They may be necessary to make the sound agreeable, or to give the chorus a proper balance (or indeed the right balance between treble and bass), but again they may just thicken the sound where the diapason chorus alone might sound clearer. If all they do is give Buxtehude a Romantic veneer I would omit them, but bear in mind that the chorus may have been voiced with their inclusion in mind. Find out what sounds most musical.

 

3) The pedal registration looks nicely independent (and you do not mention couplers), but is it really? It may well be, but I know of organs over here where you can draw stops like these, yet the pedal still does not really produce an effective, independent, contrapuntal line with definition equal to the manuals. As for the 32', does it have time to speak properly at whatever speed(s) you are playing?

 

Bottom line: don't just go for aural effect; try to illuminate the music as well.

 

I'm sure you will have considered most, if not all, of this already, but I thought I'd pontificate anyway!

 

Edit; Sorry - just realised that you posted the organ spec, not your registration!! Haha! Ah well, never mind. Points are still valid, I think.

 

 

Hear, hear and thrice hear! Clearly it has to keep moving, but it seems to have become fashionable (over here at any rate) to race through it with a ridiculous superficiality. For me, the appeal of this movement is the dichotomy between the majesterial ground bass and the brighter, flowing activity that goes on above it. The "correct" speed is the one that preserves and finds the best balance between these two characteristics while still maintaining forward momentum. To dash through it headlong reduces its stature IMO. But the trouble with fashion is that once you have got used to hearing a fast speed it is very difficult to accept a slower one so that one man's majesty becomes another's deadly plod (think of Vierne's In dir ist Freude!) Fashion is an evil thing!

Well, playing devil's advocate for a moment, could it be fashion that has dictated that all but one Open Diapason be the foundation of an English organ's chorus? For instruments of a certain vintage, dulcianas, salicionals, gambas and flutes (not just at 8' pitch) would have been included in the builder's original composition pedal or piston settings for the plenum, and I see no reason to exclude them if that is the case. One notable exception might be a late-vintage Harrison, where the Large Open was designed to supplant lesser foundations (shame so many LOD's have been removed, or put down into the Pedal as a makeshift 8', but that's another beef). But I see no reason to leave such stops out of a bigger chorus 'to sound clearer' if the whole instrument wasn't designed to play Buxtehude in the first place (obviously as long as the wind doesn't suffer). "...thicken" is a subjective and dangerous word! A melange of foundations, even at 4 and 2' pitches, can produce wonderfully attractive and clear overtones, in addition to sumptuous gravitas so beloved of organists throughout history (not just since, say, Wolstenholme). Indeed the more I research and hear original Baroque instruments, the more I'm convinced that the generous provision of foundations on some instruments was intended to be combined in as many ways as possible, including in the tutti. Play in a way that is also doing credit to an instrument's integrity, I'd say, otherwise you risk weakening the music you play on it.

 

Put it another way (to paraphrase David Bednall's gloriously revolutionary utterances): do an orchestra's flutes stop playing just because the brass have joined in? No.

 

And will someone PLEASE explain why there is still this obsession in certain folk for an "independent pedal", as if it's the nadir of an anti-romantic's dreams; something to which all organs should aspire when they grow up? Sure, the larger Hanseatic instruments had such, but Sachsen/Thuringen and all stations south rarely did. I've seen too many decent English organs utterly ruined by the removal of space-hogging Open Woods in favour of nasty upperwork, usually late-speaking and too quiet, and of course the ubiquitous Rohr Schalmei... As long as you can still hear the tenor part, I see no reason not to use Gt to Pedal - often it's the only way to get the pedals to speak with everything else.

 

Ultimately, I would say "aural effect" is the final arbiter. It may well be that Great 8' flute, plus principals at 4 and 2 might be more 'appropriate' for PF&C (adding/subtracting the 2 at will)

 

I apologise, Vox, for using your post to have a wee rant!

 

Best wishes

 

Ian

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No need to apologise, Ian. :rolleyes:

 

Your points are valid and worth making. I do not think we are saying such very different things.

 

In Victorian (and Edwardian) times it was certainly the habit to add stops successively without ever giving a thought to subtracting any, but, from what I have been able to gather from older organists, it was more a question of habit than anything else. It was just what one did. So long as the bellows aren't leaking to high heaven, including Dulcianas in full organ isn't actually going to do any harm. Nevertheless, I still think worthwhile to train students to exclude stops that do not make a difference - if nothing else, it hopefully makes them listen more critically.

 

However, these organs were designed with only one mode of interpretation in mind and that mode was one of Romantic expressiveness. (Of course, no music of any period is likely to have been unexpressive, but I mean specifically the grander gestures of expression germane to Romantic music, particularly the extended crescendi and diminuendi). Players approached Bach in the same way as they did arrangements of Schubert or Tchaikovsky. There are those who will happily still take this approach to Bach on this type of organ and that is perfectly defensible because that is how the organs were meant to be handled. Personally, however, I find that such anachronism jars,* so on these organs I do tend to look for registrations that sound just a little more like what I imagine the composer may have expected. It is not a question of trying to get, say, a Father Willis to sound like a Silbermann, which would be a pointless exercise; it is rather a question of making whatever concessions are practical towards recreating the composer's composition (which, as I have argued before was really a conception in sound, not a pattern of ink on paper). Compromises are inevitable; it is the question of degree and wilfulness in the interpretation that tends to make me uneasy.

 

I share your unease about the watering down of Romantic organs. I am by no means against neo-Baroque instruments, with the proviso that the job is done thoroughly, properly and preferably from scratch. Even though such instruments may have little to do with the genuine Baroque, they can still be interesting and rewarding. However, there is surely nothing worse than a "baroquised" Romantic instrument with the job only half done so that it is neither one thing nor the other.

 

As for the pedal departments of organs Sachsen/Thuringen and all stations south, weren't they catering for organists with a much more rudimentary pedal technique - nothing more involved than what you find in Pachelbel? Bach may have passed on his north German pedal approach to his pupils, but wasn't this really a northern phenomenon which was alien to more southern parts? Empirically, when playing Bach it's simply the number of collisions between feet and left hand that makes one appreciate indepedent pedal departments when one finds them.

 

* I should add that one organ on which it seems absolutely essential to play Bach Romantically in order to get it to work is our city foghorn, mainly because the diapason choruses alone are so ungripping. Incidentally, Ian, your recital on this many years ago is still remembered here with awe.

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Goodness I'm flattered. Where was that then?

 

And yes, I think we're pretty much on the same hymn sheet. Interesting theory about inept pedalling. I take your point about collisions, and of course there are exceptions to the usual 3-stop Thuringian pedal dept.

, for example. Here, a 2-man scheme has a 10-stop pedal dept and no pedal coupler. Cracking 32' reed too! Wonder how Die Meistersinger overture might sound on it...

 

But I digress...we were discussing Buxtehude. This set has been a revelation to me. Fresh, free, 'no rules' playing, without the excessive speed and quirkiness of Koopman. I particularly love Spang-Hanssen's accelerando trills in the coloratura preludes, which begin by markedly overlapping the two notes, as if the interloper is trying to knock the main note off its perch. Fabulous and well worth a listen. Can be picked up cheaply if you dig around. Wonderful choice of instruments. Great colour.

 

PS actually I've just found his

(actually pretty fast!) YouTube doesn't say but it's on the 1696 Schnitger organ of Noordbroek Reformed Church, Netherlands.

 

PPS Of course this is the best Buxtehude playing you're ever likely to hear. Such an innocuous, 'manualiter' piece, too.

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